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Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop (2023)

Chapter: 4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility

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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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4

Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility

The third session of the workshop featured seven presentations on the alternative protein landscape, research and technology involved in the plant-based and cell-cultured meat industries, the role of processing in creating healthy and sustainable alternative protein products, the use of insects as a protein source, and considerations for developing alternative dairy products. Nicole Tichenor Blackstone, Tufts University, moderated the presentations and two panel discussions. Rodolphe Barrangou, North Carolina State University, moderated a final panel discussion with planning committee members.

THE ALTERNATIVE PROTEIN LANDSCAPE

Liz Specht, The Good Food Institute (GFI), charted the alternative protein landscape to explore how these protein sources represent a scalable, market-based solution for climate change, food security, and global health. She also discussed unsustainable aspects of increasing meat consumption, benefits of alternative proteins, and mechanisms needed to accelerate a transition from animal-based to plant-based proteins.

Sustainability Considerations for Animal-Based Proteins

Specht highlighted a sense of urgency regarding sustainability that is driving interest in alternative proteins. The global population is expected to reach approximately 10 billion people by 2050, she observed, motivating consideration of how to feed a population of this size in a safe, secure,

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

and environmentally sustainable way. Conventional meat production cycles calories through animals, a process Specht described as inherently thermodynamically inefficient. Given the number of calories required to raise livestock and the caloric output of meat, conventional meat production generates 87–97 percent food waste (Shepon et al., 2016), she said. She illustrated this point with two examples: raising chickens requires an input of 8 calories for every calorie in chicken meat, while beef production necessitates a caloric intake 34 times greater than its caloric output. Specht characterized this level of food waste as an unsustainable approach to feeding a growing population, as well as a catalyst for pursuing alternative production methods for environmental reasons.

Specht pointed out that conventional meat supply chains are also highly vulnerable to production volatility and biosecurity threats. She added that whereas the process of raising a cow from conception to slaughter takes years, cultivated or fermentation plant-based platforms can produce finished products from dried, shelf-stable ingredients in just hours or days. The long production times associated with conventional meat production, she maintained, also exacerbate vulnerabilities to biosecurity threats.

Specht observed that the severity of such threats to industrial animal farming systems was demonstrated when African swine fever virus eliminated almost half of China’s production of pork—the nation’s major animal meat—in less than a year. She remarked that full recovery of that food production platform will take many years and, furthermore, that the virus continues to spread in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. Specht asserted that African swine fever virus will not be the last biosecurity threat to food security. She added that the United Nations Environment Programme and International Livestock Research Institute have identified increasing human demand for animal protein and unsustainable agricultural intensification as the two biggest factors contributing to the risk of the next global pandemic (UNEP and ILRI, 2020). Animal agriculture also poses antibiotic resistance threats, she noted.

Benefits of Alternative Protein Platforms

Specht remarked that increasing consumer awareness of such risk factors has not resulted in a decrease in meat consumption. Rather, she observed, despite massive public campaigns that have attempted to shift reliance on industrial animal agriculture, demand for meat and animal protein has increased (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). She added that this upward trend in meat consumption is occurring in emerging economies, in which rising socioeconomic status enables more people to increase meat intake, and is seen in per capita increases in meat consumption in many high-income countries. Specht explained that in contrast to an approach

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

focused on raising public awareness to change behavior, a theory of change driving interest in alternative proteins is aimed at changing production methods to produce meat and meat-alternative products that do not involve animals rather than convincing consumers to change their diets. When consumers have appealing alternative protein options, she asserted, market forces can drive a shift from reliance on animal agriculture. She maintained that alternative proteins are a scalable, tractable, market-based solution poised for rapid growth.

Specht listed three platforms for alternative proteins—plant-based, fermentation, and cultivated1—that remove animals from the process, thus eliminating the risks associated with conventional meat production. Overall, she argued, alternative protein production is more environmentally beneficial than animal agriculture. To illustrate this point, she noted that compared with conventional meat production, GFI estimates that plant-based and cultivated meat products generate approximately 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, use 78–99 percent less water, and use 95–99 percent less land; fermentation production reduces the carbon footprint by 90 percent in comparison with beef production. Specht added that these figures relate to the early stages of these processes, and further innovation could lead to continued improvement.

Specht asserted that products that are hybrids of two or three of the above alternative protein platforms are the future—and, increasingly, the present—of alternative proteins. Many products currently on the market, she observed, leverage fermentation-derived sensory ingredients, such as the heme protein in an Impossible Burger, and combine these with largely plant-based ingredient decks. Prototypes not yet on the market include cultivated products (e.g., cultivated fat cells) and plant-based protein sources. Specht suggested that alternative protein platforms should not be conceptualized in a segmented or regimented way; rather, they can be viewed as a broad, shifting landscape capable of leveraging multiple production modes. The hybrid mindset can also be applied to feedstock processing, she added, by leveraging co-products (i.e., secondary goods generated during a manufacturing process) across alternative protein platforms to move toward a circular bioeconomy. She maintained that any given biomass source—whether from crop production, algae, other microbial biomass, or side streams from existing agricultural processing industries—can be explored for high-value applications across alternative protein production platforms. As an example, she noted that some larger proteins can be used for plant-based

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1 Various other terms are used to refer to cultivated meat, including “cultured meat” and “cell-based meat,” and consensus has not yet been established around the term “cultivated.” For more information, visit https://gfi.org/blog/cultivated-meat-a-growing-nomenclature-consensus/ (accessed October 31, 2022).

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

meat and dairy products, while smaller proteins and amino acids generated by hydrolysis steps can be used as inputs for the production of cultivated meat. She added that raw plant materials have fiber, starches, and other sugars that provide high-energy inputs for microbial fermentation.

Mechanisms for Accelerating a Transition toward Alternative Proteins

Specht highlighted a set of key questions driving the field of alternative proteins: (1) how quickly the transition away from animal agriculture can take place, (2) who can accelerate the transition, and (3) who can lead the shift. She noted that the global meat industry is showing receptivity to this shift, with almost all global multinational meat companies making early investments in alternative protein production platforms or launching their own plant-based product lines. She added that statements from multiple meat industry leaders recognize alternative proteins as a major growth arm for their companies, offering a way to diversify their consumer offerings and reposition themselves as protein companies rather than meat companies.

Specht continued, however, that despite this trend, the current market penetration rate of alternative proteins is only 1–2 percent of all U.S. meat sales. Thus, she argued, it is too early to predict that market forces alone will generate sufficient momentum toward sustainable protein consumption to mitigate climate, public health, and food security risks. Specht pointed out that historical trajectories of renewable energy and electric vehicles did not rely on market forces alone after achieving 1 percent penetration. She noted further that various alternative protein market projections have modeled forecasts based on different assumptions, such as government support for early-stage research and development (R&D), incentives to subsidize this emerging industry, and taxes on meat. According to Specht, these projections demonstrate that various points of intervention could potentially change the rate at which the transition toward alternative protein will occur.

Specht outlined three primary mechanisms for accelerating this transition to alternative proteins. The first is building a robust innovation ecosystem supported by investments in open-access R&D. This mechanism, Specht explained, can finance production and processing innovations to reduce costs and increase scale, as well as improve the sensory and nutritional profiles of these products to make them more desirable to consumers. A second mechanism is to ensure a clear path to regulatory approval to reduce market barriers to entry and incentivize market uptake. Specht described this mechanism as particularly valuable for newer products (e.g., cultivated meat) that do not have a history of consumption in the United States. The third mechanism is much more aggressive investment in supply chain and manufacturing infrastructure to alleviate production bottlenecks,

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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accelerate scale-up, and drive down costs. According to Specht, production bottlenecks have already done more than lack of consumer demand to hamper alternative protein rollouts. She added that supply issues are a major barrier to increased consumption of alternative proteins.

Specht cited the potential of public funding to play an important role in developing a more robust innovation ecosystem by creating foundational knowledge on which the private sector could then build. The alternative protein market has seen impressive growth and investment, she observed, yet the industry is still in an early stage, and immense opportunities remain to further improve sustainability, cost, flavor, texture, sensory profile, and nutrition across the value chain. She stressed that space for innovation exists at each step of the value chain to facilitate continuous refinements in products and the processes used to make them.

Specht pointed out that GFI has made efforts to map the landscape of technology gaps, knowledge gaps, and technology needs across all alternative protein production platforms. She remarked that needs in the field are well defined, and she suggested that open-access, publicly funded research could meet these needs to create products that taste as good as or better than conventional animal products at the same or lower cost.2 In many industries, she added, the private sector is able to build upon an existing foundation and move swiftly toward commercialization of products, whereas the public knowledge foundation is lacking for the alternative protein sector. Thus, she noted, companies in this industry often are engaged in R&D for 6–8 years before they can launch a product, a timeline she described as “unheard of in the food sector.” She added that alternative protein companies spend up to 40 times the amount of revenue on R&D compared with traditional food and meat companies.

Researchers around the world and in the United States are eager to engage in the work of improving alternative protein processes and products, suggested Specht. She sees this enthusiasm reflected in the $85 million in grant proposals GFI has received in the past 4 years, of which the Institute has been able to fund only about $17 million. Specht asserted that governments could address this funding gap and finance the open-access research needed to unlock the potential of the alternative protein space. She referenced a recent report in which the ClimateWorks Foundation and the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (2021) indicated that global annual public spending on alternative proteins should total $4.4 billion for R&D and $5.7 billion for commercialization. To date, however, government investment in alternative protein R&D totals approximately $20 million in the United States and $50 million globally.

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2 More information about detailed technology needs identified by GFI is available at https://gfi.org/solutions/ (accessed October 18, 2022).

