Vegetarian substitutes for meat products are becoming more and more popular in Czech stores. Although these products are 100% meat-free, they are not only aimed at vegetarians. Imitating steak, chicken nuggets, liver patties, or ground beef can help traditional diners reduce their consumption of animal products without fundamentally changing their diet. However, it will likely take some time to produce an alternative that can imitate meat, not only in terms of taste but also in terms of texture.
Rudolf Ševčík from the University of Chemical Technology (ICT), for example, is working on developing meatless liver toppings. The substance tastes and looks like a real dish, but does not emotionally deny its meatless origin when consumed.
“Plant extracts or scents are used from liquid smoke. The spectrum is, whatever you can think of, it means you can get the scent of heat-treated paté or liver,” he explains.
According to him, imitation of the taste of meat is not a problem for food producers to replace. “Probably the hardest thing now is getting the texture of the meat. By pasting the proteins and other ingredients, we are slowly getting close to the texture, but we’re not quite there yet.”
Consumers also help with development
ICTs, along with Impact Hub, have joined the European EIT Food Hub initiative, which aims to increase innovation potential. So Impact Hub launched the Challenge Lab project, where it will help select teams develop carbon-neutral foods for Nestlé.
Next year, for example, vegetable tuna or sauerkraut should hit Czech store counters. Nestle will produce it in North Bohemia.
Herbal alternatives are usually made from soybeans, peas, or beans. Conventional meat production accounts for about 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, and moving to a vegetarian diet is one possible way to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with food production. But soybean farming is not without its problems, too.
Most of the world’s production comes from North and South America, where farmers use soybeans genetically modified to withstand high doses of pesticides. South American farmers are also cutting down rainforests to increase farmland.
However, a significant part of the production is devoted to cattle fattening. If people preferred vegan instead of real burgers, we wouldn’t have to grow that much.
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