Thermal and pressure induced protein structuring in meat analogues
Current meat production is unsustainable, depleting our natural resources while fueling climate change. Consequently, more and more meat-eaters choose sustainable plant-based foods over conventional meats, creating a strong demand for meat analogues that match the taste and texture of 3 meat. Meat analogues are typically produced by high moisture extrusion where protein powders are subjected to thermal and pressure treatments eventually leading to a fiber-like microstructure mimicking the texture and appearance of meat. The proposed project aims to study in-situ the formation of protein domains and their alignment that determines the mechanical properties of meat analogues.
We propose to use high-pressure flow cells suitable for small angle scattering experiments to study the plastification and alignment of protein aggregates under process conditions. Experimental methods will include contrast variation to highlight the role of different ingredients in the structuring process. The scattering measurements will be combined with off-line characterization of meat analogues to establish a robust description of protein melt flow, structuring and product properties. Understanding protein melt properties will further impact many other fields including biomaterialbased packaging and tissue material where plastification is a key factor to control moisture permeability and mechanical strength.