Dept: Food Sciences
Non Technical Summary
The global population is predicted to grow to around 10 billion by 2050, with more people moving to cities, becoming wealthier, and changing their dietary habits.The resulting increase in demand for a more Western-style diet is putting pressure on the global food supply.The consumption of high levels of animal products (especially beef) is a major factor contributing to the negative impact of the modern diet on the environment.For this reason, many consumers are interested in switching to a more plant-based diet to improve their health, increase sustainability, reduce pollution, and decrease energy, land, and water use.This has led to a rapidly growing market for plant-based foods, particularly plant-based meats, which is predicted to reach over $21 billion by 2025.Most of the current products are designed to mimic highly processed products containing ground or comminuted meat, such as burgers, sausages, and nuggets.These products contain meat fragments that are relatively simple to mimic with texturized plant proteins.There is, however, a need for more sophisticated plant-based foods that can mimic the properties of whole muscle meat products such as chicken breast, beef steak, or pork chops.Consumers expect these products to have specific quality attributes, such as appearance, texture, mouthfeel, and flavor, as well as familiar functional attributes such as cookability.Using existing technologies, it has proved extremely challenging to create plant-based meat analogs that accurately simulate the unique characteristics of whole muscle meats.This is holding back the environmental benefits that would be gained if more people replaced some or all of the animal foods in their diets with more sustainable plant-based alternatives.The purpose of this project is to developsoft-matter physicsapproaches to create the next generation of high-quality plant-based meat analogs.These approaches are based on understanding and controlling the structural organization of the molecules within a material so as to create specific physicochemical, functional, and sensory attributes, such as appearance, texture, mouthfeel, flavor, stability, and cookability.In this project, plant-based proteins and dietary fibers will be used as the main building blocks, while soft matter physics approaches will be used to assemble them into specific meat-like structures.Moreover, the relationship between product composition, structure, physicochemical, and sensory properties will be established.The knowledge gained from this project should provide information that the food industry can use to create better quality plant-based meat analogs for whole muscle meats.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories
Goals / Objectives
The purpose of this project is to critically evaluate the potential of usingsoft-matter physicsapproaches to create the next generation of high-quality plant-based meat analogs.These approaches are based on understanding and controlling the structural organization of the molecules within a material so as to create specific physicochemical, functional, and sensory attributes, such as appearance, texture, mouthfeel, flavor, stability, and cookability.In this project, plant-based proteins and polysaccharides will be used as the main building blocks, while soft matter physics approaches will be used to assemble them into specific meat-like structures.Moreover, the relationship between product composition, structure, physicochemical, and sensory properties will be established.The knowledge gained from this project should provide information that the food industry can use to create better quality plant-based meat analogs for whole muscle meats. The following specific aims will be addressed:1. Optimization of soft-matter physics approaches for creating plant-based meat analogs:The potential of a number of soft matter physics approaches for creating meat analogs from plant-based ingredients will be critically evaluated: (i) heat-induced fibrillation; (ii) controlled phase separation-gelation; and (iii) lipid droplet formation.Our aim is to create hierarchical structures in plant-based foods from the nanoscale to the microscale that mimic those formed by muscle proteins, connective tissue, and adipose tissue in whole muscle meats.The microstructure of these plant-based meat analogs will be related to their physicochemical attributes: appearance, texture, and water holding.At the completion of these experiments, we will have gained a good understanding of the link between the structural organization of plant-based meat analogs and their physicochemical properties.2. Optimization of functional performance of plant-based meat analogs: Plant-based meat analogs are usually chilled or frozen to increase their shelf life, and then cooked prior to consumption.Cooking may be carried out using a variety of methods including baking, boiling, broiling, frying, and microwaving.Cooling or heating meat analogs will alter their appearance, texture, integrity, and moisture holding properties.For this reason, we will systematically examine the impact of temperature changes on the properties of the meat analogs, and, if necessary, identify effective strategies to improve their functional performance under different thermal conditions.3. Development of model plant-based meat analogs:As a proof-of-concept, the knowledge gained from the previous sections will be used to create a plant-based chicken breast analog.Plant-based colors and flavors will be added to the product and then it will be prepared using standardized cooking methods.The physicochemical and sensory attributes of the cooked product will then be compared to that of real chicken meat using a non-vegetarian panel.