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Specht emphasized that these figures are cumulative and account for all grants approved since the early 2000s; thus, only a small fraction of recommended annual investment is being funded.

Specht described interdisciplinary approaches as critical to the mission of transitioning to alternative proteins because creating these foods spans multiple disciplines, such as food science, tissue engineering, biochemistry, and microbiology. She pointed out that the U.S. government played a substantial role in convening disparate disciplines to undertake single enterprises, such as those focused on renewable energy and electric vehicles, and she suggested that the same approach could be applied to alternative proteins. She also highlighted an opportunity for an interagency initiative to prioritize research relevant to alternative proteins across multiple technical domains. This type of initiative, she maintained, could build the talent pipeline and technical workforce needed within this sector, an effort that currently involves bottlenecks. According to Specht, greenhouse gas emissions globally due to livestock equal those of transportation and are nearly half those of electricity, heat production, and other energy production, yet funding for investment in alternative proteins is only 12 percent of that for electric vehicles and 5 percent of that for solar, wind, and renewable energy technology. Specht emphasized that alternative proteins are the only climate mitigation solution in the food and agriculture sector as impactful as the transition to electric vehicles; therefore, commensurate investment in research and market incentives is warranted.

PLANT-BASED FOOD DESIGN, PRODUCTION, AND PROPERTIES

David Julian McClements, University of Massachusetts Amherst, discussed the design, production, and properties of plant-based foods. He explored various plant-protein ingredients and their molecular characteristics, as well as the factors to consider when formulating analogs of meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. He also discussed the need to design plant-based products with attributes that support human health. And he argued that the explosion of interest in alternative proteins and plant-based foods has created a rapidly growing industry that offers opportunities for further improvement in these products.

Plant-Protein Ingredients

McClements explained that plant-based proteins are increasingly being used in formulating replacements for synthetic and animal-based ingredients. He also highlighted the importance of understanding how plant-based proteins behave so they can be used to formulate products with desirable physicochemical, sensory, and functional attributes analogous to those of

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

their animal-based counterparts. McClements observed that each type of plant-based protein has different functional characteristics that depend on its molecular characteristics. Thus some plant proteins can be used as foaming agents in products such as plant-based cappuccino or whipped cream; whereas others can be used as emulsifiers in plant-based milks, eggs, and meats; and still others have gelling and binding characteristics that can be useful for formulating semisolid plant-based eggs, seafood, and milk.

McClements explained that plant-based proteins can be derived from a wide variety of sources, including soybeans, peas, corn, mung beans, and duckweed. He added that the methods used to extract proteins from plants depend on the plants’ anatomy, as well as the nature of the proteins present in them. Ideally, he said, sources of plant-based proteins for use in food applications should be abundant, economically viable, sustainable, and reliable over time. Additionally, the proteins should be easily extractable and have the functional and nutritional attributes desired for specific products. McClements highlighted the value of identifying different plant-protein sources that have similar functional and nutritional attributes so that one can be substituted for the other should supply chain disruption occur.

McClements reiterated that the molecular properties of plant proteins determine their functional performance as food ingredients. As examples of these molecular properties, he cited their size, shape, flexibility, stability, surface charge, surface hydrophobicity, and chemical reactivity, stating that these properties affect a protein’s solubility and its ability to act as an emulsifier, gelling agent, or binding ingredient. Thus, he explained, understanding a protein’s molecular structure and functional relationships enables its unique characteristics to be matched with the functional requirements for specific foods. McClements described as a challenge in this area the variability within sources of plant-based proteins from batch to batch, which is related to processes for isolating proteins. For instance, soybeans have a specific botanical structure featuring cotyledon cells packed with oil bodies, starch granules, and protein bodies. Thus for soybeans, McClements explained, a process must be used to break down the cell structure so the protein bodies can be released, and then break down the protein bodies to release the proteins. The protein bodies contain different types of protein aggregates, he noted, which come in different sizes and shapes, and there are many different kinds of individual proteins with different molecular structures. Therefore, he observed, “soy protein” is not, in fact, one protein; rather, it is a mixture of diverse protein molecules exhibiting a variety of functional characteristics.

According to McClements, plant protein ingredients purchased from manufacturers typically come in powder form. He pointed out that a soy or pea protein ingredient actually contains numerous components, including dietary fiber, starch granules, minerals, and the desired proteins, whose

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

effects on product functionality are not fully understood. Given that proteins can be individual molecules or form aggregates, he added, the protein aggregation state affects the functionality of the proteins, and protein conformation can change depending on the extraction procedure used. Moreover, he said, proteins can be in their native state or in a denatured state, and the same protein can behave differently in response to various conditions. Thus McClements described the production of consistent ingredients with reliable and desirable characteristics as a challenge currently facing the food industry. He noted, moreover, that because plant-based ingredients often vary from batch to batch, the ability to manufacture reliable, consistent ingredients may require biotechnology such as crop breeding and gene editing, as well as improved extraction and purification methods (Preece et al., 2017). He suggested that precision agriculture could improve the sustainability and environmental aspects of growing reliable plant-based proteins.

Formulating Plant-Based Foods

McClements described considerations involved in formulating plant-based ingredients into plant-based foods. He pointed out that animal products such as meat, seafood, eggs, and cheese each contain unique proteins that are often organized into complex structures. For example, meat contains collagen, which has a rigid rod structure; milk contains flexible casein molecules, which have flexible structures; and eggs contain globular proteins that have a compact structure. All of these proteins, McClements said, are different from those found in plants.

Meat and Seafood

McClements described meat and seafood as complex soft-solid materials composed of bundles of fibers, connective tissue, and adipose tissue (i.e., body fat), and their physiochemical characteristics and sensory properties depend on the structural organization of the various types of proteins and other molecules they contain. He explained that the complexity of these materials can be viewed from a polymer chemistry or a soft-matter physics perspective. For instance, a scallop makes a specific crackling sound when it is cooking, and its surface has a characteristic appearance based on how it absorbs and scatters light. The unique texture of a scallop depends on the number and strength of the bonds between the protein molecules. The distinct flavor profile and mouthfeel of scallops depend on the cloud of small molecules released during cooking and eating and the nonvolatile molecules interacting with receptors on the tongue. Should scallops break down too quickly in one’s mouth and become mushy, the experience of eating them

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

would change. McClements remarked that mimicking the microstructure of animal products requires detailed knowledge about the chemistry and physics of these foods and how they interact with the human body.

McClements described a variety of processing methods being used in an attempt to replicate the experience of cooking and eating animal products using plant-based ingredients. Examples include extruders—one of the most common methods—and spinning devices, as well as more recent technologies such as shear cells; three-dimensional (3D) printers are increasingly being used for food processing as well but only at small scale. McClements remarked that the complicated processes occurring in these various machines are not fully understood and warrant further research. In extrusion, for example, a complex mixture of different types of molecules is pressurized, sheared, and heated, which alters their structures, locations, and interactions, thereby leading to the formation of meat-like textures.

McClements then turned to soft-matter physics approaches as alternative methods of constructing plant-based foods. He explained that these approaches use thermodynamic or physical chemistry principles instead of processing in an attempt to create the structures present in meat and seafood. McClements described how his own laboratory has been using various soft-matter physics approaches to try to mimic the lean and adipose tissue in animal meat. He gave examples of technology that is used to create plant-based emulsion technology and the use of thermodynamic incompatibility of food bipolymers to create plant-based adipose tissues. He also gave the detailed example of a process in which pea protein and pectin are used to create muscle-like structures. In this process, pea protein, a globular protein, is heated under controlled conditions, which leads to the formation of fibers that simulate the nanofiber structure in meat. These nanofibers are then combined with pectin derived from apples or citrus fruit. Thus mixing of the pea protein nanofibers and pectin causes thermodynamic incompatibility, which in turn leads to phase separation. Shearing causes the phase-separated regions to form fiber structures, which can then be gelled to trap the muscle-like fibers. McClements stated that his laboratory has used this soft-matter physics process to create plant-based scallops.

Eggs

McClements described eggs as complex colloidal dispersions that can be understood using physics and chemistry approaches. He observed that developers of a plant-based version of an egg seek to simulate the way it looks, feels, tastes, and behaves once in the mouth, as well as mimic the egg’s nutritional profile, macronutrients, and micronutrients. Given that eggs are extremely versatile and used in a range of preparations—such

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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as mayonnaise, salad dressing, meringues, cakes, and desserts—another research aim is to capture this versatility in a plant-based analog.

McClements explained that the proteins in eggs feature thermal gelation functionality. Ovalbumin is a key globular protein in eggs. In ovalbumin’s denatured state, its proteins are folded into tiny balls. Heating these proteins (e.g., preparing scrambled eggs) causes them to unfold, exposing hydrophobic groups and disulfide groups. The proteins then crosslink with each other and form into aggregates measuring a few hundred nanometers in size. When this occurs, the aggregates scatter light and present an opaque appearance. At this point, McClements said, the physical properties of the proteins have the desirable texture and appearance of scrambled eggs.

McClements and colleagues are conducting experiments to determine how plant-based proteins can mimic the characteristics and behaviors of eggs produced by animals. One of these experiments involved comparing duckweed and egg protein (Zhou et al., 2022). First, McClements explained, the researchers heated egg white, measured its gel strength, identified the temperature at which it would gel (i.e., 65–70 degrees Celsius), cooled the egg white, and studied the appearance and texture of the irreversible gel that had formed. This process was then repeated with rubisco protein, a sustainable plant-based protein sourced from duckweed. The researchers found that rubisco protein gels at around the same temperature as egg white and achieves a similar final gel strength. Thus, said McClements, the characteristics of animal eggs can be mimicked using plant-based proteins.

