This article was published in French in this month edition of the Cahiers de Nutrition et de Diététique, and is available on my French blog here.
The enthusiasm of food industries for alternative sources of protein does not belittle. The overall cost of animal proteins is often denounced, whether evaluated in environmental terms (carbon footprint), nutritional value (quality of meat in prepared meals, for example, following the horse lasagna scandal in France) And slaughter, favoring the undeniable thrust of vegetarianism and even veganism.
In recent years, more or less acceptable options for consumers have increased: “vegetable steaks” based on tofu or cereals, insects, in vitro “cultivated” meat. These products have major obstacles to large-scale marketing: The cost of production (in vitro meat), acceptability (insects) and, last but not least, the fact that these products were not at all substitutable for meat from an organoleptic or even nutritional point of view.
Two Californian start-ups have made significant progress in this area: Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Impossible Food’s flagship product is the Impossible Burger, a substitute made from wheat proteins, coconut oil, potato proteins and flavors. The details of the ingredients used can be consulted on the website. The key ingredient of this burger is leghmoglobin, up to 1% of the total ingredients. The founder of Impossible Food, Patrick O. Brown, a former professor of biochemistry at Stanford University, explains that hemetic proteins are at the origin of the particular flavor of meat. Indeed, these proteins catalyze the chemical reactions that transform the amino acids and sugars of the meat into fragrant molecules, giving it its special taste and providing assimilable iron. Leghemoglobin is produced by a genetically modified yeast with the gene of leghemoglobin of soybeans. The company explains this choice with a lower environmental footprint. The production of the Impossible Burger compared to a beef burger, would use ¼ of water, 1/20 of soil, ⅛ of greenhouse gas emissions.
From a nutritional point of view, the “Impossible Burger” obviously does not bring cholesterol, and amounts of iron and protein comparable to a 20% fat burger (protein quality would have to checked): for 100g, 11g of saturated fats, mostly from coconut oil, 22g of protein (vs 17g for beef) and 3mg of iron ( vs 1.9 for beef). It provides a remarkable 447 mg of sodium, compared to 64 mg for beef burger and contains wheat gluten proteins.
Gastronomic critics and journalists seem unanimous to boast the organoleptic qualities of the product. After personal tasting: juicy and slightly fibrous, crisp at first, the texture is pleasant; A “ferric” back-taste distinguishes it from a minced steak of beef; The cooking ability is similar to that of a conventional burger. for more about this experience, you can read my other post on that topic.
Beyond Burger offers both beef and chicken alternatives. Their “vegetable beef” is made from pea protein, and “vegetable chicken” is a mixture of pea and soy protein, the fat used in these two products being rapeseed oil. It also contains titanium dioxide (probably in the form of nano particles), to give the characteristic white color of the chicken to the product. The products of Beyond Burger are GMO-free and gluten-free, unlike the Impossible Burger. For more information you can go to the FAQ.
These two companies are currently developing only in the United States. The impossible Burger is available in 4 restaurants, 3 of which are in California and are expected to expand to 100 restaurants in 2017. Beyond Meat markets its products in the Walmart, Target, Whole Foods and Safeway brands to name only the most In more than 11,000 stores in the United States. They are also available for sale on the internet. The size of the market is not known.
Will these organoleptic improvements be sufficient for the European market, still very suspicious of GMOs or food additives? We will not know for a few years, but the interest of major French groups for vegetable proteins could compete with these American start-ups.
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