Plant-based proteins are becoming more popular and it is now possible to find a wide range of alternative sources with novel properties.
It has been calculated that dogs and cats, fed prepared diets based on animal proteins, consume about 19% of the amount of dietary energy that humans do and that they produce about one third the weight of faeces compared to humans. In so doing, they release an estimated 64 million tons CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, in the US alone. The use of alternative protein sources and better monitoring of feeding can reduce waste and hence lessen the amount of greenhouse gases.
Historically soya has been the main alternative
plant protein to meat but proteins derived from ancient grains, high protein pulses (lupine and chickpeas) and algal ingredients are being formulated into food.
It must be expected that more innovation in the use of plant-based proteins in food products will occur as China, France and Australia move to curb meat consumption.
Initial use of plant proteins in the human diet caused formulators issues as many of these proteins have a taste which is unacceptable to the human palate. To overcome the taste problem, some companies are making their own propriety protein blends, for example, using peas, rice, lentils and chickpeas. The blend is designed to have a neutral taste, light colour and mix with both water- and oil-based foods. Another company has launched ‘clean tasting’ pulse ingredients which are aimed to make these proteins easier to include in food formulations.
Algae is growing in popularity as a protein source. There are thousands of algal strains and these are being evaluated to find those most suitable for inclusion into food. The algal cells are included into food formulations and have the advantage of having limited interaction with other ingredients, so they can be used in ‘difficult’ products such as low pH and low moisture products.
One company in Florida, US, has launched a plant protein from water lentils, also called duckweed. It is claimed the protein has a similar amino acid profile to that of whey. A Californian company, having discovered that haemoglobin is the critical component which gives minced beef its flavour, has managed to produce a plant-based heme (iron-containing complex) as it has been found in soy root nodules. However, the development of this plant-based heme complex involves taking DNA from the soy nodule and implanting it into yeast which may make it objectionable to those opposed to genetic modification.
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