A photobioreactor for microalgae. Image: Photobioreactor PBR 4000 G by IGV Biotech [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Danish Scientists Use Blue-Green Algae to Develop “The Ultimate Way to Make Protein”

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have found a way to make protein by using cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) as a “surrogate mother”. In a new study, the scientists successfully used cyanobacteria to produce a protein with long, fibrous strands that resemble meat fibres. The process involved inserting foreign genes into the blue-green algae, which then became a host organism for the protein. Within each cyanobacterium, the protein organized itself into tiny threads (nanofibres). “Being able to manipulate a living organism to produce a new kind of protein which organises itself into threads is rarely seen to this extent – and it is very promising,” said Poul Erik Jensen of the university’s Department of Food Science. Cyanobacteria can be grown very sustainably, requiring just water, atmospheric …

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A shoe made from bacterial, self-dyeing leather

© Ed Tritton - Imperial College London

UK Researchers Develop First “Self-Dyeing” Plastic-Free Vegan Leather from Bacteria

Imperial College London researchers have developed, using bacteria, a plastic-free, vegan leather that dyes itself black during production. Scientists and material companies have been using microbes to produce sustainable textiles or dyes for the fashion industry; however, the researchers claim this is the first time a material produces its own color pigment. One of fashion’s most environmentally damaging processes is dyeing with synthetic chemicals. The researchers explain that black dyes — especially those used for tanning leather — are particularly harmful.  To solve this environmental problem, the researchers genetically engineered the bacterium Komagataeibacter rhaeticus to simultaneously produce microbial cellulose and the dark pigment eumelanin. Their new process has been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.  “Inventing a new, faster way to produce sustainable, self-dyed leather alternatives …

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© GFI/University of Lisbon

GFI Requests Proposals for Alternative Protein Research Grants

The Good Food Institute (GFI) is now accepting proposals for its alternative protein research grants program. The grants support early to mid-stage research proposals addressing urgent scientific and technological challenges relating to alternative proteins. $3.4MM in funding has been allocated for awards across three high-priority scientific and technological topics: Upcycled plant proteins — Improving the functionality of known food industry sidestreams using emerging processing methods/technology with a calculated sidestream volume, limited economic assessment, and end-product demonstration. Next-gen fermentation downstream processing — Sustainable and low-cost approaches for downstream food protein isolation from precision fermentation biomanufacturing. Hydrolysates for cultivated meat — Optimizing raw material processing and characterization to enable lower-cost and higher-performing hydrolysate ingredients for cultivated meat media. All proposals must be applicable to meat alternatives and …

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Dr Charli Kruse

Dr Charli Kruse © CellTec Systems

CellTec Systems: “Whether it is Slaughtered or Cultured Meat Will Probably Make No Difference to the Consumer in Terms of Sensory Experience”

The Lübeck-based company CellTec Systems sees itself as the first German full-service provider for industrial cell production. Anyone wanting to get into cellular agriculture can obtain all the building blocks for production here: Cells, nutrient solution, bioreactors, and even training and consultancy services. What makes the company, which is a spin-off of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the University of Lübeck, so special is its 25 years of expertise in cell cultivation. CellTec Systems has also developed a special bioreactor with hydrogel capsules designed to cover the immense space requirements of dividing cells. Professor Dr Charli Kruse, co-founder and scientific director of CellTec Systems, talks to us in an interview about why he describes his colleagues and himself as cell whisperers, how the patented reactor with hydrogel …

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Aspergillus-oryzae-koji

Aspergillus oryzae © sinhyu - stock.adobe.com

Berkeley Lab Chef-Bioengineer Biohacks Fungal Genes to Discover New Possibilities in Flavors and Textures

As published in Nature Communications, UC Berkeley is pioneering research into sustainable protein sources to foster a smarter food industry. Utilizing advancements in genetic engineering, researchers are tapping into microorganisms to develop cruelty-free and environmentally friendly products. Fungi, recognized for their rich nutritional content and natural production of proteins, fats, antioxidants, and flavor molecules, are at the forefront of these innovations. Chef-turned-bioengineer Vayu Hill-Maini, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is exploring how genetic modifications in mushrooms can introduce new flavors and textures. His work, particularly with the multicellular fungus Aspergillus oryzae (koji mold), involves utilizing CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to enhance the mold’s qualities as a food source, including increasing heme and ergothioneine production for health benefits and improved taste. The start of leveraging fungal …

