A newly funded University of Guelph study of “plant-based meat” aims to replicate the textures of beef, chicken or fish in plant based foods.

Supported by an inaugural international research award worth $330,000 over two years, U of G engineers and food scientists will develop prototypes for plant-based meat, a market expected to reach about US$1 billion in retail sales in the USA in 2019.

The project is led by Prof. Mario Martinez, School of Engineering, and is one of eight international plant-based meat initiatives chosen late last year for funding by the Good Food Institute (GFI), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.

“Environmental sustainability is the main reason to conduct this research,” said Martinez, explaining that it takes about six kilograms of plant protein to make one kilogram of meat protein.

Despite growing interest in plant-based alternatives, he said, many people prefer the texture, taste and appearance of traditional meat products. “We want to develop plant-based whole muscle tissue that resembles a steak.”

The U of G researchers will experiment with plant proteins and carbohydrates to simulate fibrous meat texture and “mouth feel.”

The research addresses one of the main technical challenges with producing plant-based meats, which is trying to produce the right texture. “This will help industry better understand how to create these textures.”