The meat industry alone is said to be responsible for around 18% of the World’s greenhouse gas emissions, and it employs a horrifying spectrum of cruel practices and dangerous contaminants. While vegetarians often happily forgo the taste of meat, LikeMeat has taken on the task of bringing meat lovers to the greener side of nutrition. The plant-based product, developed by a team of European academics and food manufacturers, claims to be a juicy, fibrous alternative that can win over the staunchest of carnivores. It’s set to launch at Cologne’s Anuga FoodTec trade fair on March 27, and the product’s manufacturers hope to have LikeMeat on the shelves within the year.
Florian Wild, a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising is spearheading the project. He explained to Science Blog that LikeMeat’s developers were encouraged to create the product when they found that “many Europeans are ready to give up meat, but there have only been a handful of alternatives until now.“ The plant-based product is comprised of combinations of wheat, peas, lupins and soy, with a number of variations possible to accommodate food allergies among consumers.
The IVV is has worked with an array of European experts on the product, including academics at University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, and eleven small-to-medium sized food manufacturers. The team created a remarkably efficient process to create LikeMeat – a device no larger than the size of two ping-pong tables is able to churn out 130-150 pounds of one centimeter-thick meat substitute per hour. An innovative procedure for cooking the grains and proteins was developed to create a meaty texture: the plant materials are boiled and then slowly cooled down, and in the process their proteins begin to form chains to produce a fibrous, juicy product.
Wild admits that there is still some work to do on the flavor of LikeMeat, which he describe as “pleasant.” But when the product hits the shelves he intends for it to cost no more than its meaty counterparts, and to be every bit as tasty (if that’s your thing).
We’ve seen a number of ingenious meat alternatives lately, from a $345,00 burger grown in a petri dish to the infamous burger made from human waste, and so far LikeMeat appears to have the greatest potential for mass appeal. As it becomes clear that the days of bland, dry patties of textured vegetable protein are long behind us, it remains to be seen whether meat lovers really can be won over by environmentally sustainable, humane, and — we hope — delicious alternatives.
Lead image © Fraunhofer IVV