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plant-based yogurt in a glass bowl

© Nishihama – stock.adobe.com

Research Finds Novel Method of Improving Gelling and Texture Properties of Soy Yogurt

Chinese researchers have developed a new approach to improving the properties of soy yogurt through different processing techniques. The study investigated the impact of three factors — the soybean proteins 7S and 11S, homogenization pressure, and glycation modified with glucose — on the gelling of soy yogurt. Homogenization is the process of making two non-soluble liquids the same throughout, while glycation involves attaching a sugar to a protein through covalent bonding (the sharing of electron pairs between atoms). The results indicate that using a 7S/11S globulin-glucose conjugate at a 1:3 ratio, combined with a homogenization pressure of 110 MPa, significantly improves the properties of soy yogurt. The resulting product has better characteristics than soy yogurts made using additives such as pectin or maltodextrin. “These findings provide …

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Quorn katsu style chicken

© Quorn Foods

Changing the Game for Vegan Analogs: Study Explores Effects of Iron Fortification in Mycoprotein Products Without Egg Whites

In the ever-evolving landscape of food industry innovations, the spotlight is now on the development of meat alternatives that provide consumers with a sustainable option and meet the nutritional needs of comparable animal proteins. A recent study by Professor Brent Murray from the University of Leeds, funded by Quorn Foods, investigated the effects of iron fortification in mycoprotein products developed with potato protein instead of egg whites. Egg whites are incorporated into mycoprotein products as functional ingredients and binders to create appealing textures. However, the growing demand for plant-based meat alternatives and egg allergenicity are driving the replacement of egg white proteins with plant proteins.  In a related research about the interactions between fungal hyphae and egg white protein the scientists found that that potato proteins offer high …

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Meat Analogue developed by Lund University

© Lund University

Lund University Researchers Uncover Optimal Raw Material Blend for the Most Appealing Plant-Based Meat

Food technology researchers at Lund University in Sweden have found the best raw material combination to make the most appetizing plant-based meat using extrusion: wheat gluten and hemp seed. The research, led by Karolina Östbring and Jeanette Purhagen, focuses on creating alternatives that mimic the texture and consistency of real meat, addressing the common complaint that vegan food does not deliver the “meaty” experience.   Focusing on texture, temperature, and taste — the three “Ts” — the team discovered a way to introduce chewiness into vegetable meat by imitating muscle fibers, using an extruder and various raw materials.  According to Purhagen, extruders are essential for producing meat analogs with suitable, long fibers, providing the desired chewy texture that people appreciate in meat.  Finding the optimal combination  …

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Uncommon pork belly

© Uncommon

UC Davis Inaugurates Integrative Center for Alternative Meat and Protein Research

The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) unveils the Integrative Center for Alternative Meat and Protein (iCAMP) aimed at revolutionizing the alternative protein sector through widespread commercial adoption efforts and technological progress in the field of alternative proteins. David Block, the center director and professor in chemical engineering and viticulture, cites that the global meat demand is projected to surge by 50% to 100% over the next quarter-century, emphasizing the urgency of developing sustainable alternatives. He states, “Expansion of conventional animal agriculture is unlikely to be able to meet demand at a reasonable price. We have to come up with alternatives and create additional sustainable food sources.” iCAMP brings together a diverse mix of experts including top researchers, industry professionals, advocacy groups, and food innovators, …

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IFF, Unilever and WUR address flavor challenges associated with alt meats

© IFF

IFF Partners With Unilever and Wageningen University to Address Alt Meat Flavor Challenges

International flavor and fragrance producer IFF has announced it will be collaborating with Unilever and the Netherlands’ Wageningen University and Research (WUR) to address flavor challenges associated with plant-based meat. Plant-based proteins can sometimes have beany or bitter off-notes, which manufacturers of meat alternatives usually mask with other flavors. However, this may result in undesirable aroma characteristics. As part of a four-year project, IFF and Unilever will explore how flavors bind to protein molecules, with the aim of developing new flavoring strategies to improve the sensory qualities of meat alternatives. “Our mission is to understand and improve flavor quality in plant-based meat alternatives by unravelling the intricacies of protein interactions, to investigate flavor loss and elevate the overall flavor profile,” said Neil Da Costa, lead …

