Printing fake meat in 3D using cocoa butter

Friday, 10 December, 2021

Printing fake meat in 3D using cocoa butter

In a study reported in ACS Food Science & Technology, one team has developed a new combination of plant-based ingredients tailored for 3D printing meat alternatives. Their most successful recipes required the odd-sounding addition of cocoa butter, derived from cocoa beans used in chocolate.

Many current meat alternatives rely on plant-based proteins, most often from soy and wheat, which can readily mimic the texture and nutritional value of the real thing. While 3D printing has already been tested for meat alternatives, none of the current formulations include proteins from these particular plants. So, Songbai Liu and Shanshan Wang wanted to figure out an approach to making a ‘meat dough’ with soy and wheat protein that could be produced effectively with a 3D printer.

The research experiments revealed the importance of several additional ingredients, including the emulsifier Tween-80 and sodium alginate to control the texture. Heat-sensitive cocoa butter turned out to be a particularly important ingredient, making the dough more fluid at warm temperatures for printing, but then hardening afterward at room temperature, allowing the dough to retain its printed shape.

One drawback, however, is that people who cannot eat wheat gluten or soy because of allergies or celiac disease would not be able to partake of the new alternatives.

To address this issue, the researchers attempted to replace the soy protein with that from peas, but the resulting dough was too soft for printing. Even so, these experiments have identified a new strategy for formulating meat alternatives using this versatile technology, according to the researchers.

Image caption: Meat alternative created with a 3D printer and plant-based ingredients, including cocoa butter. Image credit: Adapted from ACS Food Science & Technology 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acsfoodscitech.1c00311.


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