Where’s the beef? The cutting edge of meat substitute innovation

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Vegetarian protein options have come a long way from the once-ubiquitous lentils and tofu as food scientists have stepped up to the challenge of creating innovative meat substitutes.

While popular meat alternatives include soy, wheat and Quorn – a mycoprotein derived from fermentation of the fungus Fusarium venenatum – there are a number of emerging opportunities in the meat substitutes market.

Soy protein-based meat analogs are among the most established meat substitutes and they have become more popular in recent years, as the protein’s palatability has been improved with a high-moisture extrusion process.

Texture like chicken
Professor of biological engineering and food science at the University of Missouri Fu-Hung Hsieh has been working for a number of years to produce a soy product that simulates the fibrous qualities of a chicken breast, rather than one that simply adds flavor and color to soy protein. He claims that the best process is one with a very high moisture content of up to 75 percent.

And researchers at the Canadian Food Science and Technology Centre in Brooks, Alberta have been working to produce meat analogs from peas, wheat and potatoes with a texture closely resembling that of chicken or fish. The researchers claim to have produced a high quality analog by extruding pea protein isolate at 92 percent protein, vital wheat gluten at 80 percent protein, and potato starch at high moisture levels.

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