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white chlorella ingredient solution

© Aliga Microalgae

Spirulina and Chlorella Emerge As Surprisingly Effective Alternatives to Animal Meat Proteins

A University of Exeter study exploring algae-derived proteins from spirulina and chlorella has found they are sustainable alternatives to animal proteins, particularly efficient in maintaining and building muscle. To assess the impact of ingesting spirulina and chlorella on blood amino acid concentrations compared to mycoprotein (MYCO), a known high-quality non-animal protein derived from mycelium, 36 young adults participated in a randomized, double-masked trial. The results demonstrate that spirulina and chlorella enhance muscle protein synthesis (MyoPS) rates at rest and post-exercise, similar to MYCO, suggesting algae is a promising protein source with comparable benefits to established non-animal proteins. “We believe it’s important and necessary to start looking into these alternatives and we’ve identified algae as a promising novel protein source,” commented Researcher Ino Van Der Heijden from the University of Exeter. …

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mung bean sprouts

© vitaly tiagunov - stock.adobe.com

German Scientists Study Mung Beans as Promising Climate-Resilient Solution for Plant-Based Meat

New research carried out by German scientists at The University of Bonn and Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV into plant protein extraction methods highlights the potential use of climate-resilient crops, such as mung beans, for plant-based meat. According to the researchers, soy is still the most commonly used legume for protein. However, the acceptance of mung bean protein isolate as a novel food by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has created an opportunity to explore an alternative option, thereby expanding the protein sources. To understand whether mung beans were an optimal source for protein isolates, the researchers studied three plant protein extraction methods at different extraction pH levels: isoelectric precipitation (IP), micellization (MP), and a hybrid of both (HP). They measured …

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a graphic of a brown cow and a mark on its back that measures the wound inflicted to take a live cells sample

© Mosa Meat

New Scientific Review by Mosa Meat Discusses Challenges in Cell Biology for Cultivated Meat

A new scientific review, Advances and Challenges in Cell Biology for Cultured Meat, by the Cell Biology team at Dutch biotech company Mosa Meat, highlights the importance of a detailed understanding and accurate manipulation of cell biology in designing cultivated meat bioprocesses.  Despite significant interest and breakthroughs in the field, the paper argues that numerous challenges remain at all stages of biomanufacturing, including the cell biology process.  To shed light on the advancements in this area, the review focuses explicitly on identifying suitable starting cell types, tuning proliferation and differentiation conditions, and optimizing cell-biomaterial interactions for creating nutritious and enticing cultivated meat products.  Additionally, the paper explores the emerging field of cultivated meat and its potential to revolutionize meat production if coordinated scientific efforts solve the …

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University of Hohenheim develops fish alternatives made from microalgae

Image supplied.

Researchers Develop Microalgae-Based Fish Alternatives, Offering “Everything Fish Can & More”

As concerns about overfishing increase, scientists at Germany’s University of Hohenheim are developing microalgae-based fish alternatives. Unlike many plant-based fish products currently on the market, the microalgae-based fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, an important nutrient found in conventional fish. It is also an excellent source of protein and other nutrients, leading the researchers to claim that microalgae “can offer everything that fish can – and so much more”. Other advantages of microalgae include its ability to bind carbon dioxide and the fact that it can be grown regionally, eliminating the need for long-distance shipping. However, there are also some disadvantages; for example, microalgae has a very strong taste of old fish, which could be off-putting for many consumers. To counter this, the researchers …

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Cheese from yellow peas

© University of Nottingham

Researchers Making Cheese From Yellow Peas Receive £300K From Innovate UK

The University of Nottingham and its spinoff The Good Pulse Company have received funding from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to further their research into making plant-based cheese from yellow peas. The sum of over £300,000 will allow the researchers to develop commercial processes for the cheese alternatives, which are produced using UK-grown peas to make them as sustainable as possible. The products are also said to be far more nutritious than many vegan cheeses currently on the market, with a higher protein content and no need for modified starches or artificial additives. The project has previously received over £370,000 in funding from Big Idea Ventures and leading scientific research organisation Rothamsted Research. So far, the researchers have developed over 100 plant-based cheese prototypes, …

