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Ontario Researchers Discover Breakthrough Method for Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

New method can create plant-based meat substitutes with better texture.

Ontario Researchers Discover Breakthrough Method for Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

Sales of plant-based meat products have stagnated due to texture issues, but a team of Ontario researchers has found a breakthrough solution. Using the physical and molecular properties of plant proteins, they have developed a method to create meat substitutes that closely resemble the fibrous texture of chicken or steak.

"We were looking at the market and we saw this opportunity to take a step back and use some fundamental ingredients such as protein and starch…to combine them and create a novel, whole meat-muscle analogue," said Stacie Dobson, lead researcher and PhD student from the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph.

Traditional plant-based alternatives, such as texturized vegetable protein (TVP), lack the mouthfeel and texture of meat. These products combine protein particles with starches and gluten, but fail to replicate the structure of whole-muscle meat.

However, the team from the University of Guelph, in collaboration with Lakehead University, turned to zein, a corn protein, as the key ingredient. Zein, a waste product abundant in agriculture, has fiber-forming properties that are already utilized in plant-based cheeses.

Through careful combination and stretching of specific proteins and starches, the researchers successfully created a meat alternative that closely matches the texture of cooked beef and chicken. The use of the Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan allowed them to study the interactions between the starches and proteins and analyze the density of the fibers in their samples.

Stacie Dobson - PHD Student - Food Science - University of Guelph

Lead researcher Stacie Dobson's innovative approach brings hope for a new generation of plant-based meat substitutes that can satisfy consumers' cravings for realistic texture. Dobson's vision extends beyond her own research, as she envisions other scientists and companies building upon their findings to develop affordable and satisfying whole-muscle meat substitutes.

This groundbreaking discovery opens up new possibilities for the plant-based food industry and could revolutionize the market, offering consumers a more realistic and appealing meat alternative.

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