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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.