Space & Innovation

Super-Sized Steak Made From Veggies

Dutch researchers produce commercial quantities of textured protein that looks, smells and feels like real beef. Continue reading →

The quest for vegetarian steak continues as a Dutch researcher produced commercial quantities of textured protein that looks, smells and feels like real beef.

The veggie steak was made from processed soy protein that put into a giant metal canister, baked at 266 degrees Fahrenheit, and then colored with a rice-based reddish dye.

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"What we are doing is making a fiber structure from plant material," said Atze Jan van der Goot, professor of food technology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. "We take soy concentrate and we discovered that if we supply well defined information of the material, it can form a fiber structure, similar to meat. The fact that you can use soy concentrate to make a meat analog, that was already known. The discovery of our project is we can make large pieces at once."

Van der Goot says his motivation is to replace beef with plant-based foods that extract less of a burden on the environment, as well as reducing the need to kill animals.

Van der Goot and colleagues developed so-called "shear cell technology" which allows them to deform vegetable proteins into a fiber technology. With the food processor device, the meat comes out in a slab bigger than two plates. It was presented this week at the opening of a new startup called "The Vegetarian Butcher" in Breda, the Netherlands.

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As for the taste, Van der Goot says flavor was not the goal of his research.

"We are still in the laboratory phase," he told Discovery News. "If the structure is good, and it seems to be suitable, then you can make a good tasting product."

Mark Post, professor of physiology at Maastricht University, and a leading developer of so-called "in-vitro meat" says the entire field is still many years from development.

"Cultured beef has a ways to go," said Post, who unveiled a lab-grown hamburger in London in 2013.

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"The texture of meat is most difficult to replicate with vegetable proteins," Post told Discovery News. "To be honest, I'm not 100 percent sure we will be able to achieve it. The animal proteins on a micro-scale in skeletal muscle are so well-organized and very specifically organized that the microscopic structures are difficult to mimic."

Several food technology firms in the United States are trying to develop food products that don't use animal protein, including Brooklyn-based Modern Meadow, which is using bioengineering to develop animal cells in the lab to make leathers and steak chips, or San Francisco-based Hampton Creek which is making dairy products like mayonnaise and cookies with plants instead of eggs.

Post said his in-vitro meat, which is made from cow cells, is just now entering the regulatory process and is several years away from a commercial product as well.

Extreme weather events, financial collapse, political unrest: With today's overabundance of apocalyptic worry, now is a good time to start thinking about what you’ll do if and when the bottom falls out. In a survival situation, shelter, fire and clean drinking water should be your top priorities, said Tom Brown, founder of Tom Brown Jr.'s Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School. And, even though people can survive for up to three weeks without food, Brown said, extreme hunger can make you crazy. So it's worth stocking up on canned foods and other non-perishables. Read on to find out what else you can -- and really shouldn't -- eat when the cans run out.

DO: Pet food People end up eating pet food often enough -- and sales tend to go up during recessions -- that FDA standards require food made for animals to be suitable for humans to eat too, said Cody Lundin, founder and director of the Aboriginal Living Skills School in Prescott, Ariz. In an episode of the Discovery Channel show "Dual Survival", Lundin eats dog food cooked over a campfire -- and while he expresses hope that they'll catch raccoon for breakfast, he lived to tell the tale.

DO: Rodents It's easy to catch rats and other rodents, said Brown, author of "Tom Brown's Guide to City and Suburban Survival." Simply bury a five-gallon bucket in the ground up to its edges. Cover the mouth of the container with sticks and wood scraps, and wait for a startled mouse or chipmunk to scramble under the jumbled objects. The animal will fall right into your trap. Next, burn the hair off your prey, skin them, gut them and throw them into a stew pot with water and any grains, vegetables or flour you might have on hand. "Don't even bother filleting them or getting rid of the bones," Brown said. "Bone marrow is high in nutrition and protein."

DON'T: Leather During their infamous struggle against starvation, the Donner Party ate a wide variety of unappetizing objects, including leather, which is made from animal hides. Long ago, people used the tannins in oak tree bark to turn animal skins into leather, making it a safe food item. But modern leather products are tanned with chemicals that are surely poisonous, said Lundin, author of "When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes." Your belts may look as good as fruit roll-ups when you're really hungry. But it's best to leave them in the closet.

DO: Bugs Grasshoppers, cockroaches, ants, tarantulas: Virtually all insects are edible. Just make sure to cook them well enough to kill the wide variety of diseases they can carry, Brown said. You can even eat bees and scorpions as long as you remove their stingers first. One easy way to catch insects is to fill a sink with a little water and some food crumbs. Hungry bugs will go for the bait and either drown or get stuck in the tub. Ounce for ounce, Brown added, insects have up to four times more usable protein than other animals. Instead of a pound of beef, a quarter-pound grasshopper burger will do the same job.

DO: Weeds "Food plants grow everywhere," said John Kallas, director of Wild Food Adventures, an educational company, and author of "Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate." "All you need to do is go out in your backyard." You also need to build up some detailed knowledge about botany before all hell breaks loose because eating the wrong plants or the wrong parts of plants can kill you. Common vitamin-rich weeds include wild spinach, cattails, field mustard, garlic mustard, nipplewort and dandelions. No matter how hungry you are, Kallas warned, only eat a little amount of any one kind of vegetation at a time. "Dandelions have some vital chemicals that are great for you in small amounts, but too much will give diarrhea," he said. "That's what you don't want in a survival situation."

DON'T: Cardboard and Paper Cardboard boxes may seem appealing because they contain cellulose from wood pulp, which is used as a thickener, stabilizer and source of fiber in a variety of food products. And along with paper, cardboard can counter hunger pains by taking up space. But people cannot adequately digest the cellulose in cardboard and paper, Brown said. Also, many of these products are treated with chemicals that can be toxic.

DO: Acorns Like any nut, acorns can be delicious and filling, but you can't just pop them in your mouth like cashews. To make acorns edible, Brown advised, first take them out of their husks. Next, drop them in a pot of just-boiled water and let them steep for a couple hours. Drain and repeat this process two to four times until all of the bitter tannic acid is gone. At last, you can eat the acorns plain. You can roast them. Or you can grind them into flour that will accentuate your rodent stew. Play the "Dual Survival" challenge, featuring survival experts Cody Lundin and Dave Canterbury.