Milk and Dairy

Milk and dairy products are also complex colloidal dispersions, McClements explained; for example, a glass of milk contains various polymers, colloidal particles, whey proteins, sugars, salts, casein micelles (i.e., naturally occurring nanoparticles), and milkfat globules. He reported that his laboratory has used a biomimetic approach to simulate the characteristics of animal milk—including taste, appearance, texture, and versatility—in a plant-based alternative that features a similar nutritional profile. Noting the wide variety of uses for milk, he suggested that a plant-based alternative should be able to form yogurts, creams, ice creams, and cheese.

McClements described two approaches for creating plant-based milk. The first is a top-down approach that starts with protein-rich bulk materials such as soybeans, peas, almonds, or coconuts. These materials are then ground into very small particles before undergoing separation processes such as filtration and centrifugation. Eventually, McClements said, this process creates a colloidal dispersion containing oil bodies, starch granules, protein aggregates, and plant cell fragments that somewhat mimics milk. A bottom-up approach can also be used, he added, in which components such

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

as soy oil, soybean protein, and water are homogenized using a mechanical device, leading to the formation of an oil-in-water emulsion that can be designed to have characteristics similar to those of cow’s milk.

McClements acknowledged that milks made from plant-based ingredients often do not function as well as cow’s milk. For example, when some plant-based milks are added to coffee, they do not blend smoothly upon stirring; instead, the reduction in pH causes the proteins to aggregate through isoelectric flocculation, creating a mottled appearance. McClements noted that this tendency contributes to consumer dissatisfaction with these products. Physical chemistry and structural design principles can be used to overcome this problem, he asserted. Conventional emulsion droplets with proteins on their surface are highly susceptible to changes in pH and temperature, he observed, but coating the emulsion droplets with plant-based dietary fibers can protect them from aggregating in response to pH and temperature changes, thus improving their stability.

McClements cited accurately simulating the look, taste, and feel of animal-based products while creating a sustainable and economic product as a major challenge in formulating plant-based foods. He underscored the need for additional research on new processing technologies for plant-based foods. He suggested that developing advanced analytical instrumentation (e.g., nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectrometry) and imaging technologies (e.g., chemical microscopy) would also contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between the structure and composition of complex materials, their physiochemical and sensory properties, and the way they behave in the body, adding that computer simulations can play an important role in this work.

Designing Plant-Based Foods for Health

McClements highlighted the importance of considering the health implications when designing plant-based foods; otherwise, creating products that look, taste, and feel like animal products and that can be sold at similar or lower prices could result in adverse health effects. To illustrate, he compared dairy cheese, which contains 20–25 percent protein, with a plant-based cheese product that has virtually no protein and a high saturated fat content. Similarly, a plant-based salmon product has very low protein content compared with real salmon, which has about 20 percent protein. Thus, said McClements, switching from traditional cheese or salmon to these products could have negative nutritional consequences. He maintained, however, that health and wellness can be designed into plant-based products. He suggested that to avoid nutrient deficiencies among those switching from traditional animal-based foods to alternatives, plant-based products should have macronutrient and micronutrient composition, fat,

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

carbohydrate composition, and dietary fiber that are at least similar to those of the animal-based products they are designed to replace. Moreover, he observed, plant-based foods can be fortified with nutraceuticals and dietary fibers, components that support good health.

McClements advised that as alternative foods are formulated, testing should extend beyond sensory attributes to include assessment of macronutrient digestibility, nutrient bioavailability, and microbiome effects. He and his colleagues have conducted research on the gastrointestinal fate of plant-based beef compared with real beef (Zhou et al., 2021). They passed the plant-based and real beef products through a simulated gastrointestinal tract and measured the digestibility of the proteins. Although some differences were found, the products behaved fairly similarly, McClements reported. Likewise, in research on the fortification of plant-based products, he and his colleagues measured the bioaccessibility of oil-soluble vitamins added to a plant-based milk product (Tan et al., 2021). They found that a smaller droplet size of oil-soluble vitamins increased their bioavailability. Lipids are digested more quickly in smaller droplets, McClements explained, allowing them to form mixed micelles that can solubilize and transport them more readily. Moreover, a greater degree of lipid digestion leads to a greater release of the vitamins from the oil phase. McClements referenced another study in which plant-based milks were fortified with vitamin D and an additional micronutrient, such as calcium (Tan et al., 2020). The authors found that increasing calcium levels decreased the bioaccessibility of vitamin D in a fortified plant-based milk. McClements explained that calcium precipitates mixed micelles, which normally carry vitamin D to the gastrointestinal tract. He emphasized the importance of testing the effects of plant-based products on nutrition during the design phase to ensure that micronutrients are bioavailable.

McClements concluded by asserting that creating plant-based foods with nutritional profiles that match or exceed those of animal-based products is critical for the success of the plant-based food industry. He stated that achieving this goal involves formulating products for health and nutrition, then conducting in vitro digestion models and designing in vivo human feeding studies. He described an old paradigm in food science and engineering in which design is focused on the taste, cost, and convenience of food, leading to the proliferation of familiar foods in the market (e.g., hamburgers, French fries, pizza, potato chips). These factors drive consumer preferences and therefore must be considered, he acknowledged, but he argued that a new paradigm is also needed, one that focuses the design of food products on ethics, resilience, sustainability, and health. According to McClements, the food industry is currently in a period of transition, with the market for plant-based foods expanding as the result of ethical, environmental, and health considerations. He predicted that this market

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

will likely continue to increase, but its expansion will depend on better design of the sensory, nutritional, and functional attributes of plant-based products. Crucially, he emphasized, the structure–function relationships of plant-based proteins and the complex processes they undergo during manufacturing need to be better understood so that more consistent, functional ingredients can be created.

CELL-BASED AND CULTURED MEATS

David Kaplan, Tufts University, presented on the use of cellular agriculture and tissue engineering to generate the next generation of foods, whereby cells harvested from animals are used to create structured tissues as substitutes for animal meats and proteins. After the initial harvesting of original cells via biopsy, he explained, biomaterial substrates and bioreactors create these structured tissues without using parts of the animal. He provided an overview of the current status of tissue engineering technology, highlighting challenges and opportunities in this field.

Cell-Based Agriculture Process

Kaplan opened by describing the cell-based agriculture process that is used to generate tissue from animal cells. The process begins with a biopsy from an animal to collect cells. Often, muscle or fat stem cells are collected, although other cells may also be involved. The cells are purified and characterized before entering the scaling stage, in which numerous cells are developed from a few initial cells. Various surfaces—such as patterned surfaces, porous sponges, and fibrous scaffolds—are used as biomaterial substrate on which the cells can adhere and propagate further, differentiating into muscle, fat, and other tissue types. These tissues are then used to create food products. Kaplan added that cell-based agriculture, with its foundation in biomedical and chemical engineering disciplines, is different from plant-based and fermentation-based technologies. However, he noted, intersections with and hybrids of alternative protein methods are used; for example, fermentation-based products can be used in cell-based processes.

Technical Challenges in Cellular Agriculture

Kaplan outlined various technical challenges involved in the cellular agriculture process. He listed a number of complex factors to consider in cell sourcing: (1) selecting the animal source; (2) immortalizing the cells; (3) ensuring that the cells become productive and production-useful; and (4) determining the extent to which bioengineering approaches should be used, if at all. He explained that this last factor pertains to the use

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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(or not) of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a consideration that is important for some consumers. He also identified challenges related to cellular agriculture media, including identifying low-cost media options, reducing or eliminating the need for serum, and contending with expensive components such as growth factors. Turning to considerations related to biomaterials, Kaplan cited locating low-cost, abundant sources in nature; ensuring that sources are cell-compatible; and preparing food production substrates that are safe and thermally stable. Challenges exist in scaling production as well, he observed, including the need to develop food-relevant production scales that can make unstructured foods (e.g., hamburger) and highly structured foods (e.g., steak). He also highlighted nutrition considerations, which pertain to ensuring that the nutritional composition of cell-based foods is comparable to that of their animal-based analogs. Finally, Kaplan stated that the environmental effects of cellular agriculture should be addressed to create products that are sustainable and feature lower water and land use compared with animal agriculture approaches.

Cellular Agriculture Approaches

Kaplan reiterated that the process of primary cell isolation begins with collecting a biopsy of muscle or fat from an animal, isolating the cells, and then generating muscle and fat tissue from the stem cells. He explained that a successful process results in muscle fibers in a petri dish that resemble those of a cow, and this becomes the starting point for generating larger quantities of structured muscle tissue. Cell immortalization eliminates the need to repeatedly conduct biopsy cell collection, he said, thereby decreasing variability. Kaplan stated that he and his colleagues have successfully immortalized bovine muscle stem cells, but he noted that genetic engineering techniques were used and that the acceptability of genetically engineered cell sources to consumers has yet to be determined. Should genetically engineered cells not be deemed acceptable to consumers, he noted, researchers will have to generate spontaneously immortalized bovine stem cells to grow muscle and fat tissue.

Kaplan described soon-to-be-published research in which he and his colleagues generated a fish cell line, a process that involved collecting the fish, isolating cells from a muscle biopsy, and characterizing the isolated cells. He noted that markers and molecular biology tools are limited for nontraditional species, necessitating diligence in ensuring that the correct cells are collected from the correct animals. The researchers performed validation using genomics and other methods, and over time, cultivation enabled the generation of spontaneously immortalized fish cells. Moving forward, Kaplan said, these cells can be used in downstream food production. He added that this immortalization method creates non–genetically

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

engineered foods, which consumers may find more acceptable than genetically engineered varieties. He observed, however, that long-term consumer preferences are yet to be determined, making it difficult to predict which methods will prove most useful.

