Introduction to Plant-based Meat

What are plant based meats made out of?

Plant based meats have to replace two main things about meat: nutrition and sensory characteristics.

Nutrition

Nutrition has to do with what actually makes up the meat. While there are quite a few different components, the ones of main concern are protein, fat, b-vitamins and iron because they usually come into a person’s diet through meat.

Sensory Characteristics

Now that we have the nutrition aspect, the main thing we have to do is replicate the texture. This is done through starch. Legume starches have a lot of gel strength, film formation and crispness which helps simulate the snap of sausage or the bite of chicken breast.

How are they made?

Then, once we have all the ingredients we want, we have to formulate them. As of yet, most plant based protein meat products simulate relatively unstructured foods like burgers, nuggets or sausages. Unstructured products refer to products that are more or less uniform all the way through. This is different than structured products (ex. steak or chicken legs) which are characterized by a specific arrangements of said ingredients.

  1. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is hydrated. TVP are the various different kinds of proteins we get from the legumes and its mixed with oils, water and fats.
  2. Other ingredients are mixed in. Supplements like starches, vitamins, proteins, spices and concentrates as well as functional additives are mixed into the TVP which is then kneaded to form a kind of dough
  3. The dough is shaped into patties, nuggets or sausage links.
  4. The product is cooked (when applicable) either by frying, baking or steaming.
  5. Extended Shelf Life Processes (ESLP) are done which are meant to extend the shelf life of the product. These methods could include heat-pasteurization, high-pressure processing, UV, and the addition of antimicrobials.
  6. The products are cooled either by refrigeration and freezing in order to discourage microorganism growth which could spoil the product.

Why do we care?

It’s no secret that our agricultural system is terrible on many fronts — for starters, it’s responsible for 18% of our total global greenhouse gas emissions!

Who is in the field?

Beyond Meat is perhaps one of the most popular brands of plant based meat due to the recent launch of their “Beyond Burger” which is made out of a combination of Mung beans, peas, coconut oil, potato startch, beet juice extract and more. The company also produces ground beef, sausages and crumbles.

Key Takeaways

  1. Plant based meat is anything that is a substitute for the flavours and nutrition of animal meat that is derived from plants or fungi.
  2. It uses things like legume fractions, starches, fats, and recombinant proteins (as well as other additives) to simulate the nutritional and sensory properties of meat.
  3. These ingredients are processed using shearing and extrusion in order to replicate the fibrous texture of meat.
  4. It has massive implications for agriclture’s environmental footprint as well as food security, health and animal welfare.
  5. The industry is rapidly expanding with investment on many fronts and the technology is popular amongst vegans/vegetarians and omnivores alike.

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Avery Parkinson

Avery Parkinson

Activator at The Knowledge Society | A Sandwich or Two Founder