Soy protein 'scaffold' gives cultured meat 'taste, aroma and texture of real meat' © Getty Images

Soy protein ‘scaffold’ gives cultured meat ‘taste, aroma and texture of real meat’

Researchers have created a technique that uses textured soy protein to create an edible scaffold.

  • New technology developed to create 3D scaffold out of textured soy protein for artificial meat.
  • Volunteers said the taste, aroma and texture were typical of real meat.
  • Improved methods of creating cultured meat for human consumption could help reduce reliance on animal agriculture.
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Scientists have created a new method for producing an edible scaffold for growing cultured meat.

The scaffold, which is made from textured soy protein, enables synthetic meat cells to grow into a beef-like product for human consumption.

The study, published in Nature Food, found the product performed well in preliminary taste tests.

Read more about the future of food:

Cultured, or cell-based, meat is an evolving technology that could generate meat without the need for animal agriculture.

Its creation requires a 3D scaffold to support the engineered cells and mimic the environment in which animal muscles grow.

The scaffold also needs to be edible and have suitable nutritional value and texture.

Shulamit Levenberg, from the Israel Institute of Technology, and colleagues describe a new method to create a 3D scaffold out of textured soy protein.

They say it is a cost-effective, edible and porous protein-based material.

Researchers found that bovine satellite cells, which are “seeded” within the textured soy protein scaffolds where they multiply and create tissue, covered a large portion of the scaffolds.

They also found that co-culture with bovine smooth muscle cells and tri-culture with bovine endothelial cells – cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels – created an enhanced meat-like texture.

According to volunteers who tested the product after cooking, its taste, aroma and texture were typical of real meat.

Impossible Foods is one company that has been making plant-based burgers. With many people increasingly concerned about ethics, land usage and global warming, these ‘meats’ are likely to become regular fixtures on the menu © Impossible Foods
Impossible Foods is one company that has been making plant-based burgers. With many people increasingly concerned about ethics, land usage and global warming, these ‘meats’ are likely to become regular fixtures on the menu © Impossible Foods

The authors conclude that their results may provide the tools for cultured meat to be scaled up to generate new protein sources for human consumption and help reduce reliance on animal agriculture.

They write: “The results presented here represent the potential for cell-based meat to be scaled up, forming new protein sources for human consumption.

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“This would reduce our reliance on animal agriculture and contribute to more sustainable food security.”

Reader Q&A: What would happen if a person just ate meat and nothing else?

Asked by: Rebecca Sedgwick, Dorking

Not much – at least in the short term. In a 1928 study, two ‘normal’ men ate only meat for one year, under the supervision of medical researchers in New York. At the end of the year the men showed “no specific physical changes in any system of the body”.

Today, fans of a ‘carnivore diet’ claim it brings weight loss and improves digestive health. But with so much evidence of plant foods’ anti-cancer effects, the jury is out on whether a meat-only diet is actually healthy in the long term.

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