Kaplan stressed that generating the desired texture is a central challenge in engineering muscle tissue. For instance, steak has high consumer demand and features a highly dense cell form, but mimicking the complex muscle tissue in animals by growing cells—first at a limited level and then in a highly dense form—in a laboratory or production facility remains a challenge. Kaplan explained that the density of tightly packed proteins, structural hierarchy, and mechanics of meat give it the texture and taste that consumers find desirable, and noted that growing cells at low density or in loose matrices is more easily accomplished than growing cells at a high density. He likened a nontraditional approach for emulating the mechanical properties of traditional meat to “fermentation without the fermenter.” This approach exploits textile engineering to generate fibers of edible polymer scaffolds laden with cells. These cell-laden fibers then become building blocks used to create tissue yarns, which in turn are woven into 3D tissues. In principle, this approach will achieve higher densities than traditional suspension cell culture or adherence cell culture, said Kaplan. Furthermore, he suggested, this approach could potentially overcome limitations in mass transfer and oxygen and nutrient limitations encountered in traditional 3D cell culture. He suggested further that a current focus on optimizing cell growth on fibers could lead to the development of a component that could be used downstream in building a variety of tissue types. According to Kaplan, many researchers in cellular agriculture are looking to methods used by the pharmaceutical industry to generate medications through traditional stir tank bioreactors. However, he cautioned, it is not yet clear whether this method can be scaled in a cost-effective manner, and a textile-based engineering approach or a hollow fiber–based system approach may be more cost-effective at mega scale.

Generating cultured meat involves both muscle tissue and fat tissue, Kaplan continued. Fat cells generated in the laboratory have a translucent appearance and can be combined into globules of tissue (Yuen et al., 2022), and the cells can be bound in various ways to create 3D structures. Kaplan noted that fat has a different texture and density compared with muscle, and in many respects is easier to produce and scale. He characterized the ability to grow cells in different ways for a variety of purposes as an advantage of cellular agriculture. The cell culture approach, he said, enables researchers to vary the inputs—such as nutrients, fatty acids, and supplements—in order to change the composition of the cells directly. For instance, noted Kaplan, nutritional features can be controlled. Cells can be fed healthier fatty acids such as omega-3s, and fat tissue can then be

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

generated for different regimes, including plant-based products and direct tissue-engineered products that combine fat with muscle. Kaplan maintained that optimizing fatty acid ratios and content within the fat cells can maximize health benefits for consumers. He described changing the inputs to cells in tissue engineering as a non–genetically engineered approach to generating foods that feature desired composition and nutrition.

Cell Growth Media

Growing cells is extremely expensive because of the costs of serum and growth factors, Kaplan observed. Therefore, he said, current challenges in cellular agriculture include ameliorating these costs and maximizing the use of ingredients to temper the overuse of growth factors. He suggested that tools such as modeling and artificial intelligence can be used to better predict what cells require at various phases of the process. Using his own laboratory as an example, he noted that until 2020, his team used traditional serum-based Dulbecco’s Modified Eagle Medium, which contained 20 percent serum, to grow muscle cells. The cost of this medium—the standard in the field—was $185 per liter. Over the course of 2 years, however, various methods have been used to drive this cost down to $22 per liter (Stout et al., 2022). One method involved replacing serum with albumin, Kaplan explained, which resulted in good propagation of cells over long periods of time at lower cost. Next, agriculture-based components were substituted directly into the medium to replace recombinant albumin, further reducing costs. Kaplan asserted that as the field moves forward, the potential to further mitigate costs is strong.

Insect Cell Sources

Insects can be used as a direct source of protein, said Kaplan, but they can also be used as source material for performing tissue engineering, isolating muscle and fat cells, and growing cells. In addition to the diversity and nutrition benefits of insects, he elaborated, cells from insects require neither serum nor specialized growth factors; they can grow in suspension; and they need little—if any—process control. These aspects of insect cells diminish costs precipitously and immediately, he observed.

Kaplan co-authored a 2014 study that isolated cells from the tobacco horn worm caterpillar (Baryshyan et al., 2014). The study found that isolated muscle cells were active in culture and contracted on a regular basis without stimulation. Kaplan added that isolating the muscle cells and fat cells is feasible. He then described additional studies in which the researchers compared traditional C2C12 mammalian cells with isolated insect cells by conducting cultures at intervals within 1 month in vitro

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

(Letcher et al., 2022; Rubio et al., 2020). All of the cultured mammalian cells died, whereas all of the insect cells survived. According to Kaplan, this finding highlights the limited control of growth conditions required for insect cells to propagate for use in foods, again reducing costs for cell and tissue production. Kaplan stressed that many opportunities are available to use data from insect cells for future foods.

Kaplan noted that he and his colleagues are participating in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Deep Space Food Challenge, focused on creating a solution for feeding a crew of four astronauts for a space mission lasting 3 years or longer. Their proposal is to use freeze-dried insect cells within an appropriate ingredient set, with a bioreactor onboard to generate and cook food in situ. Kaplan emphasized that insect cells’ limited need for process control is an advantage in controlled, isolated environments such as space.

Kaplan concluded his presentation by highlighting other future opportunities and potential innovations in cellular agriculture. For example, he said, cells could be isolated from nontraditional species to grow genetically engineered and non–genetically engineered foods. Companies also could create therapeutic and personalized foods tailored to improving health benefits. For example, Kaplan and colleagues used synthetic biology methods to import synthesis of carotenoid antioxidant into muscle cells from cows (Stout et al., 2020). This process resulted in cow cells that produced improved antioxidant content, a feature that supports health and improves stability features.

DISCUSSION

The discussion following the presentations summarized above focused on training programs, the unintended consequences of transitioning to plant-based proteins, balancing mimicry with development of new foods, cell engineering and genetic modification, the availability and accessibility of bioengineered food, and assessing alternative protein nutritional content.

Training Programs

Blackstone remarked that the development of land-grant university systems in the 19th century was a significant innovation in education and agriculture. In many cases, he observed, universities and entire departments have been organized around conventional agriculture. Given that speakers highlighted the need to train professionals to bring about a new era in dietary patterns, Blackstone asked about opportunities to conduct such training.

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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McClements replied that moving to alternative proteins is a big transition for the food industry, and training in the area of plant-based foods is not common. He teaches a food chemistry class at the University of Massachusetts, and he has integrated plant-based foods throughout the curriculum, including projects focused on such foods. At the graduate level, he and his colleagues are working to include a course in plant-based foods. Kaplan stated that Tufts University has established specific courses in cellular agriculture over the past 3 years. He added that these lecture- and laboratory-based courses are consistently oversubscribed, with high demand at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. A graduate certificate program in this area has been established, as well as an undergraduate minor. A goal for these growing training programs, he said, is to disseminate methods via various avenues to better educate the broader community about the field of cellular agriculture. He noted that private-sector demand for students trained in this area at all levels has been substantial. Specht stated that many courses and certificates in this domain have been developed through bottom-up demand from students. The Alt Protein Project, for example, a student chapter program led by GFI, has recently expanded to 36 universities worldwide. Students involved in the program have been heavily active in awareness-raising efforts on their campuses, such as presentations for university administrators, student surveys, and activities to inform students about the career opportunities in these emerging fields.

Unintended Consequences of Transitioning to Plant-Based Proteins

In response to a question about potential unintended negative consequences of creating greater dependence on plant-based meats, McClements commented that plant-based diets can be healthy or unhealthy. Thus, he said, adverse nutritional consequences could occur in response to a diet that relied on an alternative protein source that was highly processed, high in saturated fat and starch, low in protein, and lacking in certain micronutrients. Therefore, he stressed, it is important to consider nutritional needs in the design of alternative protein products. Kaplan pointed to ethics and considerations regarding what consumers will and will not accept with respect to cell-cultured products. He emphasized that the field is nascent, so that potential negative outcomes from experiments and initial products are not known. Should negative outcomes occur, he suggested, they will offer learning opportunities that researchers will need to respond to by making appropriate adjustments. He added that the cell culture arena can look to the growing plant-based industry for context on factors to consider in moving forward.

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

Balancing Mimicry with Development of New Foods

A participant asked about the focus on copying animal-based products in developing alternative proteins and about how to strike a balance between mimicking existing foods and creating new food forms. Specht remarked that mimicry provides a starting point for alternative proteins to gain a foothold with consumers. Given the tendency of consumers to migrate to products with which they are familiar, she observed, mimicry demonstrates to shoppers that alternative protein products can achieve parity in terms of sensory experience, nutrition, and cost. However, she maintained, product development need not stop there. She gave the example of the transformation of the dairy case, where until fairly recently, options were limited to 1 percent, 2 percent, skim, and whole milk. Currently, by contrast, the dairy case is filled with dozens of options, such as those featuring hemp, oat, almond, cashew, soy, and blends of these sources, with both sweetened and unsweetened options. According to Specht, consumers are developing genuine preferences among products and sometimes find that they prefer various types of milk for different uses. She predicted that a similar trajectory will occur with meat analogs. First, consumers will try products mimicking animal-based foods because these products feel comfortable and familiar and thus easiest to integrate into their diet. With time, however, increased space for culinary innovation will likely develop.

Kaplan suggested that mimicry is the more common starting point for companies, but other approaches are also being used. He noted that some startup companies are not attempting to mimic animal-based products; instead, they are developing flavors and textures not currently available. McClements commented that although tempeh and tofu products are already available as alternatives to meat, future culinary innovation will likely extend beyond products that resemble meat to encompass a variety of colors and textures. He emphasized that an adequate nutritional profile is an important consideration for alternative products.