Aim 1: Utilization of soft-matter physics approaches to create plant-based meat analogsCharacterization of Plant-based Proteins and PolysaccharidesA wide range of pulse proteins are available that can be used to create meat analogs, includinge.g.,peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.Initially, however, we will focus on the utilization of pea proteins because there are already well-established in the market and high-quality versions of these ingredients are commercially available.Similarly, a wide range of plant-based polysaccharides are available that could be used to create meat-like structures when used in combination with pulse proteins,e.g.,pectin, cellulose, hemicellulose, exudate gums, mucilage gums, and starches.Initially, we will focus on the utilization of pectin because high quality ingredients with well characterized properties (molecular weight and degree of esterification) are also commercially available.Creation of fibrous nanostructures through protein fibrillationThe nanostructure of whole muscle tissue will be simulated by promoting the formation of protein fibrils from globular plant proteins.This will be achieved by heating a solution of plant proteins above their thermal denaturation temperature, using solution conditions (pH and ionic strength) that promote the assembly of the protein molecules into thin fibers, as described in our previous studies.The nanostructure of the protein fibers will be determined using electron microscopy.Creation of fibrous microstructures through phase separation, shearing and gellingThe microstructure of whole muscle tissues will be simulated by promoting the formation of micro-scale protein fibers based on controlled phase separation, shearing, and gelling.This method is based on the phase separation of biopolymer mixtures that occurs under certain conditions due tothermodynamic incompatibility.Optimum shearing and gelling conditions will be established.Computer simulations: The above experiments will be guided by the results obtained from fluid dynamic simulations of phase-separated liquids.The relationship between shearing conditions and the structures formed in phase-separated polymer mixtures with different properties will be systematically investigated, such as the viscosity ratio and volume ratio between the inner (protein) and outer (pectin) biopolymer phases. Computer simulations predict that different filamentous structures are formed in systems with different viscosity ratios under the same shearing conditions (Figure14). Thus, our goal is to characterize the role ofviscosity ratioon filament formation in the biopolymer mixtures under various shearing conditions using both simulations and experiments.In addition, we hypothesize that the volume ratio of the two biopolymer phases (?A/?B) will play a critical role in the formation of fibrous structures. Therefore, a systematic numerical investigation will be conducted on how the individual fibers interact with each other through coalescence and breakup as the volume ratio changes. Our Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations will therefore provide valuable insights into the physical basis of fiber formation in biopolymer mixtures that will guide our design of more accurate meat-like structures.Creation of adipose tissue-like structures using lipid dropletsOnce the optimum conditions for creating meat-like nanoscale and microscale structures from pea proteins and pectin have been identified, we will examine the impact of incorporating the lipid droplets on the structure and physicochemical properties of the meat analogs.Lipid droplets with characteristics similar to the fat cells in adipose tissue will be fabricated using a mechanical homogenizer. The size of the lipid droplets will be controlled by careful selection of homogenizer type (e.g.,high shear mixer or high-pressure homogenizer) and operating conditions (e.g.,shear rate, shear time, pressure, or number of passes).The surface characteristics of the lipid droplets will be varied by changing emulsifier type.Plant-based oils and emulsifiers will be used to fabricate the lipid droplets.Optimization of the fabrication of meat analogsWe will carry out a series of experiments to establish the structure-function relationships of the meat analogs:Appearance: The appearance of meats and meat-analogs will be quantified by measuring their tristimulus color coordinates (L*, a*, b*) using an instrumental colorimeter.Texture:The texture of the samples will be quantified using compression and shear rheology, as well as diffusing wave spectroscopy method.Water holding and activity:The water holding capacity of the meat and meat-analog samples will be determined using a centrifugation method. The water activity (aw) will be determined using an instrumental method.Aim 2:Optimization of functional performance of plant-based meat analogsOnce plant-based meat analogs have been created using soft matter physics approaches, it will be important that they have functional attributes that closely resemble real meat.We will examine the impact on chilling and freeze-thaw cycling on the properties of the meat analogs.The properties of freshly prepared samples will first be characterized using the methods described above (appearance, texture, water holding).They will then be subjected to chilling and freezing processes, and their properties analyzed again.The impact of different cooking methods on the structural and physicochemical properties of selected plant-based meat analogs will be systematically tested.Meat analogs will be cut into cubes and then cooked under standardized conditions, microwave, boil, bake, broil, fry:After cooking, the microstructure, appearance, morphology (shape, size), texture, and cooking loss of the meat and meat analog samples will be measured.Aim 3:Development of model plant-based meat productsThe final series of experiments is designed as a proof-of-concept - to demonstrate the potential for soft matter physics principles to create high-quality meat analogs that consumers find acceptable.Based on the results from the earlier experiments, we will select a limited number of formulations that have physicochemical and functional attributes that most closely resemble those of whole muscle meat.The appearance, texture, fluid holding properties, and sensory attributes of these samples will then be quantified and compared.