The Van Trump Report

New Plant-Based Meats Could Come From Soybeans Engineered to Taste Like Pork and Beef

Moolec Science has been experimenting with soybean proteins since 2008 in an effort to make plant-based meats actually taste like meat. The company’s latest creation is a soybean variety dubbed “Piggy Sooy” that gets about a quarter of its soluble proteins from pig DNA. The company plans to extract the porcine protein from the soybeans and sell it to alternative meat manufacturers.

Moolec calls itself a “molecular farming” company, which describes the production of biomolecules and commercial products using plants rather than bioreactors and fermentation. The technology is used extensively in the pharmaceutical industry but has more recently been adopted by foodtech companies looking for ways to produce proteins and enzymes for the food industry. Crop plants can synthesize a wide variety of proteins and have the benefit of producing large amounts of biomass at relatively low cost compared to fermentation techniques that require expensive equipment.

“The beauty of Moolec’s technology is that actually the only thing that we are modifying is just the seed, at the very beginning of the value chain itself, and the biology and the current infrastructure does the rest,” says Gastón Paladini, CEO and co-founder of Moolec. Paladini thinks it could allow plant-based meat to reach price parity with traditional meat faster. He adds that it is also easier to scale than “cell-cultivated” meat, where cells from a living animal are grown via fermentation in bioreactor tanks. It is also less energy-intensive to produce than cell-cultured meat, which several studies suggest might have a higher carbon footprint than real beef.

Moolec’s Piggy Sooy beans are pink inside and actually look a lot like miniature pork steaks when you cut them in half. Moolec doesn’t disclose what pig proteins it has added to its soybeans but says they were chosen to give the right “feel in the mouth” after the food is cooked. It’s not clear if anyone outside the company has tested the product by the company claims it will be able to provide a similar taste, texture, and nutritional value as meat but at much lower price points than cultured meat products.

According to the company, the new soybean reached an expression level of up to 26.6% of total soluble protein in soy seeds, which they say is four times higher than initially projected. Genetic engineers introduce animal DNA directly into the seeds, which can be planted, grown, and harvested just like regular soybeans. Moolec, a spinout of Biceres Crop Solutions, says it has filed a patent with the aim of ensuring a “frictionless regulatory pathway going forward.” The company is also working on a similar soybean for beef. Moolec aims to have its first ingredients in commercial products in four to five years. Learn more about Moolec HERE

The efficiency of Moolec’s technique recently led to the Good Food Institute declaring molecular farming the “fourth pillar” of alternative protein. According to GFI, there are currently 12 companies worldwide using molecular farming technology to grow various products, including casein and lactoferrin (Forte Protein and Greenovation Protein), animal-free dairy proteins for cheese, ice cream, and yogurt (Miruku, Mozza, and Nobell Foods), growth factors for cultivated meat (Tiamet Sciences and Bright Biotech), and more. (Sources: The Spoon, Food Navigator, Fast Company)

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