Cell Engineering and Genetic Modification

Blackstone asked about genetically engineered or synthetic biological products that could be developed in the future, and whether consumers who have embraced cultured meat are likely to accept GMO cultured meat. Kaplan responded that predicting consumer behavior is difficult, but consumer surveys are valuable in assessing consumer perspectives. He predicted a distribution of interests and willingness to try new products that will evolve over time. He also remarked that researchers are currently exploring cell engineering for a variety of therapeutic purposes, including the potential for oral vaccines to be engineered into cells as part of food

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

and for antioxidants to be engineered into food cells to extend shelf life and reduce cost. A variety of ingredients could be added to food via traditional cell culture, he noted.

Specht commented that companies will likely pursue both genetically engineered and non–genetically engineered product lines. Currently, she noted, some cultivated meat companies are producing non–genetically modified cultures that they are calling “heritage lines.” Although these companies recognize that the R&D process for these cultures may take longer to achieve efficiency and other attributes compared with genetic tools, she continued, pursuing genetically engineered and non–genetically engineered product lines in parallel provides choice for a spectrum of consumer preferences.

Availability and Accessibility of Bioengineered Food

Blackstone asked about the anticipated timeline for mass production of cell-based food products and whether the availability of bioengineered food could foster a social hierarchy of those who can afford to eat animal meat and those who cannot. Specht stated that the only current market for cultivated meat products is in Singapore, where the production level is at pilot scale (i.e., reactors or cultivators in the range of hundreds of liters), but that larger facilities are being built to increase scale. She noted that the industry for foods grown from microbial cells using fermentation is much more developed. Some such products, such as Quorn, have been on the market for decades and are produced in facilities with fermentation vessels in the hundreds of thousands of liters. In terms of social inequity that could result from the availability of bioengineered food, Specht stated that researchers are examining the need for regulatory safeguards to help ensure that products are accessible to people at various socioeconomic levels. Production methods for alternative proteins are expected to decrease the cost of these foods as economies of scale are achieved. Specht added that some alternative proteins, such as plant-based products and foods developed via microbial cultivation, do not involve bioengineering. Thus, she suggested making deliberate efforts—including market incentives and supports—to ensure that these technologies are accessible at a global level to all populations. Blackstone remarked that independent research to predict ramifications of market trends could inform creative methods for organizing and democratizing food technologies. She also encouraged consideration of the upstream consequences for farmers and agricultural workers before dietary shifts occur.

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

Assessing Alternative Protein Nutritional Content

A participant asked about the nutrition criteria that product developers should use in ensuring that alternative products maintain the nutrient quality of the food groups included in U.S. dietary guidelines. McClements emphasized the importance of ensuring that specific macronutrients and micronutrients are present in adequate quantities and bioavailability. He noted that a starch that is digested too quickly can cause a glucose spike in the bloodstream that can have adverse health effects. He stressed that the micronutrient and macronutrient profiles, pharmacokinetics, digestibility, and bioavailability of animal-sourced foods need to be matched in alternative foods. Specht remarked that the United States has a long history of iterative food innovation that has involved refinement of analytical processes and data collection. Thus, she said, regulators will be able to use current assessment paradigms developed for prior food innovations in analyzing alternative proteins. Kaplan agreed that the evaluations and assessments for evolving foods will be similar to those previously used and added that safety considerations and related issues are critical components of assessing adherence to dietary guidelines.

FORMULATION AND PROCESSING CONSIDERATIONS IN DEVELOPING ALTERNATIVE PROTEIN PRODUCTS

Mario Ferruzzi, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, discussed formulation and processing considerations in the development of products with alternative and emerging protein ingredients. He considered the future of the alternative protein space and described how ingredients and processing methods are used to mimic animal-sourced protein in this arena.

Evolution of the Alternative Protein Product Landscape

Ferruzzi began by remarking that food scientists have long used proteins from multiple sources—including plant-based proteins—as food structure components that serve multiple functions in a wide array of finished food products. For example, proteins can aid in water binding, viscosity building, gelation, emulsification, foaming, nutrient binding, flavor binding, and controlling for color and texture. Ferruzzi noted that despite the emerging focus on manipulating alternative and emerging proteins with a focus on mimetics, proteins have long been a driving component in food product innovation. Although dairy alternatives were the primary focus of the alternative protein landscape for many years, he observed, this space is now evolving to encompass a broader range of animal-protein analogs.

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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He predicted that novel forms of food being generated will likely feature heavily in the future alternative protein space.

Alternative Protein Processing Methods

A wide range of ingredients is available for mimicking animal products, Ferruzzi stated, including wheat; corn; barley; oats; rice; soybeans; peas; lupins; chickpeas; and oilseeds such as canola, peanut, sunflower, and hemp. However, he said, developing analogs of animal-based foods entails numerous formulation and processing challenges. He noted that new forms of these challenges are emerging as the alternative protein product landscape continues to evolve toward products sold in a “raw” state for cooking but generated by ingredients that are already heavily processed. These challenges include creating the appropriate color for raw and ultimately cooked products; simulating texture; matching and masking flavors; and ensuring nutrition content, stability, and safety.

Ferruzzi observed that alternative proteins provide a completely different texture environment and food space within which to work. He explained that protein functionality is derived largely from the ability to denature protein and use it to form structures through processing or cooking. Proteins can be alkaline-extracted and isolated via multiple techniques, he explained, such as dried through a heating process (Loveday, 2020), texturing, extrusion to mimic muscle-like properties of meat, and fiber spinning (Sha and Xiong, 2020). He added that formulation and product strategies are used to manage gaps between alternative protein and animal-based products in terms of color, texture, flavor, nutrition, safety, and stability. Ferruzzi noted that achieving desired color is one of the biggest challenges in the alternative protein space given that meat, for example, changes color when going from a raw to a cooked state.

Ground Beef

To illustrate some of the challenges inherent in developing analogs of animal-based foods, Ferruzzi described how ground beef alternatives—a primary target in terms of market volume—must match by formulation the visual appearance and flavor of their animal-based analog (in both raw and cooked forms). Accomplishing this, he explained, requires manipulating ingredients besides protein to mimic the natural chemistries of home cooking. Multiple ingredients are needed, he said, to achieve the visual appearance of both raw and cooked beef, the marbling of fat, the texture of ground beef, and the taste and aroma of beef once it is cooked. Ferruzzi pointed out that Beyond Burger plant-based patties contain 18 ingredients—only three of which are proteins—that contribute to functionality, including color.

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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They include pomegranate fruit powder and beet juice extract to achieve a raw pink/red color and apple extract that turns brown as the product is cooked. Ferruzzi emphasized that the product must lose color to transition from pink to brown, which involves mimicking natural chemistries that take place during the cooking process. In addition, the ability to maintain, bind, and retain moisture is a significant challenge for processed proteins compared with traditional products. The Beyond Burger patties contain five ingredients related to moisture control.

Ferruzzi remarked that the diversity of ingredients contained in alternative ground beef products demonstrates the experimentation and product development entailed in mimicking animal-based products. Furthermore, he said, the complexity of the ingredient deck introduces challenges in matching the nutritional profiles of traditional products. For example, sodium is high in some alternative protein products, in part because of the need to bind to water. Ferruzzi noted that Beyond Burger patties are low in cholesterol, contain some dietary fiber, and have a high iron level. However, although the plant-based product contains 25 percent of the daily recommended value of iron compared with 15 percent in beef, the iron comes in a different form and has different bioavailability. Ferruzzi underscored the challenges involved in attempting to match all components of macronutrient and micronutrient availability and the nutritional profile of animal-sourced meat in alternative protein products.

Chicken

Ferruzzi used chicken as another example of the challenges of matching functionality, including color, in analog development. Chicken is pink in raw form and whitens as it cooks, he said, but achieving that whitening level with a deck of ingredients that contains the desired nutritional profile is difficult. He identified calcium carbonate as one ingredient that can function as a whitening agent, adding that its use in Lightlife alternative protein chicken breasts raises the product’s calcium level to 180 percent of the daily recommended value. This product also has 25 percent of the daily value of iron, he noted, compared with just 4 percent in traditional chicken breasts. He explained that although increased iron can be of nutritional benefit, it can also negatively affect the stability of products in terms of lipid oxidation.

Components Accompanying Plant Protein Ingredients

Ferruzzi stressed that components that accompany plant protein ingredients should be considered in determining the nutritional content of alternative protein products. Although proteins may be highly refined

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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and purified, he said, they can contain additional substances, particularly when isolates are not used (Loveday, 2020). Some components are desirable and may carry some of the benefits of the plants from which they are derived, including micronutrients, unique peptides, plant bioactives, phenolics, carotenoids, tocochromanols, and alkaloids. The inclusion of these desirable components in alternative protein products can serve as a means of diversifying access to healthy plant foods, but he cautioned that not all components of plant ingredients are desirable. For instance, phytates and phenolics can be beneficial, but they can also negatively affect the bioavailability of certain nutrients. He pointed out as well that heavy metals, pesticide residues, and bacterial toxins can accompany plant protein ingredients into food products.

Other Processing Considerations

Ferruzzi concluded by raising several open questions regarding the formulation of alternative or emerging protein ingredients: (1) whether alternative protein products should match or exceed the nutritional values of the products they mimic, (2) whether formulations have potential unintended consequences that impact nutrition or safety, and (3) how to manage the risks and optimize the benefits of the presence of other components from plants. He highlighted the opportunity not just to match the nutritional values of alternative protein products to those of animal-sourced analogs but to exceed those values to create substitutes that are healthier than the original products. He also emphasized the opportunity to explore other strategies for leveraging the benefits of plant-based proteins.

