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Researchers develop plant-based protein that is sustainable and matches the texture of steak

4 November 2015

Meat farming is a highly energy-intensive pursuit, which takes up large areas of arable land worldwide for both feed production and grazing. It is also one of the major contributors to climate change, through emissions produced by growth, storage, transport and processing of animals. As consumers demand more meat, the future sustainability of such an industry is uncertain.

Plant-based sources of protein are a viable alternative to animal-derived meat, but products that claim to replicate taste, smell and texture are largely disappointing to consumers. This can prevent long-term or widespread switching to such sources and greatly restricts the market. Using a processing technique called the Couette Cell, reliant on heat and shear (rather than extrusion, the most common way of generating textures) Dutch research led by Atze Jan van der Goot aimed to address this issue. From a mixture of soy protein isolate and wheat gluten, the team at Wageningen created 3cm-thick sections resembling the fibrous texture of meat – and at a 7kg capacity cell, with an achievable processing time and temperature and the possibility of continuous operation, the method shows great promise for industrial upscaling.

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