Oatmeal and soy milk have occurred in dairy colds, the bean paste complements the egg-based dough and the tacos can be made with quorn seasonings. We bought soy in the coffee and the tofu cup at the kiosk. Alternatives to livestock products exploded during the '00s.
But most meat substitutes are based on soy, which is difficult to grow in Sweden. Imports are very large and most of them are concentrated. So if you want to stop the meat or continue, it is the soy that does the trick. And cultivation in South America, China and India has increased considerably in the last decade, damaging the environment and health due to devastation and pesticides.
Demand for vegetable protein in the EU was approximately 27 million tonnes in 2016/17. Of these, 17 million tonnes were imported, of which 13 million tonnes were of soybeans. The EU's self-sufficiency for soybeans is 5%, compared to 79% for oilseed rape.
However, soybean cultivation in the EU has increased considerably since 2013. Growing legumes has tripled over the same period. The EU Commission notes that the vegetable protein market is increasing by double-digit percentages every year.
Source: European Commission
Swedish agriculture has long been struggling to replace soybeans in feed and researchers have worked to obtain domestic alternatives. But it has only now come so far that a plant is being built to produce food plant proteins for food and feed. The plant in Alnarp, where the plants will become proteins, is in the initial wells. Already this summer, it must be finished and in production
– Soy is available in egg, milk and meat substitutes. Although it is mainly used in food, it increases in food. Soybeans are cheap, says Eva Johansson, agricultural science professor at SLU Grogrund and the group managing the vegetable protein factory.
Proteins are important building blocks of our body and all living things. They build skeletons, skin and nails, they attach oxygen to the muscles, but they can also be enzymes that catalyze chemical reactions such as digestion. Many hormones and antibodies are proteins. To do this, we need to get protein with our food. Whole proteins are called those that contain all 22 different amino acids that our body needs. Different products of animal origin contain more, but even the completely vegetarian diet is sufficient to meet the need.
Proteins can be extracted from any plant, but most have very low levels and lack important amino acids. Proteins for eg cooking and muscle building were produced for a long time by peas, hemp, rice and soybeans and more. With the new cutting-edge technology, many more plants, such as phenols, chlorophyll and bioactive substances, such as flavonoids, can be obtained, according to researchers at Alnarp.
Wheat gluten, potatoes, legumes and lupines are already used to produce protein, but the raw material of the plant protein in Alnarp will be green parts of plants.
– In all green plants, rubisco protein is present, which participates in photosynthesis. The problem is to extract it so that it retains its good properties and is not contaminated by other substances, says Eva Johansson.
Letting the plants rich in proteins pass through the animals is ineffective, she points out.
The main green leaves of the raw material may be, for example, beet, turnip and artichokes, which you usually harvest after harvesting. Thus, they extract the rubisco, an enzyme that converts the energy of the sun into chemical energy.
– If you go into a health food store, you can pay SEK 200-300 per rubisco in the form of a liter of gram. We would also like to use grass clippings, parks and golf courses. But such a raw material requires a lot of cleaning of pesticides and fertilizers, says Eva Johansson.
Meat consumption has increased since World War II, but the last ten have stabilized at a high level. Total Swedish meat consumption is around 85 kilograms per person per year on average. But the concept is misleading, since it means weight slaughtered with flesh, bones, tendons and other things that humans do not eat.
The amount of meat we actually eat, at home and in the restaurant, is just over 45 pounds per person per year, ie about 9 acres per week or 125 grams per day. For this comes 23 pounds of chark plus a few pounds of meat that is included in the finished food.
Meat digestion has dropped a bit in 2017, and animal rights and climate-related people are now talking softly about the "peak of meat" in analogy with the "peak of oil," the time when oil Earth begins.
Although we have not radically reduced our carnivorous diet, our habits have changed: We eat less pork and more poultry while the meat is at a standstill. Girls thin on meat, while young men go against the current and eat more. The boys in high school eat on average 1 kg per week – twice the girls!
Source: Statistics Sweden, Swedish Council for Agriculture.
Even without pollution, it is a little neighbor to extract proteins. The final product should not be green or smell and taste grass. The food industry wants a raw material of color, odor and free taste. This should produce the protein factory, a white powder. Protein factory partners in the project will be refined into various products.
There are many ways to extract plant proteins, mechanical, chemical and biological. One can, for example, use caves – forest residues in the form of stumps, branches and shrewd – as substrate for bacteria. The microorganisms can then produce food proteins, lipases for drugs and detergents or other enzymes.
SLU also examines which other crops can be grown in Europe for future plant protein based foods. There, among other things, the MAX: IV accelerator at the University of Lund is used to study structures in which different proteins can contribute, for example, to food.
Depending on the plants and method used, plant proteins have different properties. William Newson of SLU in Alnarp, who researched, will be the production manager of the protein factory. The method which will be used is reminiscent of the refinement of, for example, oil; the protein is gradually purified and by-products are used.
In the first step, the sheets are minced and pressed in an extruder, so that the water, about 80% of the pulp, is used. The separated fibers may be used, for example, for bovine leather or biogas. In the next step, colors, flavors and odors are centrifuged from the green liquid under the heat. It can also be used as a higher quality food for pigs and chickens.
In the final step, the color, fragrance and flavorless liquid are again centrifuged, leaving most proteins as dry matter. Staying in the liquid, some proteins and sugars, which can be refined or turn into biogas. Depending on the raw material used, different proteins are extracted, each plant has its composition. Some require more processing in the final step for proteins to precipitate.
– In the extruder, the cells are opened so that we can get as much liquid as possible. It's the hardest part, the cell walls are strong. There we need extra energy, we overheat the liquid and add acids. But it's not high technology, but moderate temperatures and common acids, says William Newson.
The heat released in the form of residual liquid must be taken into account in the first step when the next batch is produced.
The best proteins, called high grade, are those that become industrial raw materials for food. But it can also be used in food for dogs and cats and ration for horses.
But uses do not stay there. Proteins, especially wheat gluten, may be a component of bioplastics – which SLU is also researching on another project. They can also be included in superabsorbent materials and medical applications.
Depending on how the protein is extracted, it has different properties, such as the ability to foam, such as egg white, for roasting. They should be used as gel, chopped or in a firmer and fiber rich form. "Texture" is called a texture with chewing resistance like flesh.
Vinnova also co-finances a three-year project at Lund University of Technology, where, more specifically, the company is investing in the production of rapeseed masticatory protein. The goal is two years to have a prototype that the food industry continues to process.
In the first year, various methods and machines were tested to obtain the best possible exchange. The second year you just started, you try different ways to remove color and taste.
"We have to solve this, otherwise we can only feed animals," says researcher Karolina Östbring. In the third year, we will find applications, in what kind of food this should be used.
– We are hysterically interested in texture, to find a good chew. We bought a small extruder that handles a few pounds at a time. Great long ago – for thousands of pounds, they have when making cheese bowls.
In Lund, too, there is the question of the pilot scale and one is working with companies that will develop consumer products. Where large-scale extraction and the protein factory are over, discussions are under way.
The plant protein plant will be operational this summer, but several similar initiatives at different scales are underway in other research centers. In November 2018, the EU Commission proposed new agricultural support for protein crops and increased funding for research on alternative proteins.
At the state research institute Rise in Gothenburg, research is being carried out on field grain proteins, beans and lupines as industrial raw materials. Experimental farms do in collaboration with cleaning companies.
At Chalmers in Gothenburg, research is being done on the health effects of a large-scale transition to proteins derived primarily from field grains.
Text: Mats Karlsson on behalf of forskning.se