Time magazine reports on a team of scientists from the University of Missouri who may have finally cracked the code on vegetarian chicken.
Though fake-meat products like Tofurkey (and many more -- see photos of various fake meat products here) have been available for years, emulating the subtle, fibrous texture and taste profile of chicken is particularly difficult. But scientist Fu-Hung Hsieh and his partner Harold Huff have developed a complex formula to overcome chicken's peculiar challenges.
According to Time, after more than a decade, they have created:
"The first soy product that not only can be flavored to taste like chicken but also breaks apart in your mouth the way chicken does: not too soft, not too hard, but with that ineffable chew of real flesh. When you pull apart the Missouri invention, it disjoins the way chicken does, with a few random strands of "meat" hanging loosely."
Here's how the process is described:
First, you take a dry mixture of soy-protein powder and wheat flour, add water and dump it into an industrial extruder, which is essentially a gigantic food processor. (You have to climb a ladder to get to the hole at the top.) At first, the mixture looks like cake batter. But as it's run through the gears of the extruder and heated to precisely 346°F (175°C), the batter firms up and forms complex striations. It took Hsieh and Huff many years to get the temperature right, and it also took years to discover how to cool the soy cake very quickly, before it could melt.
Watch the process here:
Though this represents a breakthrough, some worry that these scientists might be solving some problems while creating others. Switching from meat products to plant-based products can be good for the body and planet. But, the process required to make the "meat" involves a series of heavy-duty laboratory procedures that seem more AstraZeneca than farm-fresh.