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Happy Cows, tasty meat

Researchers from Tel Hai College are trying to find the optimal formula for growing and using quinoa seeds as an alternative protein, while a team of researchers from the Technion is developing a unique system in which cells can be grown for meat in the laboratory.

Israelis love meat - and lots of it. According to OECD data, the annual meat consumption per person in Israel stands at 58.6 kg per person of poultry, 19.3 kg per person of beef and calf, 1.9 kg per person of mutton and 1.6 kg per person of pork. The consumption of chicken in Israel is in the top spot, leading 10 kilos to the US, and Israel Beef is ranked sixth, with Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, the United States, and Australia.

The Israeli meat market depends on a growing supply of sources from around the world and creates negative environmental influences, most of which occur outside the borders of the State of Israel. Raising livestock for food, especially cattle, causes greenhouse gas emissions such as Methane, Nitrogen Dioxide, and of course Carbon Dioxide, which affect global warming. According to a UN report examining the impact of the meat, dairy, and egg industries on the environment, animal food industries are a major cause of global warming and responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity (more than all modes of transport combined) Air, sea and land.

In addition, the waste generated from animal husbandry to food is a potential source of pollution that, if not treated optimally, could spill into the environment and contaminate land and water sources. In addition, increased use of antibiotics in livestock increases the risk of antibiotic resistance in bacteria and their spread in the environment.

The animal food industry also has a major role in deforestation and its transformation into grazing areas or areas for the cultivation of food for animal feed. These actions harm biodiversity and accelerate the extinction of various species. In addition, deforestation reduces the number of trees that could absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. All of this has to be added to the suffering of the animals themselves, which includes growing in harsh conditions, transporting sheep and goats in live shipments for weeks at sea, separating young calves from their mother and more.

These factors, together with an increase in the number of people seeking vegetarianism and veganism around the world, have led to the discovery of substitutes for meat, which has become an evolving and desired field of research and development. In recent years, Israeli start-ups and researchers have been leading the development of relevant and high-quality meat alternatives, in terms of the production of cultured meat (meat produced from animal tissue) and in terms of meat substitutes based on vegetable sources. Israeli companies combine innovative technologies and ideas and aspire to change the future of the meat industry and investors in Israel and abroad recognize the potential inherent in this field. For example, SuperMeat recently raised initial funds, with a capital of $ 3 million raised from a number of funds from the United States and Europe and through mass financing. Last May, Israeli start-up raised $ 2.2 million, led by US food giant Tyson Foods, the world's second-largest supplier of poultry meat, supplying fast food to McDonald's and KFC.

The American meat company, Beyond Meat, is valued at $ 100 million. Sales of its products grew between 2015 and 2017 from $ 8.8 million to $ 32.6 million, an average annual growth of 92 percent. At the end of September 2018, it was reported that the company's revenues increased by 167 percent to $ 56.4 million.

Another entrepreneur who has raised more than $ 180 million from investors, most notably Google and Bill Gates, is Patrick Brown, the founder, and manager of Impossible Foods, which sought to change the meat market and roll hundreds of billions of dollars without harming animals.

The Quinoa of the future

Recently, two Israeli teams, researching different directions for meat replacements, won a prestigious international competition sponsored by the Good Food Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes ideas and research on clean meat (also known as cultural meat or cell-based meat) Based on plant origin. The goal is to develop substitutes for meat that can provide high-quality protein and will be better for human health and for animal and environmental welfare.

The team of the Food Science Department, Tel Hai Academic College, and in collaboration with the Northern Research Center, is examining the use of Quinoa protein as an optional substitute for a plant source for beef. Quinoa seeds contain a high percentage of protein (15-14%), higher than many other grains.

