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Source: Livemint

Relevance: The achievement of food processing industries(FPIs) to create plant-based meat is an important topic for biotechnology and FPIs.

Synopsis: Plant-based meat is gaining popularity globally. But, what are the associated issues and why we need such products?

Issues with large-scale meat consumption: 
  • Large-scale animal husbandry is unsustainable. For example, plants convert 10% of the sun’s energy into calories. Further, animals eat plants and only give us 10% of those calories in the form of meat. But the generation of greenhouse gases is much higher in the process.
  • Either we all learn to eat less meat and pay a premium price for it, or we won’t have much of a planet left to enjoy a filet mignon in the near future.
Technological solutions:

Now, Technology has a potential solution to the problem, just like it first enabled large-scale factory farms.

  1. Growing meat in a laboratory setting: In simple terms, it means growing animal muscle tissue from its DNA to produce low-carbon-footprint meat. But this is a complex solution. Further, This meat does not have the same texture and flavour as a walking, breathing animal.
  2. Converting plants into meat like or Mock meat: This method involves taking protein from plants like wheat, peas and soybean, use flavour additives and binding chemistry to synthesise something that tastes exactly like meat. The main challenge in this method is plants don’t have muscle tissue (elastic and flexible). Instead, they have rigid structures. However, this tech isn’t new.
    • Mock meat made from soy has been catering to Buddhist monks in East Asia for ages.
    • Some food-tech firms in the US have made breakthroughs in the looks, flavour and texture department.
      • Beetroot extract, pomegranate powder and soy leghemoglobin are used to mimic the colour(Look) of red meat.
      • For flavour, plant-based meat uses plant-based saturated fats to mimic the intra-muscular fat in animal tissue.
      • To get the texture, the plant protein also has to be laid out in a layered fibrous structure that mimics muscle tissue. For this, scientists use a process of high-moisture extrusion, a combination of heating, compression and cooling that can be sequenced precisely.
      • The tech has reached a point where even foodies can’t tell the taste difference between beef and plant-based meat.
Concerns with plant-based meat:

There are few questions associated with plant-based meat. Such as,

  • Questions regarding the healthiness of ultra-processed, preservative and stabiliser-laden products.
  • Uses of preservatives in plant-based meat, etc.
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