Science

"Vegetarian cutlet factory" produces endless slabs of fake meat

"Vegetarian cutlet factory" pr...
Some realistic-looking "meat," created by Fraunhofer's vegetarian cutlet factory
Some realistic-looking "meat," created by Fraunhofer's vegetarian cutlet factory
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Some realistic-looking "meat," created by Fraunhofer's vegetarian cutlet factory
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Some realistic-looking "meat," created by Fraunhofer's vegetarian cutlet factory

There are a number of reasons that some people choose not to eat meat - for instance, they may not want to support the slaughter of animals, they may wish to avoid the health risks associated with consuming too much animal protein, or perhaps they're not big fans of the environmental impact of raising livestock on a commercial scale. Unfortunately, if these people still want to eat meat-like foods, a lot of the meat alternatives currently available are kind of ... yucky. Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging, however, is working on a device nicknamed the "vegetarian cutlet factory." It produces continuous slabs of veggie-based mock meat, which is reportedly quite similar to the real thing.

Fraunhofer is one of several groups involved in the European Union "LikeMeat" project, the aim of which is to develop palatable, cost-effective meat alternatives from raw vegetable materials. Some of the main plant sources being looked at include wheat, peas, lupins and soya.

Some previous attempts have involved a hot extrusion process in which plant proteins are mixed with water, heated under high pressure, then pushed into a die. Unfortunately, as soon as the mixture is extruded its temperature drops dramatically, causing it to release steam and foam up. The resulting souffle-like texture isn't exactly like that of steak.

In Fraunhofer's process, the plant protein and water are brought to a boil, but then allowed to cool back down. Since no sudden pressure release occurs, no foaming takes place. Also, however, as the paste cools, its molecules form into chains. This results in an end product with a meat-like fibrous texture.

This process is carried out within the prototype vegetarian cutlet factory machine, which is reportedly about the size of two table tennis tables. It is capable of creating "one endless piece of meat" that is about one centimeter (0.39-inch) thick, and that can be formed into shapes such as morsels, slices, or entire cutlets. It can put out 60 to 70 kilograms (132-154 lbs) of "meat" per hour, or 300 to 500 kilograms (661-1,102 lbs) a day.

While the consistency and texture of the meat substitute are said to be superb, the flavor apparently still requires a little work. Nonetheless, the Fraunhofer researchers believe that by the end of the LikeMeat project, in one year, that challenge will be overcome. In the meantime, interested parties might also want to keep an eye on what's happening in the field of lab-grown meat - although vegetarians beware, it would technically still be meat.

Source: Fraunhofer

28 comments
Eric Eisinger
If their food is so good why do they want it look and taste like ours?
If GOD didn't want us to eat animals why did he make them out of meat?
If you are a vegitarian I don't think I can trust you!
Bob Ehresman
That sure puts the mystery in mystery meat. I dont think soya based meat substitute would be a very good option for males. We get enough estrogen from the modern environment with out shoveling it past our tonsils.
Annawyn
"There are a number of reasons that some people choose not to eat meat - for instance, they may not want to support the slaughter of animals, they may wish to avoid the health risks associated with consuming too much animal protein, or perhaps they're not big fans of the environmental impact of raising livestock on a commercial scale."
Uhm, Preach Much?
I'd like my technology news liberal agenda-free, please!
[We're just providing some explanation as to why there's a demand for meat substitutes -Ed.]
Mr Stiffy
Food Porn.......
i LOVE tins of textured vegetable protien.......
I love REAL meat.......
I LOVE pictures of FOOD.......
nanobattery24
Amazing glibness and indifference to suffering in previous comments.
Oestrogen: no, sorry, it was actually found that normal consumption of phytoestrogen levels will produce only minimal physical changes in males. [1]
As for the 'if God doesn't want us to eat animals why did He make them out of meat?' - sorry, if you're serious, this is just beyond ridiculous (it's like: if God didn't want us to set people on fire, why did He make them flammable?), and if it isn't, it's such a tired old meat-eater chestnut. Anything to blind yourself to the fact that you're openly contributing to the mass torture and slaughter of non-human animals, ey?
Oh and 'liberalism' - yeah, as if not eating meat is a political decision.
It's amazing to what lengths people go to in order to mask the fact that they're simply being unethical, when there are evidently far better options available, like the increasingly viable artificial meat option as shown in the article.
[1]: http://www.clinsci.org/cs/100/cs1000613.htm
John Spieker
We will find it in all sorts of processed goods if it is any good.
gragraposker
Well,one day as the population continues to overtake resouces,meat will become a very expensive protein source. Animal meat is a very inefficiently produced food compared to vegetables(including grains and nuts etc). Deride it now,but these types of meat subsitutes may one day all you can afford.
And yes,I am a lacto-vegetarian,and no,I don't bother with any of those mock meat products.
Calvin k
The main reason for imitation meat is not for vegetarians... but to encourage non-vegetarians to adopt a diet with less to no meat, by providing a substitute.
All vegetarians I know has no preference for these; I on the other hand do, not because it tastes like meat, but some of them just taste good by itself. Prob also because I eat everything.
And btw Gragraposker, meat are already expensive, if not for government subsidies that directly and indirectly (i.e. feed grains) props up the meat & dairy industry which allow for lower prices.
So Annawyn, (using your faulty logic), by eating meat you are actually a socialist. oh am gee.
Marcus Carr
@Annawyn, those are reasons that vegetarians give - just ask one! My teenage daughter is against the slaughter of animals, so despite the fact that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore, she hasn't eaten meat since she was 10. Inconvenient? Very much, but then it would be wrong for me to impose my philosophy on her, wouldn't it?
uksnapper
Science fiction writers predicted this decades ago