Scientists are developing plant-based STEAKS from pea protein with the same fatty marbling as the real deal

Scientists have developed plant-based steaks from pea protein that accurately mimic the marbling of real steaks, they claim.

Developed in Switzerland, the faux steak uses pea protein for the red “flesh” and an oil-in-water emulsion for the spindly lines of white fat.

Since the fat content of the emulsion can be reduced significantly, the plant-based steak is healthier than the animal-based original, as well as more ethical.

The steak will be “ready for the market” in a year’s time, although it’s unclear exactly when it will be available in the UK.

Developed in Switzerland, the fake steak uses pea protein for the “tissue” and an oil-in-water emulsion with additives such as vitamins for the fat

HOW ARE VEGAN MARBLE STEAKS MADE?

For his plant-based steak, Hofmann combines pea protein with fiber from carrots, peas and wheat, along with oil, water, flavorings and spices.

Hofmann’s equipment consists of two extrusion dies – discs through which materials are forced out like playdough – one for pea protein and one for fat.

Software specially created by Hofmann controls the melting process.

Thus, pea protein and fat are mixed together to recreate the random marbling patterns of high quality meat.

The project is led by Martin Hofmann, materials scientist at ETH Zürich in Switzerland.

Hofmann is neither vegan nor even vegetarian; he’s just a meat eater who intends to reduce his meat intake and switch to a more plant-based diet.

“I’d like to help launch a healthy, eco-friendly, animal-friendly substitute for high-quality meat that tastes like the animal-based original,” Hofmann said.

“Nature took its time in creating bovine muscle tissue. Recreating it requires a lot of research.

For his plant-based steak, Hofmann combines pea protein with fiber from carrots, peas and wheat, along with oil, water, flavorings and spices.

The pea protein blend and fake animal fat (oil, water and additives such as vitamins) are then forced into their own specially designed tubes.

Unlike conventional 3D printing techniques, the tubes continuously force protein paste and grease like modeling clay and into a prop consisting of two flat pieces of glass.

Software specially created by Hofmann controls the melting process.

This way the pea protein and fat are mixed together to recreate the random marbling patterns of high quality meat.

Unlike conventional 3D printing techniques, the tubes continuously force protein paste and fat like modeling clay and into a prop (consisting of two flat pieces of glass)

Unlike conventional 3D printing techniques, the tubes continuously force protein paste and fat like modeling clay and into a prop (consisting of two flat pieces of glass)

The melting process creates an arrangement between fat and fake flesh that resembles the marbling on a real steak

The melting process creates an arrangement between fat and fake flesh that resembles the marbling on a real steak

Marbling is the web of creamy white fat that coats a cut of beef, giving it high tenderness, juiciness, and richness.  Pictured is a premium Kobe beef steak in Japan

Marbling is the web of creamy white fat that coats a cut of beef, giving it high tenderness, juiciness, and richness. Pictured is a premium Kobe beef steak in Japan

BEEF MARBLING

Marbling is the web of creamy white fat that coats a cut of beef, giving it high tenderness, juiciness, and richness.

When the marbling is high, as in Japanese Kobe beef, the meat is considered to be of the highest quality.

Marbling is such an important quality characteristic of steaks that producers give their cuts a “Beef Marbling Score” (BMS).

In Japan, the BMS scale ranges from three (the basic minimum of marbling a steak should have) to 12 (almost white with marbling).

Hofmann now aims to commercialize his method and has founded a spin-off as part of a support program at ETH Zürich.

Rather than producing and selling plant-based steaks himself, he plans to help other companies produce authentic plant-based alternatives to high-quality meat through his production technology.

“I want to make it a little easier for people to give up cheap, factory-raised meat,” he said.

There are already a lot of fake meat products available in supermarkets today; However, plant-based alternatives for high-quality meat products such as steak aren’t readily available, according to Hofmann.

There is also an ongoing effort to recreate the meat products as faithfully as possible, so that a taster cannot tell the difference between the real thing and a plant-based imitator.

This isn’t the first marbled vegan steak; Last year, Juicy Marbles, a company based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, unveiled its vegan filet mignon steaks marbled with sunflower oil.

Rather than using 3D printing or scaffolding, Juicy Marbles uses a patent-pending machine to align layers of “meat” fibers from bottom to top.

Hofmann (pictured) is neither vegan nor even vegetarian;  he's just a meat eater who intends to reduce his meat consumption and switch to a more plant-based diet

Hofmann (pictured) is neither vegan nor even vegetarian; he’s just a meat eater who intends to reduce his meat consumption and switch to a more plant-based diet

This isn't the first marbled vegan steak;  last year, Ljubljana-based company Juicy Marbles unveiled its vegan filet mignon steaks (pictured) marbled with sunflower oil

This isn’t the first marbled vegan steak; last year, Ljubljana-based company Juicy Marbles unveiled its vegan filet mignon steaks (pictured) marbled with sunflower oil

Researchers from Osaka University in Japan have also developed a technique to 3D print stem cells from Waygu cows.

Although such a technique is more ethical than slaughtering cattle, meat created in the laboratory from animal cells is not vegetarian, a recent study has concluded.

Meat-rich diets not only endanger our health, but that of the planet, as large-scale farming destroys habitats and generates greenhouse gases.

Animal agriculture contributes to global warming through emissions of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon from farmed animals and their supply chains.

But a full shift to plant-based foods seems unlikely; McDonald’s, one of the world’s biggest meat buyers, told MailOnline in December it was not considering phasing out beef.

3D-printed Wagyu beef grown from stem cells in the lab was revealed by scientists in Japan in 2021

3D-printed Wagyu beef grown from stem cells in the lab was revealed by scientists in Japan in 2021

SHOULD WE REDUCE RED MEAT? WHAT THE EVIDENCE SAY

Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals in the diet.

The Department of Health advises eating no more than 70g (cooked weight) of red and processed meat per day, which is the average daily consumption in the UK.

This is mainly because there is a link between bowel cancer and red meat, such as beef and lamb, and processed meat, such as sausages and bacon.

A 2011 report titled Iron and Health from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) assessed the evidence for the link between bowel cancer and iron – meat is the main source of iron.

The SACN concluded that eating a lot of red and processed meat probably increased the risk of bowel cancer and advised accordingly.

The American Institute for Cancer Research advises eating no more than three servings of red meat per week and urges us to “avoid” processed meats.

Processed meat often contains nitrogen-based preservatives that prevent it from degrading during transport or storage.

These preservatives have been linked to bowel and stomach cancer.

When red meat is digested, the pigmentary heme breaks down in our gut to form chemicals called N-nitroso compounds.

These compounds have been found to damage the DNA of cells lining our digestive tract, which could trigger cancer.

Our bodies can also respond to this damage by causing cells to divide faster to replace those that are lost.

This “extra” cell division can increase the risk of cancer.

Cancer Research UK says three chemicals found in meat are linked to bowel cancer because they damage cells in the bowel.

Red and processed meat has also been linked to type 2 diabetes.

This may be due to the preservatives used or the higher saturated fat content of meats than chicken and fish.

However, researchers in Canada, Spain and Poland cast a shadow over dietary advice adopted by health bodies around the world in November 2019.

In a landmark paper, academics analyzed previous studies on how meat consumption affected the health of more than four million people.

The research, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found no evidence that eating beef, pork and lamb could increase rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke or diabetes by type 2, despite fears.

Dino S. Williams