Quinoa is a type of grain processed worldwide and originated in Bolivia. It is considered an increase resistant to harsh environmental conditions (such as dryness, strong radiation, temperature, humidity, and soil). His average output in the world is 2.5-3.5 tons per 10 dunams, and in the past three years, we have conducted experiments aimed at cultivating quinoa at the farm on the Golan Heights in Israel. The yield of grain has reached an average of 6 tons per 10 dunams, indicating that Quinoa may be considered a new sustainable crop with high commercial value in Israel.

As a follow-up experiment, we propose to evaluate Quinoa as a sustainable source of protein with rich nutritional value and proven functional ingredients, suitable for use as a raw material for meat substitute products based on plants.

In the study, we will use the higher yielding varieties with high protein percentages, and we will transfer the seeds to different polishing and extraction methods in order to produce a larger amount of protein. In Quinoa seeds, the amount of protein available is about 15 to 4 percent, while after the ripening and extraction, the amount of protein available to us for food rises to 70-60 percent. “In the end, we want to create the texture, taste, and color that simulates the sensation created in your palate when you eat meat."

In order to produce a meatball in a texture similar to that of meat, there is a need for other substances, other than proteins. Water retention and elasticity properties must be created - properties that can be created by the introduction of polysaccharides into the production process (a carbohydrate composed of many molecules of mono-sugar bonded together in a long or branched chain). In order to use the Quinoa seeds as a substitute for animal protein, the seeds of Quinoa must be processed and passed through a process of retouching to remove saponins, bitter-taste molecules on the outer surface of the seed, and synthesize the proteins in Quinoa in a complex structure and no less available for use in our bodies. The saponins can be removed by regular or acidic water or by means of a retractable device that can do so systematically and at a larger scale and with which we will work in the experiment.

This is an innovative research and that there are not many studies that deal with the properties of Quinoa as a substitute for meat. "We also want to find high-yield Quinoa seeds and a higher protein concentration, which will be very suitable as a substitute for meat, both in terms of nutritional value and sensory experience of eating.

Beyond that, finding meat replacements is a very important goal to reduce our negative impact on the environment. We want to give people the option of choosing how to act on the subject.

Minced meat from the laboratory

The second team to be awarded the grant is Professor Marcel M. (one of the torchbearers on Israel's 70th Independence Day) and is co-authored by Prof. Eilat F. and Dr. Maya D. of the Technion Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering.

This team studied the production of cultured meat (tissues consisting of animal cells) that were grown outside the animal's body in laboratory conditions and would be sufficient to produce steak or minced meat.

The problem with the development of cultured meat is that living cells require a lot of energy to survive, it takes them time to develop, and their life span is set. Growing these cells in the laboratory costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time and we try to make the process more efficient.

The researchers in this all-female team are interested in developing an innovative technological infrastructure through a fast and affordable process that will allow the cells to grow in large quantities.

They will cultivate different types of edible carriers that will serve as a platform for cell growth. These carriers may also include collagen (a very common protein in many animals' bodies) and grow in a reactor (a three-dimensional instrument in which the chemical reaction takes place), which are also edible, Nutritional and protein supplement to the meat substitute.

The primary living cells will be derived from biopsies removed from animals but grown without serum (a fluid containing nutrients to living cells and usually taken from animals) and animal additives. "At the end of the process, we will combine the final raw material that we will receive with the fat balls that are developed here in the laboratory at the Technion and are a healthy alternative to the fat found in the meat.

The uniqueness of the research is the treatment at the most problematic stage in the development of cultured meat.

The use of edible carriers replaces the initial cell growth process in laboratory dishes, adding nutritional value to the final product.

In order to grow such a large mass of cells, thousands of plates with fixed substrates need to be different from using edible carriers. "

"Clean meat is considered one of the leading solutions to the global food crisis, offering nutritional values ​​like conventional meat without harming animals or the environment.

The process we work on in the laboratory is more efficient because energy and resource consumption will be better.

Resources such as oxygen and food will be more available to cells, in larger quantities and their supply will be continuous, "says Maya. "Developing the means to meet the technical challenges facing this pioneering field is crucial."

By Eli Beck April 22, 2019 Shanghai, China

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