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© Department of Food Science - University of Copenhagen

Study Shows the Potential of Natural Fermentation to Make Realistic Plant-Based Cheese

In new University of Copenhagen research, scientists demonstrated the potential of natural fermentation to produce climate-friendly plant-based cheese with similar sensory properties as its dairy counterpart. Making realistic plant-based cheese has been challenging since plant proteins behave differently than proteins found in milk. The study highlights that cheese producers add starch, coconut oil, and flavorings to achieve firm textures and dairy-like flavors. However, the research, led by scientist Carmen Masiá in collaboration between the Department of Food Science and microbial ingredients supplier Chr. Hansen shows that natural fermentation and bacteria produce dairy-free cheeses with a firm texture and improved taste, aroma, and mouthfeel. “Fermentation is an incredibly powerful tool to develop flavor and texture in plant-based cheeses. In this study, we show that bacteria can …

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Plant-based tacos

© Zess

Plant-Based Diets Combat the Obesity and Climate Crises, Says Top EU Scientific Advisor

Plant-based diets promote human health, combat climate change, and foster a more sustainable food system, highlights Eric Lambin, a member of the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors and co-author of Towards Sustainable Food Consumption. In a recent interview published in Horizon magazine, Lambin, a geography and sustainability science professor at UCLouvain, Belgium, discussed the need for a more sustainable and healthy food system.  “We are now facing a public health crisis – with widespread overweight, obesity and malnutrition issues — and a global environmental crisis,” he told Horizon. To tackle obesity and climate change, Lambin recommends shifting towards plant-based diets, emphasizing legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, reducing meat consumption, and prioritizing sustainably sourced fish and seafood. He also noted the need to reduce …

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Queen Margaret University develops alternative to palm oil

© Queen Margaret University

Scottish University Develops Sustainable & Clean Label Alternative to Palm Oil

Scientists at Scotland’s Queen Margaret University have developed a healthier and more sustainable alternative to palm oil. Called PALM-ALT, the ingredient is fully plant-based, made from a byproduct of the linseed industry along with fibre and rapeseed oil. Palm oil is considered problematic due to its environmental impact, with palm plantations a key driver of deforestation and habitat destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. Despite this, the ingredient is still widely used in the food industry and elsewhere, as a replacement with the same properties is currently not available at a competitive cost. The development of a more sustainable alternative has the potential to reduce transport emissions as well as deforestation; PALM-ALT can be made exclusively with ingredients sourced from within the UK and the EU, …

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Hen running on grass

© stevew_photo-stock.adobe.com

These Italian Researchers Are Developing Chicken Meat From a Feather

Researchers from an Italian university are studying how to obtain chicken meat from a feather. The project taking place via professors Luciano Conti and Stefano Maria Biressi at the University of Trento was assigned and financed by the Italian Save the Chickens Foundation, which contacts vegconomist with the news. Researcher Nike Schiavo, MSc Biotechnology, is overseeing the experiments for the project and is currently completing the draft report, according to the foundation’s representative. She explains that cells are obtained from “feathers obtained through petting the chick” rather than from feathers that have fallen to the ground spontaneously. “The cells that we manage to extract from the feathers grow well and so far we have managed to expand them for a few months, obtaining tens of …

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two scientists working at germany's bluu seafood labs

Image courtesy of Bluu Seafood

Good News for Food System Innovation as the UK Rejoins Horizon Europe

A new agreement has allowed the UK to rejoin the EU’s Horizon Europe research program as an associate member, in a move that could help to propel food system innovation in the country. After previously leaving Horizon Europe due to Brexit, UK researchers will now have access to all the program’s funding opportunities once again, with the exception of the European Innovation Council (EIC) fund. A considerable percentage of Horizon Europe funding goes to food-related projects; for example, the program announced €32 million in funding for sustainable protein research in 2021, and another €25 million for cultivated and fermented proteins in 2022. The EU also funded the five-year University of Copenhagen-led PROTEIN2FOOD project, which aimed to increase the number of plant-based protein products available in …

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