Flexilicious Super Sausages by Debbie & Andrew's are targeted to those with flexitarian lifestyles.
Flexilicious Super Sausages by Debbie & Andrew's are targeted to those with flexitarian lifestyles. (Source: Debbie & Andrew's)
Blending meat and poultry with alternative proteins is not new. Soy has long been used as a filler to extend meat, thereby lowering costs while still delivering on protein. More recently, culinary professionals have been exploring “The Blend,” a technique that combines mushrooms with meat and poultry as a way to increase the servings of vegetables in a dish and extend portions. It also is a way to lower calories, saturated fat and sodium, and eat more sustainably.

Now scientists are investigating the use of cricket flour and lab-made meat. The November 2017 issue of the
Journal of Food Scienceincludes the study, “Effect of House Cricket Flour Addition on Physicochemical and Textural Properties of Meat Emulsion Under Various Formulations.”

Researchers from the Meat Science and Muscle Biology Laboratory at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, and the Process Engineering R&D Center at Texas A&M Univ., College Station, Texas, investigated the effect of house cricket (Acheta domesticus) flour addition on the physicochemical and textural properties of meat emulsions under various formulations.

Results suggest that house cricket flour possesses physical properties that make it an effective nonmeat functional ingredient that can be incorporated within emulsified meat products. The findings are important, according to the scientists, because to better utilize house cricket flour as a food ingredient in wide applications, it is necessary to have a better understanding of its technological properties in different pH and ionic strength conditions. Given that little research that has been done around the functional properties of edible insects, these results are a really interesting first step towards better understanding the sensory and technological properties of these ingredients; as well as how nonmeat ingredients can impact processed meat products.

This study is very preliminary. Additional application and shelf life studies are necessary. Further, regulatory compliance needs to be investigated in regards to use of insect proteins as nonmeat ingredients in processed meats.

Separately, at Food Vision USA on Nov. 15, in Chicago, Liz Specht, senior scientist with the Good Food Institute, Washington, D.C., suggested that “clean meat,” which is meat produced using cell cultures in a controlled and sterile environment, may be more appealing to consumers when presented in hybrid products.

“I’m suggesting that clean meat could be introduced in hybrids with plant-based meat,” she said. “I don’t really see any benefit to a clean meat/conventional meat hybrid as it would lose some of the most compelling positive claims associated with clean meat, for example, the welfare and food safety benefits associated with removing animals from the production process entirely.”

She provided the example of Debbie & Andrew’s in the UK, which markets sausages based on a proportional blend of conventional meat and plant protein. Products such Flexilicious Super Sausages are targeted to those with flexitarian lifestyles who sometimes want a little less meat in the diet, but still enjoy the taste and texture of conventional meat. Instead of using conventional meat, such next-generation hybrids may consider lab-produced meat.

Though there are no blended products made with cricket flour or lab-made meat currently in the marketplace, such hybrid products could serve as a point of introduction to these alternative protein sources.