Developed by three European institutes, the LikeMeat project aims to create “meat analogues with excellent, well-accepted texture, juiciness, appearance and aroma”, and to help small to medium-sized enterprises get products to market.
The project coordinator, Dr Florian Wild of the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging in Freising, Germany, which spearheaded the project, says it is “much closer to real meat than existing products because its structure is very similar to muscle meat fibres.
“This gives LikeMeat products an attractive appearance and a juicy, elastic mouth-feel. Since LikeMeat has similar properties to meat, it is easy for consumers to prepare.”
It contains variations of wheat, peas, soy and legumes, which are mixed with water, kneaded and then boiled down to create a textured product.
Wild added that while the idea and technology behind extruded plant proteins was not new, until now the demand and appetite for meat-free products had not been big enough for companies to take an interest.
Compared to the huge land and resources required to raise animals to produce a tiny amount of meat – and the staggering environmental cost of doing so – LikeMeat is created in a machine the size of two table-tennis tables, which produces up to 80kg of “meat” an hour.
The Fraunhofer Institute won an innovation prize for its work on LikeMeat and is now working on the best way to bring the product to market.
Wild says LikeMeat is likely to appear in European supermarkets next year. “The overall climate is very promising,” he adds. “Meat consumption is becoming a hot topic, and meat alternative products are being transformed from a niche market to a conventional food product.”