FOOD PROCESSING AND PROTEIN QUALITY CONSIDERATIONS

James House, University of Manitoba, reviewed methods for assessing protein quality for protein content claims and considered the implications of these methods for the plant protein industry. He reported that in 2020, Canada’s dietary guidelines3 shifted away from recommended daily servings of traditional food groups—two of which were dairy products and meat and alternatives—with the introduction of a class of foods called “protein foods” and an explicit recommendation to “choose protein foods that come from plants more often.” He noted that these new guidelines place the onus on consumers to look for protein foods, particularly those derived from plants. He observed as well that although the guidelines emphasize a shift toward whole-food plant-based sources of protein, consumption

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3 More information about Canada’s Food Guide is available at https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/ (accessed October 31, 2022).

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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patterns indicate interest in and preference for processed plant-based protein sources. These processed products offer an opportunity to introduce plant-based proteins to a new market, observed House, but they may not align with the intent of Canadian dietary guidelines.

Methods of Assessing Protein Content

Labeling can help consumers locate plant-based proteins more easily, House remarked. He noted that protein content is listed in the nutrition facts table included on the back of packaging, but protein content claims can also be featured on label fronts. Content claims allow for statements such as “rich in protein” or “excellent source of protein.” In North America in particular, House elaborated, these content claims must be substantiated, a process that can be especially difficult for whole-food plant-based protein sources. For example, various brands of canned chickpeas carry statements about fiber and sodium content, but they do not mention protein. House added that Canada has made efforts to increase awareness of dietary guidelines by using a photo of a plate of food with chickpeas included in the “protein foods” portion of the plate. He pointed out, however, that the methodology used in substantiating protein content claims does not rank chickpeas as a good source of protein.

House then turned to describing various methods currently used to substantiate protein content claims. In the United States, he reported, the predominant method is the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), whereby scores of 5–9.9 grams of corrected protein qualify as good sources of protein, while scores above 10 grams signify excellent sources.

Canada’s methodology also considers protein quality and quantity, House continued, but it uses a Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) score. According to the PER criteria, protein ratings of 20–39.9 indicate good sources of protein, while those above 40 signify excellent sources.

House explained that the methodologies used in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand focus only on protein content, not quality, in basing protein ratings on the percentage of protein content relative to energy content or on the total amount of protein present. He noted that in 2013, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization proposed a revised methodology—the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS). Conceptually similar to the PDCAAS, the DIAAS indicates amino acid content and the relative digestibility of those amino acids at the level of the small intestine. However, House observed, the methods differ in that the DIAAS criteria specify that protein must exceed 5 grams per serving and must meet a minimum DIAAS value of 75 before a protein source claim can be made. He stated that meeting these

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
×

criteria poses challenges for plant-based protein sources, particularly those that are whole foods.

Fundamentals of Protein Quality

House explained that protein quality is assessed based on two overarching components: (1) how well the amino acid composition matches amino acid requirements, and (2) the extent to which amino acids are digested, absorbed, and ultimately made available for metabolic demands. Scoring of amino acid composition, he elaborated, compares the composition of a food protein with a reference pattern. Since 2020, he continued, Canada has allowed use of the PDCAAS to calculate a protein efficiency rating. Thus in both the United States and Canada, the content of the food is compared with the reference pattern; a limiting amino acid (i.e., the amino acid with the lowest score) is identified; and the score of the limiting amino acid is set as the overall amino acid score. House gave the example of cereals, which tend to be limiting in lysine, whereas pulses are typically limiting in tryptophan or in sulfur amino acids. In terms of the digestibility or availability of amino acids, he observed that by this measure, plant-based proteins—particularly those from whole-food sources—tend to score lower. This tendency is related to the encapsulation aspect of cell walls and the presence of protease inhibitors, such as trypsin inhibitors. House added that when proteins are isolated, some of the matrix effects that suppress digestibility are removed; therefore, digestibility coefficients typically increase in relation to the degree to which a protein source is isolated.

Comparison of Protein Assessment Methods

House stated that the alternative protein industry is contending with challenges associated with technical considerations regarding the various protein assessment methods. Ensuring that protein content claims can be substantiated on the basis of established methods poses various analytical challenges, he said. He pointed out, for example, that variability affects measurements of amino acid content and digestibility. The PDCAAS, PER, and DIAAS require use of a bioassay, which relies on animal models; the PDCAAS requires determination of true fecal protein digestibility in a rodent model, whereas the PER is a growth assay in rodents. According to House, this requirement is a challenge for companies that want to move away from the use of animals for regulatory purposes or experimentation. In response, in vitro methods of substantiating protein content claims have been generating interest in the alternative protein sector, although House cautioned that such factors as the number of reference patterns, serving size, threshold values, and conversion factors can also pose technical challenges.

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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House indicated that both cost and opposition to use of animal models are driving interest in replacing animal studies with in vitro assessment. He added that the overarching variability of amino acid content and digestibility testing can ultimately influence whether a food achieves the score needed to substantiate a protein content claim. Genetics, environment, and processing contribute to variability, he observed. For example, breeding GMOs can enhance the amino acid composition of the food matrix; the nutrition and growing climate of the plants from which the proteins are derived can also generate variability; and novel processes and modifications can influence consistency.

House continued by citing research that substantiates the use of in vitro methods for PDCAAS determinations (Franczyk, 2018). He and his colleagues used established in vitro methods—including the pH-drop method and a slightly more advanced two-step method—to compare protein quality scores derived by in vivo and in vitro methods, finding a good correlation between the methodologies. They also investigated the effect of thermal processing on the in vivo and in vitro digestibility of black bean protein, finding agreement across most of the methods studied, particularly the in vivo, two-step, and TNO gastro-intestinal model (TIM) methods. House explained that the TIM is a sophisticated model used to determine the digestibility of food products. The agreement between in vivo determinations for true fecal protein digestibility and in vitro methods indicates an opportunity to shift focus to the latter, he maintained.

Effects of Processing on the Quality of Plant Protein

A combination of physical, biological, and chemical methods can be used to process protein, said House. Biological methods include fermentation and enzymatic hydrolysis; chemical methods include aqueous extraction and acid hydrolysis. House pointed out that physical methods such as fractionation, drying, thermal processing, milling, and extrusion affect the amino acid composition and change the nature of the storage proteins within a food source. Thus, he emphasized the importance of better understanding the effects of those methods. He cited a study that examined the effects of thermal processing on the protein quality of five different pulse sources and found that thermal processing dramatically reduced the activity of trypsin inhibitor, a protease inhibitor that can suppress protein digestibility (Shi et al., 2017); thus, thermal processing (i.e., cooking) effectively increases protein digestibility. House stressed that this effect must be balanced with other components that can influence the nutritional quality of the food product. For example, he noted that exposing green field peas to higher temperatures damages reactive lysine, reducing its ability to contribute to protein synthesis (Van Barneveld et al., 1994).

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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House concluded with suggestions for future research, such as further investigating the sources of variation in amino acid content and digestibility to ensure that products meet protein quality criteria. He contended that bioassays should continue to be used but with consideration of their challenges, including ethics, costs, suitability, and timeliness. Finally, House advocated for a greater focus on in vitro methods, including regulatory approval of these methods, as a step forward for the sector.

DEVELOPING ALTERNATIVE DAIRY PRODUCTS

Illeme Amegatcher, General Mills Inc., outlined challenges facing the alternative dairy product market. She characterized GWorks, an internal venture studio within General Mills that discovers and builds new businesses in high-growth spaces, as being focused on identifying consumer problems and building solutions through testing and rapid experimentation while applying an entrepreneurial mindset.

Challenges in Replicating Dairy Products

Consumers are welcoming the shift to dairy alternatives for reasons ranging from taste to health, to lifestyle, to environmental concern, Amegatcher remarked. Approximately 65 percent of humans have a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy, she noted, and this prevalence rate varies in different populations. According to Amegatcher, about 10 million Americans are currently following a plant-based diet today, with vegans constituting about half that number. As consumers shift to plant-based or lactose-free diets, she continued, they are seeking dairy-alternative products that taste and function like the traditional dairy products with which they are familiar. However, Amegatcher stressed that replicating and recreating the important attributes of traditional dairy products—including a characteristic cultured or implemented dairy flavor; a smooth and creamy texture and mouthfeel; and, for cheese and some other dairy products, melting and stretching functionality—is a major challenge.

Alternative Protein Technology Framework

To create alternative dairy products that replicate the traditional products consumers find attractive, Amegatcher said, the food industry is tasked with combining science and technology in product applications. She stated that alternative proteins fall into three broad classes: plant-based, cultivated, and fermented. Various methods of fermentation are available, including traditional, biomass, and precision fermentation. The latter method uses microorganisms as cell factories to produce functional

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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ingredients. Amegatcher noted that this technology has been used for many years to produce products, such as insulin to treat diabetes, and to create enzymes, such as rennet for cheesemaking. More recently, she observed, precision fermentation has been used to create proteins.

Amegatcher described Bold Cultr Foods as a startup company within GWorks that seeks to leverage precision fermentation–derived proteins as a tool for developing solution-oriented products with high levels of consumer acceptance. She explained that the company does not necessarily create ingredients; it combines nonanimal proteins derived by precision fermentation with plant proteins and other ingredients, then applies a proprietary process based in food science expertise to yield nonanimal dairy products that feature the taste and functionality of dairy.

Role of Balance

Amegatcher highlighted multiple factors that must be balanced in creating sustainable alternative-dairy products, including consumer acceptance, nutrition, economics, and environmental impact. For example, she stressed, the nutrient profile of dairy should not be compromised in replicating its taste and functionality.

