Would you eat it?
In an attempt to make soybeans taste more meaty — and hence reduce the amount of actual meat we consume — molecular protein startup Moolec Science is inserting actual pig genes into the plants.
As Wired reports, it's the latest effort to help kick an environmentally disastrous habit. Last year, Moolec inserted pig genes into plants to make them express porcine proteins. According to the company, a quarter of the soluble proteins in some of the soybeans ended up identifiable as pig — which is pretty cool, considering that no pigs were factory farmed in the process.
Even better, according to CEO Gastón Paladini, these beans were pinker in hue and tasted meatier. As usual, though, only time will tell if the product will ever make it onto the dinner plate.
Moolec's research is just one of many attempts to turn plant-based ingredients into meat alternatives. But startups like it have struggled to convince the public about their plant-based alternatives, with consumers balking at products designed to deliver the same kind of flavor profile and texture as the real deal.
"I personally believe that the plant-based industry has slowed down because the cost, taste, and flavor are good — but not good enough," Paladini told Wired. "The plant-based companies still need to improve flavor and texture and get down the cost."
Instead of replacing meat outright, Paladini is hoping to offer meat producers a way to reduce their costs by mixing in other meat alternatives like Mootec's porky soybeans.
Moolec was spun out of a different company called Bioceres Crop Solutions, which is also working on having pea plants produce beef proteins and safflower to produce milk coagulants.
But whether either company will have success in bringing their meat-like ingredients to broader markets and revitalizing an ailing industry remains uncertain. For one, as Wired points out, Mootec's soybeans fall foul of EU and UK GMO regulations.
But Paladini remains optimistic.
"Sooner or later, I think we need to embrace science," he told the publication.
More on meat alternatives: New Study Is Extremely Embarrassing for Lab-Grown Meat
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