It looks, tastes and feels like a real meat cutlet but the ingredients are 100 percent vegetable. The meat substitute the researchers are developing not only tastes good, but is also environmentally sustainable, a study reveals.
Meat production is complicated, costly and not eco-friendly: fatted animals have to consume five to eight kilos of grain just to generate one kilogram of meat. It would be simpler and more sustainable if one were to make cutlets out of seed — without the detour through the animal’s body.
Not entirely: there are plants that are suitable for the production of meat substitute products. Researchers in the EU-project “LikeMeat” have studied what they are, and how they can be incorporated into a product that tastes and looks like meat.
“Studies have shown that many Europeans are ready to give up meat, but there have only been a handful of alternatives until now,” explained Florian Wild, from the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, Germany who is spearheading the project.
“Our goal is to develop a vegetable surrogate for meat that is both juicy and fibrous, but that also has a pleasant flavour. The product should have a long shelf life, it should not be more expensive than meat, and be suitable for vegetarians and allergy sufferers,” added Wild, according to a university statement.
In addition to the scientists at IVV, experts from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) are also participating in the development, as are consumer researchers from the University of Wageningen, in the Netherlands, and 11 small to medium-sized corporations that manufacture or do business in food or food ingredients.
The prototype of the new vegetarian cutlet factory is currently located in the IVV lab. The system is no larger than two table tennis tables. On request, it can produce one endless piece of meat approximately one cm thick that can be shaped as desired, for example into little morsels for diced or thinly-sliced meats, or entire cutlets.
The research team is currently able to produce 60 to 70 kilos of the meat substitute per hour — or 300 to 500 kilos per day. “Consistency and texture are already superb,” Wild assured.