INSECTS AS A PROTEIN SOURCE

Andrea Liceaga, Purdue University, discussed the rationale for using insects as a protein source and considerations for insect consumption and processing.

Rationale for Sourcing Protein from Insects

Liceaga opened by describing how interest in incorporating edible insects into the diet has increased in recent years. One driver of this increase, she said, is the nutritional value of insects, which features high protein quality and quantity that equals or surpasses that of conventional animal proteins. Furthermore, insects contain all essential amino acids and are a good source of fiber, monounsaturated fats, vitamins, and minerals. Liceaga cited research indicating that insects can also provide bioactive peptides that provide benefits beyond basic nutrition (Liceaga et al., 2022). She added that insect protein is reported to be more environmentally sustainable than most traditional proteins. For example, producing 1 kilogram of insect protein requires 22 percent of the feed, 0.1 percent of the water, and 8 percent of the land required to produce 1 kilogram of protein from cattle. Additionally, greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions are substantially lower for insect agriculture versus traditional livestock (Van Huis et al., 2013).

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Although interest in consuming insects is relatively recent within Western cultures, insects have been part of the human diet for thousands of years, Liceaga remarked. For example, Aristotle wrote about the culinary delicacy of harvesting and consuming cicadas. Liceaga cited evidence from ancient Rome indicating that a dish known as Cossus—consisting of longhorn beetle larvae—was highly coveted. She added that the Old Testament describes the four types of locusts the Hebrews were allowed to eat (Leviticus 11:21–22), while the New Testament (Mark 1:6) describes how John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey. Today, she observed, although Western cultures have not yet popularized the practice, insects are widely consumed in other parts of the world, and the diets of more than 2 billion people worldwide currently feature insects.

Considerations for Using Insects as Food

According to Liceaga, the social taboo associated with insects poses the greatest challenge to incorporating insect protein into the daily diet. She noted that many consumers associate insects with poisons or filth or consider them to be disease carriers. She pointed, however, to research indicating that consumers are much more willing to eat food that they are aware contains insects if the insects are not visible. Thus, she identified the challenge for food scientists to develop foods with which people are familiar that contain added insect protein in nonrecognizable forms. In this way, she stated, typical foods can be formulated to provide the nutritional content, physical factors, sensory quality, and safety aspects to which consumers are accustomed while also containing insects.

Insect Processing

Liceaga explained that in countries where insects are widely consumed, they are usually eaten raw or cooked using conventional methods. But to gain traction in Western cultures, she suggested, insects could be processed into powder form. She noted, moreover, that nutrients, including protein fats, oils, colorants, and fiber in the form of chitin, can be extracted from insects (Liceaga et al., 2022). Insect powder or extracts can thereby be used in human food, animal feed, or health products, she maintained.

Liceaga described enzyme technology as one of the most effective methods for extracting nutrients from insects. In this process, commercial food product enzymes are applied to break down the protein in the insect and separate it from the insect’s exoskeleton, where the chitin is located. Liceaga noted that the food industry already uses enzyme technology widely for processing several plant and animal proteins, and this same technology can be applied to insect protein (Liceaga, 2021). She observed further that

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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protein hydrolysates (i.e., protein powders) are used in food formulation because of their enhanced functional properties. In addition, Liceaga said, the past decade has seen an increase in the number of publications related to successful insect processing via methods—including freezing, heat treatments, dehydration, fermentation technology, high-pressure processing, pulse fields, and protein extraction with enzyme technology—commonly used for traditional protein sources.

Allergenicity

Regardless of the method used, Liceaga stressed, it is critical to consider the effects of processing on a food’s nutritional and sensory quality, functional properties, and—most importantly—safety. The allergenicity of insect protein is a pertinent safety concern, she said, given that individuals who are allergic to shellfish are also likely to be allergic to insects. She noted that both insects and crustaceans are classified as arthropods, and some edible insect species contain tropomyosin proteins that cross-react with those of shrimp and other crustaceans. Because novel food allergens are not unique, she underscored the importance of evaluating potential allergen risks in order to provide information to those most likely to be affected.

Liceaga referenced studies showing that various processing methods—including freeze drying, blanching, boiling, baking, and frying—have no effect on immunoresponse or immunoglobulin E binding with respect to tropomyosin, the major shrimp allergen (Broekman et al., 2015). However, she reported, enzymatic proteolysis using commercial enzymes showed efficacy in eliminating the allergenicity or immunoresponse in patients allergic to shrimp (Hall et al., 2018). Liceaga described her own research using immune informatics and proteomic analysis, which indicated that this decreased allergenicity is associated with an increased cleavage on the epitope region of the tropomyosin protein that had been treated with commercial enzymes.

Liceaga pointed out that in historical archives from the 18th and 19th centuries, lobster was referred to as a low-quality or “poor man’s” food and was labeled “the cockroach of the sea,” but it has now become an expensive, luxury food. She contended that efforts are needed to normalize insect consumption—a practice already embraced by billions of people worldwide—and to discover new ways of introducing insects to consumers in pure and palatable forms.

DISCUSSION

The discussion following the presentations summarized above focused on health considerations for foods containing insects, ingredient selection,

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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supply chain challenges, the role of alternative protein technologies in a circular food system, considerations for protein nutrition facts, and processed product categorization.

Health Considerations for Foods Containing Insects

Given that processing is an avenue for helping the Western consumer accept insect foods, Blackstone noted that incorporating insect-based flours into ultraprocessed foods (e.g., potato chips, cookies) will not usher in a healthier, sustainable food system. Accordingly, she asked about the potential for using insect-based ingredients to create healthier alternatives. Liceaga replied that in Europe, burger patties made of insects are available in some restaurants, demonstrating that although insects are easily incorporated into baked goods, they can be used as an ingredient in other types of food as well. Although many consumers view eating insects as taboo, she continued, adding them to familiar foods could contribute to a transition toward more complex, sustainable food systems in which consumption of animal meat is minimized. She cautioned, however, that consumption of insect protein will begin to substitute significantly for animal meat only if insect-laden foods are developed that meet consumer preferences.

Ingredient Selection

In response to a question about how food scientists decide which ingredients to use in different products, Ferruzzi replied that the alternative protein space is continually evolving. The creation of protein ingredients is typically the starting point, he explained, followed by the processing needed to achieve a base texture, which may include fat as a texture component. The next step, he said, is to address challenges associated with color, flavor, and cooking performance.

Ferruzzi emphasized that as consumers look for products with fewer ingredients, meeting the above challenges becomes more difficult. He pointed out that alternative protein formulation often runs counter to the trend toward reducing the number of ingredients in foods because of the lack of availability of single ingredients with multiple functionalities that address diverse formulation challenges. Ferruzzi noted that product developers often look to suppliers to develop solutions regarding color transition, flavor scalping, ability to bind volatiles, and other factors. He remarked that functionality is driving innovative technologies and ingredient solutions, which are converging and moving into broader arenas.

House stated that, in addition to the major priorities of achieving desirable taste and texture, nutritional profile and protein balance must

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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be considered if a manufacturer aims to substantiate a protein quality claim. He pointed out, however, that it is challenging to identify protein sources that not only offer desired technical functionality but also feature the immunoassay composition and digestibility required to make protein content claims. He suggested that shifting toward measuring digestibility and quality via in vitro methods could help guide product formulation until other means of substantiating content claims are available.

Supply Chain Challenges

Blackstone asked about supply chain challenges in using precision fermentation–derived ingredients. Given that Bold Cultr Foods uses such ingredients, Amegatcher replied, establishing a sustainable supply of them remains a major focus of the company. GWorks is driven by the mission of solving consumer problems, she emphasized, and to that end, it is focusing on ingredients that will yield the desired taste, texture, and functionality while balancing these qualities with nutrition and other factors.

Role of Alternative Protein Technologies in a Circular Food System

A participant asked how innovative technologies can support a circular food system at both the local and global levels. Ferruzzi responded that opportunities depend on the product, but moving from the analog space to creating completely new product forms may lend itself to a circular ingredient stream that leverages various products. One way to increase scale, he suggested, is to leverage opportunities to reach consumers who have been averse to nontraditional options—for example, by eliminating the “ick factor” from insect consumption or creating plant-based versions of foods that match nutrition profiles. He highlighted the importance of adopting a global perspective because capturing opportunities at the local level is more difficult.

Liceaga emphasized that alternative protein by-products can play a role in a circular food system. For example, she said, when enzyme technology is used to extract insect protein, oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids and chitin are by-products. According to Liceaga, not only is chitin an excellent source of fiber, but it also can be converted into chitosan and made into films to replace some of the plastics used in the food industry. She stressed that determining how by-products can be incorporated into the system can increase sustainability.

House commented that in a traditional food system, protein fractionation and processing of cereal grains and oilseeds generate by-products that are incorporated into livestock feed as a component of a classic circular economy. A challenge, he said, lies in rerouting displaced by-products that

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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traditionally were directed to an animal feed market by developing alternative approaches for their utilization. Blackstone remarked that her research on livestock systems indicates that competition for sidestream products may increase. Ferruzzi stated that this situation is similar to the one in dairy, in which whey protein has become more expensive than casein. He added that soybeans hold value for both their protein and their oil, not just exclusively for one or the other. He suggested that although it may be difficult to envision a circular system emerging from one type of plant, an existing framework can address many needs given the diversity of plants and by-products.

