The high and increasing consumption of products from animal origin is one of the key factors causing current routes for food production to be insufficiently efficient to feed the growing, and more affluent world population. Meat production is inefficient with respect to the use of land, water and raw materials. In addition, there is an increasing resistance against the meat industry in the Western World on for example animal welfare grounds.
Nutritionally, proteins from plants such as peas or soy would be excellent protein sources, but most consumers prefer meat. The fact that meat is a product that is fibrous on various length scales including the nanometre scale, is for a major part responsible for this: the flavour components are only gradually released upon chewing, giving a good taste experience during the complete duration of mastication.
Plant-based analogues for meat
A route to reduce the consumption of those products is the development of plant-based analogues for meat or meat-like products. Consumer sciences indicated that products that resemble the original will most likely have the highest chance of success to be picked up by the broadest range of consumer groups. Recently, Wageningen University and the Technical University of Delft jointly developed a novel technology for the production of fibrous, plant-based materials on nano to meso scale, resembling the structure and bite of meat better than commercial products that are currently available to consumers. This fibrous material could therefore form the basis of a next generation meat analogues.
This project will build the required scientific basis to understand the structuring process while including flavour components, fat and other ingredients. Together with partners that span the entire vegetable protein chain, this basis will be used in this project to further developing technologies for making the next generation consumer accepted meat analogues products with improved characteristics that can be produced more cost-effectively and will have reduced environmental impact compared to meat analogue products currently on the market.
The project is co-financed by the Top Consortium for Knowledge and Innovation ‘Agri & Food’ by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. The project is registered under contract number TKI-AF-16011.