Food Extrusion in Plant-Based Meat Development and Production

Plant-based alternatives to meat

Trust what is inside your meat alternatives

Reverse engineering the characteristics that make animal meats enjoyable to eat using plant-based proteins and other ingredients is no simple feat. You need to be able to mimic a myriad of real meat characteristics—to satisfy not only the senses of sight, smell, and taste—but also provide similar textures, responses to cooking and storage conditions, and nutritional benefits.


Plant-based meat ingredients

Meat analogs, created from plant-based ingredients to mimic the fibrous, muscle meat-like texture, taste, appearance, and nutritional value of animal meats, offer a planet-friendly food alternative. Twin-screw extrusion processing is a key technology for continuous production and enhancement of the properties of High Moisture Meat Analog (HMMA) and texturized vegetable protein (texturized proteins) products.


Plant-based meat manufacturing

Reducing the carbon footprint by producing “meat-like“ structures from vegetal proteins to meet the growing demand is great for the planet—reducing carbon emissions and the consumption of animal feed—but it can be a processing challenge. As more consumers not only accept but demand meat analogs, striving to improve the texture and appearance to feel like real meat and achieve a similar eating experience and the mouthfeel is paramount. A twin-screw extrusion process combined with a special die head that can cool the extruded protein in a long flow channel solves that problem and produces a fibrous, plant-based structure similar to real meat to mimic beef, chicken, and seafood.


Extrusion cooking

By applying the precise temperature control and shearing capabilities of a twin-screw extruder, food formulations can be cooked during the process. Extrusion cooking and customized processing parameters enable precisely timed and controlled conditions for protein denaturation, starch gelatinization, flavor encapsulation, and more, all with one technology. With multiple component feeding positions to add recipe ingredients like plant proteins, water, flavors, fats, and micronutrients along with controlled temperature zones for precise heating or cooling, today’s extruders help make alt meat a reality.

 


Twin-screw extrusion process

One technology, two processes

 

Twin-screw extrusion processing is a key technology for the continuous production of plant-based meat products that mimic animal meats. Two different types of products can be produced with the same twin-screw extrusion technology and slightly different processes:

High moisture meat analogs (HMMA)

Product characteristics: 

Soft and moist with a directly visible fibrous, muscle-meat-like texture.

 

Process:

Formation of texture: 

 

Determined by shear-induced structuring of plant protein formulations in the cooled slit die and the flow characteristics in the die.

Texturized vegetable proteins 

Product characteristics: 

Dry and brittle with a porous structure that rehydrates into a fibrous, meat-like texture.

 

Process:

Formation of texture: 

 

Determined by pressure drop at the die exit, leading to the evaporation of water and expansion of the product.

 

 

Thermo Scientific Twin-Screw Extruders offer a modular solution for application testing and process development from lab- to pilot-scale. All extruder sizes can be equipped with a modular cooled slit die for high moisture meat analogs and a strand-die nozzle for texturized proteins production. These setups promote the creation of a wide range of meat-like textures depending on the combination of formulation, process conditions, and die geometry.

Process 11 Twin-Screw Extruder

During new product development and process optimization, food engineers need highly flexible systems to handle small throughput volumes starting at gram levels up to a few kilograms per hour. They should also be easy to clean, intuitive to operate, and able to mimic a complete processing line. The Thermo Scientific Process 11 Twin-screw Extruder facilitates a streamlined, flexible R&D workflow for a cost-effective, continuous means of production with precise control for maintaining high product quality.