Considerations for Protein Nutrition Facts

Given that protein content claims are voluntary, Blackstone asked whether protein declarations in nutrition facts labeling should reflect protein quality in addition to protein quantity. House argued that as long as the North American regulatory framework retains a focus on quality, enhanced transparency about what protein represents and what is meant by the percent daily value for protein on the nutrition facts label could help alleviate confusion among the public. He added that Canada has not established a percent daily value for protein; thus, this information is not included on food labels, which poses a challenge for the harmonization of nutrition facts labels across North America and the rest of the world. Novel protein sources have a relatively limited history of use within the global foodscape, said House, and therefore it is important to better understand their protein-related biological properties. Should the DIAAS method be adopted globally, he suggested, it will affect which foods qualify for protein content claims.

Processed Product Categorization

A participant asked whether food products containing insect protein are likely to be categorized as ultraprocessed by the NOVA system. Ferruzzi replied that NOVA categorization focuses more on the number of ingredients in a product than on nutrition. Given the type and extent of processing, all plant-based dairy alternatives fall in the ultraprocessed category. Ferruzzi maintained that the narrative should shift to focus on nutritional quality and that formulators should work to ensure that the nutritional content in innovative products is equal to or better than that of traditional products. Consumer perceptions of processing do not typically include mechanical pasteurization and homogenization, he added, and current food classification methodology is not well aligned with consumer understanding.

House remarked that Health Canada recently introduced a requirement that foods containing more than 15 percent of the daily recommended value

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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of saturated fat, sodium, or added sugar must feature a symbol indicating this on the front-of-the-package label. Noting that Health Canada refers to some foods as “highly processed” rather than “ultraprocessed,” he stated that the new front-of-the-package labeling requirement focuses on nutrients of concern, a focus that falls within the narrative of highly processed foods. He added that the labeling system identifies maximums for nutrients of concern that are intended to guide the industry in limiting their content in food products. Blackstone remarked that labeling requirements can serve as incentives for the industry to improve the formulation of food in a healthier, more sustainable direction.

DISCUSSION WITH PLANNING COMMITTEE MEMBERS

The workshop concluded with a panel discussion among members of the planning committee, including Nicole Tichenor Blackstone; Douglas Balentine, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; Naomi Fukagawa, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); and Patricia Williamson, Cargill, Inc. Rodolphe Barrangou moderated the discussion.

Drivers and Challenges in the Alternative Protein Market

Barrangou asked about the biggest drivers in the alternative protein landscape and whether technical, ethical, environmental, financial, political, or technological aspects are most heavily influencing the field at present. Blackstone responded that R&D is critical at the current stage of the field’s development, but it is dependent on investment. She noted that public investment in open-source technologies, interdisciplinary perspectives, and application of technologies in various geographies—including low-, middle-, and high-income countries—have been featured in the workshop as critical factors in moving the sector forward. She remarked that the United States has a tremendous opportunity to invest in cutting-edge interdisciplinary work that can move the field forward and, as new technologies are developed, to address potential unintended consequences early on.

Balentine highlighted two major challenges in the alternative protein space: the need to shift consumer behavior and the need to address supply chain issues. He noted that U.S. culture currently values animal meat as central to the diet, regardless of recommendations and guidelines to the contrary. According to Balentine, technology has the potential to deliver excellent alternative protein products, but the success of this market will depend on consumers’ adoption and regular consumption of these products. As the market grows, he predicted, it will further exacerbate supply chain issues, such as the challenge of acquiring sufficient volumes of raw materials

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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to produce national branded products and make them widely available. To illustrate, he noted that it took Hellmann’s 5–7 years to establish an adequate supply chain to manufacture mayonnaise exclusively with cage-free eggs, even though eggs are not the primary ingredient in this product.

Fukagawa remarked that from a health standpoint, the protein source is not as important as ensuring that the final food contains all the amino acids the body requires; however, she asserted, many people do not understand this distinction. She encouraged greater consideration of such factors as climate, cultivar, management procedures, and processing that impact the amount of protein, as well as other nutrients that accompany the protein. She also stressed the importance of considering availability, accessibility, and affordability through an equity lens in moving the industry forward.

Williamson emphasized that taste, texture, and cost remain hurdles to consumer acceptance of alternative protein products. She suggested that if a product is tasty but expensive or if it is healthy but not delicious, consumer acceptance will be limited; thus, she maintained, taste and cost are drivers of product adoption.

Williamson commented that intelligent food design involves collaboration to improve nutrition and health in addition to the eating experience, and emphasized that good science is needed to support and translate health and nutrition information for consumers. She also stressed the important role of claim substantiation. She asserted that product formulations balancing taste, functionality, affordability, and health in nutritious finished foods can use a variety of specialty ingredients to radically improve nutritional profiles. She also argued that innovative, novel products can extend beyond nutritional parity with existing foods to improve nutritional quality, reduce sodium, and address gaps in dietary fiber; furthermore, innovation can help to mitigate food waste and reduce contaminants and allergens.

Barrangou commented that the array of drivers mentioned by panelists—including technology, funding, consumer adoption, supply chain, protein composition and origin, availability, affordability, accessibility, consumer engagement, and food waste—exemplifies the interwoven, multidimensional, complex nature of the problems at hand and of the tools that will be needed to resolve them.

Gaps Affecting the Alternative Protein System

Barrangou asked about the biggest gaps affecting the field of alternative proteins, such as gaps in knowledge, data, tools, or funding. Williamson replied that the biggest gap in moving the field forward is better consumer understanding of new protein technologies, their capabilities, and why they exist. A variety of protein sources can meet dietary needs, she observed,

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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and she argued that novel technologies should be embraced in creating protein options. She suggested further that empowering consumers with knowledge about these new technologies is a first step toward their adoption at a larger scale.

Balentine highlighted the lack of robust planning for transforming current food systems into a circular food system of the future. Given the large numbers of farmers and farm workers engaged in animal agriculture, he contended, building sustainable food systems should involve transforming the system at the global level while sustaining many existing food systems at the local level.

Blackstone remarked on a gap in consumer acceptance and understanding that could potentially be reduced through government investment. She noted that in the European Union, cultural and psychological aversions to insect consumption are as ingrained as they are in the United States and Canada. However, she observed, the European Union’s insect food sector is much more developed than its U.S. counterpart, largely as a result of concerted government investment in both research and public–private partnerships and the creation of a regulatory environment that is amenable to innovation. Thus, Blackstone suggested that the U.S. federal government could play a critical role in transforming the alternative protein system and in addressing the challenges that such a transformation would pose to the livestock sector. She maintained that economic incentives, public support, and public infrastructure can facilitate navigation of a major transition in future food systems.

Public Messaging

Given the need for greater public support, education, and understanding to drive a shift toward alternative proteins, Barrangou asked panelists to provide a brief message to the public about changing the way proteins are grown, processed, manufactured, and distributed in order to provide sustainability and nutrition. Blackstone commented on the multidimensional aspects of this issue and on the need to generate momentum for this transition through more meaningful, less polarized engagement across the alternative protein and livestock sectors.

Williamson remarked that the food and nutrition landscape is undergoing a process of continuous improvement, and characterized alternative protein as a mechanism for meeting various taste preferences and nutritional needs in a sustainable, safe, and healthy way. The food industry innovates to meet people’s needs, she added, and alternative proteins represent a continuation of progress in this field.

Balentine stated that people can harness the power of plants by consuming half of their dietary protein from plants. He emphasized that although

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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technologies contribute to carbon sequestration efforts, increased consumption of plant protein will ultimately drive progress in this arena.

Public Investment

Noting that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022—recently signed into law—provides funding for initiatives to address climate change but does not include investment in alternative proteins, Barrangou asked panelists to make the case for investment in the creation of a more sustainable and nutritious food supply chain. Blackstone replied that the Farm Bill, whose next iteration is expected to be written in 2023, is key legislation shaping agriculture and nutrition policy in the United States. She stated that the next Farm Bill could capitalize on the opportunity to invest in R&D, training, education, workforce development, and business development needed to create a more sustainable food system. Additionally, she suggested, USDA and other government agencies could invest in the growing alternative protein sector via various loans and programs. Blackstone observed that the private sector is developing alternative protein products; that consumers are demanding them; and that increased investment in research, training, and business development can help ensure that new technologies in this space are developed for the public good.

Balentine remarked that the Farm Bill addresses both nutrition and agriculture and thus could be leveraged to usher in a transformation of the food system. He added that water use is a key component of this issue and could be highlighted in the context of the droughts that pose significant challenges in the United States.

Williamson commented that increasing FDA and USDA budgets and personnel would enable these agencies to be more agile and responsive to regulatory issues that can create barriers within the already-operational alternative protein industry. She contended that increased support could enhance these organizations’ ability to help streamline paths to acceptance of new technologies, provide improved guidance, and forge strong industry partnerships—all of which would also serve as drivers of innovation in the alternative protein space.

Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 89
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 90
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 91
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 92
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 93
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 94
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 95
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 96
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 97
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 98
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 99
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 100
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 101
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 102
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 103
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 104
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 105
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 106
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 107
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 108
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Page 109
Suggested Citation:"4 Balancing Innovation in Alternative Protein Processing with Sustainability, Health, Affordability, and Accessibility." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Alternative Protein Sources: Balancing Food Innovation, Sustainability, Nutrition, and Health: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26923.
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Alternative protein sources, which can be derived from plant and animal cells or created by precision fermentation, can have health, environmental, socio-economic, and ethical impacts. With a variety of types of alternative proteins being developed and available on the market, consumers, regulatory agencies, manufacturers, and researchers are faced with many different considerations. The National Academies Food Forum hosted a workshop that took a multi-sector approach to explore the state of the science on alternative protein sources as they relate to issues around diet quality, nutrition, and sustainability. The workshop also examined how alternative protein food processing innovations can be balanced in a way that optimizes nutritional content, affordability, and accessibility. This Proceedings of a Workshop summarizes the discussions held during the workshop.

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