Food scientists are working to replicate the nutrition, as well as the texture, taste and functionalities of meat and eggs, by utilizing plant-based products and in-vitro technologies, according to a presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) 2012 Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Las Vegas.
The "emerging, next-generation plant-based meat (alternatives) promise to deliver the sensory experience of conventional animal proteins for specific culinary applications," said Nicholas J. Genovese, PhD, visiting scholar and consultant at the University of Missour¬i-Columbia. In addition, scientists are growing in-vitro meat cells and muscle that may someday replace chicken, beef and pork.
The average American eats 864 pounds of meat each year, according to visualeconomics.com, a consumption level that cannot be sustained economically or environmentally, said Genovese.
Globally, more than 60 billion animals are killed for consumption each year, and hens lay approximately 79 billion eggs. The production of animal-based food requires the growing use of a finite amount of land suitable for agriculture, contributes to deforestation and 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and may alter the number and variety of species in an ecosystem, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
"The use of animals as a protein delivery mechanism is not sustainable," said Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Savage River Farms, Inc., which recently introduced a chicken substitute made from plant products.
"Through the careful replication of texture, taste, and 'mouthfeel,' food science is advancing the degree to which chicken, beef, and other meats no longer require an animal origin but can instead be entirely plant-based," said Brown.
Joshua Tetrick, founder and CEO of Hampton Creek Foods, also is using plants to replicate the nutrition and other characteristics of eggs -- for baking and more -- through the company's Beyond Eggs™ product.
Tetrick said the demand for eggs continues to rise globally, while feed and regulatory costs soar.
The in-vitro process of growing artificial meat involves collecting animal cells through a biopsy (or using embryonic stem cells), isolating the cells, and then utilizing a growth serum to grow the cells into real muscle fiber, said Merko Betti, PhD, associate professor in the department of agricultural, food and nutritional science at the University of Alberta in Alberta, Canada.
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