How to create meat alternatives in structures similar to whole meat cuts? The solution lies in extrusion processing

Blog post
Nesli Sözer

Meat alternatives can reduce the environmental impact of the meat industry. However, most existing meat alternatives are not shaped like traditional meat cuts and can seem unfamiliar to consumers. Dry extrusion is a traditional processing technology suitable for manufacturing minced meat alternatives. However, novel high moisture extrusion technology helps us develop appetising whole cuts of alternative meats that consumers are happy to cook with.

Producing alternative meat products in cuts and shapes familiar to animal-based meat requires scientific methods and innovations. However, sometimes the answer is applying a traditional method to a new purpose.

Using extrusion – a process that has been a staple in manufacturing for decades – we can produce alternative meat steaks and other shapes that satisfy the demands of even hardcore carnivores.

Using dry, high-moisture, and combined extrusion to achieve the highest quality

Extrusion is a high-temperature, high-shearing processing production line.

How does extrusion work?

The extrusion process starts with feeding water and a protein mix powder inside a barrel where the temperature is gradually raised to 100-160°C. As a result of shearing and heating, a protein melt is obtained. The protein melt elongates to form fibres, creating a structure similar to animal meat.

VTT uses both dry extrusion and high-moisture extrusion technologies. Dry extrusion is more traditional and already used in various consumer products. However, the VTT team recently introduced a novel approach to traditional dry extrusion. The patent application describes an extrusion-aided separation technology that creates a protein concentrate from wholemeal cereal or legume flours with up to 80% protein content. The concentrate can be utilised as an ingredient in meat alternatives.

High-moisture extrusion can create moist and distinctly meat-like structures, similar to beef strips, pulled beef or pulled chicken.

The benefits of extrusion in developing meat alternatives

Besides resulting in a better likeness to legacy meat and increased protein content, extrusion processing is also more sustainable than animal farming. The process itself is scalable and well-known in the industry.

VTT has the expertise to support you in developing meat alternatives using extrusion. Our infrastructure and visionary ways of turning well-established technologies into new concepts ensure that nothing is out of our reach. Our scientific approach and process optimisation will guarantee the validity and viability of the product.

With our help, you can reap the benefits of extrusion and develop alternative meat cutlets, strips, pulled beef or chicken, and other forms of meat in the correct texture, structure, look and taste. This is critical in getting a higher percentage of meat-eating people to consume plant-based meat regularly.

Read more about meat alternatives from our handbook.

Jukka Vainionpää
Jukka Vainionpää
Customer Account Lead
Nesli Sözer
Nesli Sözer
Research Professor
Our vision beyond 2030

Demand for food is growing at the same rate as the world population. Food production needs to be both sufficiently efficient and less harmful for the environment than before. The challenge is massive, but big steps have already been taken in the right direction.