Mushroom “meat” may be better than plant-based alternatives
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a technique to grow a mushroom-based food product that could serve as a healthier, tastier, and greener alternative to plant-based protein.
The mushrooms used to grow the product are grown from a base of nutrient-rich common food waste, which infuses the mushrooms with more essential nutrients, such as protein, iron and amino acids. This makes them more nutritious than ingredients commonly used in plant-based alternative meats, such as peas, chickpeas, wheat gluten, and soy.
Cultivation of the food product developed by NTU would also provide an opportunity to reuse common food waste and by-products from agriculture and the food and beverage industry, such as soybean skin, wheat stalk and brewers’ spent grain, a by-product of the beer-making industry.
It is estimated that globally around 39 million tons of spent grains and 14 million tons of soybean skins, also known as okara are thrown into landfills every year, where they would decompose and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
The study, which showcases an innovation that could help reduce waste, reflects NTU’s commitment to lessening our impact on the environment, which is one of humanity’s four great challenges that the University seeks to address. address through its NTU 2025 strategic plan.
Professor William Chen, Director of NTU’s Food Science and Technology (FST) Programme, who led the development of the food product, said: “Our mushroom food product is another triumph for NTU, as we seek to finding effective ways to find new uses for products that would otherwise be thrown away. Recycling these products to grow mushrooms, a food source familiar to Asian consumers, is an opportunity to improve processing efficiency in the food supply chain, as well as potentially promoting a healthier non-animal protein alternative. to enrich diets.
To scale up their method of growing mushrooms, the NTU team, which also includes PhD student Ms Malsha Samarasiri from NTU’s FST programme, is collaborating with The FOODBOWL, part of the New Zealand Food Innovation Network, a national network of facilities open-access food processing facilities supported by the New Zealand government to help food companies and startups globally innovate, develop and bring new products to market – ultimately internationally.
Mr. Grant Verry, Managing Director of The FOODBOWL, said: “We are delighted to be able to support global innovation here at The FOODBOWL to develop alternative, more nutrient-dense proteins using local waste streams. New Zealand and Singapore already have strong collaborative arrangements in place and this project is another great example of the value these relationships can bring to the country’s economies and overall food systems, with industry-led innovation. and facilitated by the government for the food sector.
One New Zealand startup that is collaborating with NTU’s FST program to implement mushroom cultivation technology in its food products is Off-piste Provisions, a plant-based meat company.
Mr Jade Gray, CEO of Off-Piste Provisions, said: “We are looking to team up with leading food scientists, such as Professor William Chen from NTU, to help solve the problem. that alternative protein startups like us face – mimicking the taste, texture and protein hit of animal products. We are confident that by collaborating with Professor Chen from NTU, we can produce a range of meat mushroom products here in New Zealand that will appeal to the most hardcore carnivores, tick all the health conscious boxes and provide the proteins necessary for your daily adventure »
Facilitate adoption of plant-based meat by mainstream consumers
Asia-Pacific startups developing plant-based proteins received US$220 million in funding in 2021a large percentage of which has been spent on research and development to improve the texture and taste of their products to resemble meat, as research has shown that both of these factors will help consumers better accept vegetable proteins.
The food product developed by NTU, which is based on the edible white fungus (Agaricus bisporus), would also meet several criticisms of plant-based proteins, which often require added flavorings to taste good, are highly processed, and may lack some essential nutrients, such as iron and amino acids.
The mushroom food product could be more readily accepted by consumers, as it already looks more like meat than other plant proteins, shredding like cooked chicken would.
It also tastes more like meat, as it contains higher levels of amino acids, glutamic and aspartic acids, compounds commonly found in animals, which give their flesh that characteristic “meat” flavor.
Professor Chen added: “We are motivated by our close ties with industry to translate our findings into pressure point solutions for today’s food and beverage producers, such as improved flavor, nutrition and sustainability of their products. Nature, in the form of mushrooms, is a powerful tool to help companies not only reduce waste, but potentially improve human nutrition, but they need research and innovation, which we are happy to provide, to fill this gap.
In addition to playing an advisory role with startups, NTU’s FST program researchers hope to develop their product to further improve its nutritional profile, as well as reduce food waste. They also hope to commercialize their solution by 2024.
 An overview of the composition, applications and recovery techniques of Okara components aimed at the biovalorization of this soybean processing residue, May 18, 2021
 Institute of Good Food. The state of APAC’s alt protein industry in four charts, 2022.
 Consumer Acceptance of Plant-Based Meat Substitutes: A Narrative Review, May 11, 2022.
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