Are pulses able to replace meat for humans? Animal-derived protein foods have a large impact on the environment – it’s time for a change.
Ariette Matser is the expert leader of Food Processing Technology at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. Her main research focus is on sustainable food processing, including mild preservation, mild separation, and resource efficient processing. Her activities include project acquisition and coordination of national and international projects.
According to Ariette Matser, ‘in recent years science has focused more on plant-based proteins’. This is because we want to be more sustainable. It is obvious that we need to reduce meat consumption, because animal-derived protein foods, such as meat, have a large impact on the environment. A route to reducing consumption of these products involves the development of plant-based analogues for meat or meat-like products.
Soybeans, which are rich in protein, can be made into flour, a high protein concentrate, or an isolate. By combining all three of these ingredients, we would be able to prepare something comparable to meat. Despite the considerable effort involved, this meat alternative has less impact on the environment. We can obtain an excellent, full-featured product, while being more sustainable.
The most sustainable way is to use pulses directly. They have a high protein content and many nutritional values. But there is obviously a large difference in texture and taste compared to meat. Ariette Matser noted that not everyone likes these products.
Research has shown that products similar in texture and flavor to meat are most likely to succeed and be accepted by the widest range of consumers. We are able to produce plant-based products similar to meat. To structure plant proteins, we can start with simple processes, such as marinating, freezing, or many others.
Ariette also explained to us that extrusion was one of best technologies used to achieve meat analogues. We have to choose high and low moisture extrusion. With both, we would be able to achieve a very good, tasty product with the texture of authentic chicken meat.
If you wish to learn more about it and see what the process of making a vegetable steak looks like, just watch the whole video.