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Protein: Not Less, Just Different

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A major shift in the nation's food supply will probably appear from the controversy over lean finely textured beef, or, as it has been called, pink slime.

For many consumers it was a tipping point that further eroded confidence in our foods and have people scrutinizing what they'll buy and eat. I would suggest that this grilling season will see more people trying alternative protein sources such as soy or ground-up vegetables that they can form into patties. They'll make a bold statement by moving away from meat-based proteins.

In fact, in our Supermarket Guru Consumer Panel Survey on grilling (which was conducted pre-pink slime headlines), more than 40 percent of the panel said the next big trend in grilling would be "meatless grilling."

Protein is in the dietary spotlight today because consumers want to improve body shape and maintain strength. Elizabeth Sloan, Ph.D. and president of Sloan Trends told the Institute of Food Technologists Wellness 2012 Conference that "protein is hot, hot, hot. And there is no sign this trend is going to go away for the next 10 years. It's about body composition, sports, satiety and maintaining muscle mass as you get older."

Protein is a macro-nutrient that we Americans seem obsessed with as the components of a protein offer the building blocks for life. With our typical proteins' prices on the rise (in particular, beef and chicken), the question is whether, as the culture of our population shifts to a more diverse ethnic mix, will popular protein sources from around the world end up on supermarket shelves?

In Peru, for example, guinea pig, or cuy, is a popular protein source. From France to Korea to Africa and many other places, rat is considered a tasty and popular dish. In many parts of Asia, lizard is a common addition to flavor dishes such as soups and supposedly tastes, of course, like chicken. Do you think it is time for beef and chicken to step aside?

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