Cultured, cultivated or cell-based meat proponents contend they can feed a growing population without depleting natural resources. Demand for animal protein from a global population set to hit over 9 billion by 2050 will be met by a split between cultivated meat (35%), plant-based meat replacement (25%) and conventional meat (40%) by 2040, reckons the United Nations, World Bank and AT Kearney Analysis.
In this context Mercedes Vila, co-founder and CTO of San Sebastián-based BioTech Foods, has led research on cultivated meat texturization.
The BioTech team investigated the mechanical properties of Frankfurt-style sausages, turkey breast cold cuts and raw breast chicken bought from a local supermarket. These were compared to cultivated versions provided by BioTech Foods.
Cultured meat’s organoleptic properties were anticipated to be different from traditional meat. Conventional meat derives from a complex muscular tissue formed mainly by muscular fibres 90%, connective tissue (10%) and to a lesser extent by fat tissue, vascular and nervous tissues. The transition from muscle to meat happens during the post-mortem stage as it matures under different parameters such as time, temperature and stress. It is during this process meat acquires a unique series of characteristics in terms of flavour, colour, taste and texture.
Cultured meat on the other hand is still mainly obtained from a muscle tissue production by cells, and its organoleptic development after the cell culture is under study.
But after using two complementary techniques: Texture Profile Analysis and Rheology, the upbeat BioTech Foods team claimed the texture characteristics for the cultivated meat studied revealed values “within the range of [the] commercial products”.
The analysis of the samples showed that the cultured meat product exhibited similar texture characteristics for parameters such as hardness, cohesiveness, springiness, chewiness and resilience compared to commercial meats and higher elastic and shear modulus, the research said.
For example, the ‘bite’ of the Frankfurt sausages compared to the cultivated version, “show similar values as statistically”, the study said, adding “it cannot be said that there is a difference between them”. This first bite feeling is critical from the perspective of the final consumer, the study noted.
BioTech co-founder Vila called the research a key step in the development of cultivated meat to help mimicking the sensorial properties of already existing commercial products based on traditional meat. He added future data on cultivated meat’s time, temperature and pH dependency transformation would be of high importance to complement the findings shown here.
"Understanding cultivated meat final characteristics such as texture is necessary for optimizing the production and scalability phase," he said.
The methodology used will allow the sector to obtain valuable information for the first time about cultivated meat characteristics and is of high interest for the optimization of processing strategies, he added.
“This methodology has proven to provide valuable information for the development and optimization of cultured meat product processing strategies and has helped to unveil some of the unknown parameters in such an incipient field.
In a quantitative and rapid manner, using the proposed methods, researchers can adjust different compositions, additives, or process parameters to mimic mechanical texture properties of meat products that are already accepted by customers.”
The open-knowledge paper 'Application of texture analysis methods for the characterization of cultured meat’ has just been published in ‘Scientific Reports’, a Nature Portfolio journal.