Fermented okara touted as “healthier and more flavorful meat alternative” by Lithuanian researchers
17 Sep 2021 --- A team of researchers from Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Lithuania, and the University of Helsinki in Finland have proposed “an extremely nutritious meat analog” using fermented okara (soy press cake). The researchers say their findings could lead to a product with less salt and saturated fats and more flavor than real meat.
Although fermented foods are rich in nutrients and fermentation can produce ingredients that improve smell and taste, the researchers from KTU Food Institute were among the few who relied on this process in meat analog production.
“Meat analogs are the future food. Both business and science will have to reconsider the effect of using secondary raw materials, and it will benefit all the parties by reducing costs and saving resources. Science is the key to an efficient shift,” says one of the authors of the study, Dr. Alvija Šalaševičienė, the director of KTU Food Institute.
Using okara as a new component
The researchers produced meat analogs by adding fermented okara, the by-product of soy milk production, to the plant-based matrices.
Okara samples were fermented by applying probiotics L. plantarum P1 and L. acidophilus 308 strains. The products containing different amounts of fermented okara modeled under different conditions were then evaluated.
The study concluded that the use of fermentation makes okara a suitable component for meat analogs. According to the sensory and nutritional analysis, the optimum condition for producing meat analogs was applying 6% okara in the matrices fermented by L. plantarum P1, when the matrices and okara are maturated at 4 °C for two hours.
“The meat industry has deep-rooted traditions, and people possess a clear expectation of how a pork or beef burger, chicken sausage or other meat product should look, smell, taste and feel like. When modeling a meat analog, we need to identify what we are developing and what qualities it should have,” explains Šalaševičienė.
Fermented okara-based meat analog is “healthier”
Meat analogs with fermented okara have more free amino acids, which diminish the antinutritional factors, therefore, are more easily digested than meat.
Furthermore, the meat analogs modeled at KTU laboratories contain less saturated fat but the same amount of protein – about 14 to 18% depending on different recipe variations.
“Non-hydrogenated oils containing only small amounts of saturated fat were used while developing our products. Thanks to the small amount of fat, we created characteristic flavors by using only 1% of salt. Among the eleven ingredients used in our product are only natural spices, pigments and aromatic compounds, and no preservatives,” says Dr. Gitana Alenčikienė, senior researcher at KTU Food Institute, a co-author of the study.
Food from waste?
Currently, there are no commercialized meat analog products with okara. However, the researchers are convinced that, as organic waste recycling is becoming more relevant in today’s world, their modeled meat analog will find its way to the market.
A meat analog with fermented okara is one of many products created by the researchers of KTU Food Institute. Recently, their pea-based meat analogue won the local innovation fair.
“Both meat analogs are nutritionally valuable: our product with fermented okara is more easily digested, and the pea-based meat analog is enriched with iron, which is very important for the normal functioning of the human organism. While creating our products, we aim to solve at least one nutritional problem – be it calorie control, lack of fiber or iron, or sluggish digestion process,” explains Aelita Zabulionė, researcher at the KTU Food Institute.
The researchers emphasize that “every new plant-based product widens the choice for consumers and can reduce the usage of processed meat products.”
Reusing different organic waste such as okara for food production could be one of the most key challenges to solve, they affirm.
Industry’s race to diversify outside of the conventional plant and animal protein sources are primarily tied to health and climate-conscious commitments.
While significant advancements in this space have previously centered on discovering new plant sources, specialists in the field have also been looking into scaling non-traditional resources like fungi-based protein and fermented protein from natural biogas.
In keeping with fermentation trends, food tech company Enough broke ground for the world’s largest fermentation-based mycoprotein facility in the Netherlands earlier this week.
Meanwhile, The Protein Brewery, a Dutch developer of fermentation-based protein, built a pilot plant equipped with a complete industry line in Breda. The company’s hero product is Fermotein, a whole-cell food ingredient with “excellent nutritional value.” It is positioned as “an ideal replacement” for animal proteins along the food value chain and is made using very little land and water.
Edited by Elizabeth Green
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