Quantcast

Plant-Based Meat: The Cosmetic Color Problem

Insights + Opinion
Beyond Meat

Plant-based meats are touted as the technological solution to the health and environmental problems caused by excessive meat-eating. Venture capital is flooding to what seems like a hot new market.


One objection to these products is that they are heavily processed and contain long lists of processing ingredients (my emphasis on the color ingredients).

The Beyond Burger: pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, water, yeast extract, maltodextrin, natural flavors, gum arabic, sunflower oil, salt, succinic acid, acetic acid, non-GMO modified food starch, cellulose from bamboo, methylcellulose, potato starch, beet juice extract (for color), ascorbic acid (to maintain color), annatto extract (for color), citrus fruit extract (to maintain quality), vegetable glycerin.

The Impossible Burger: water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors, 2% or less of: leghemoglobin (heme protein), yeast extract, salt, soy protein isolate, konjac gum, xanthan gum, thiamin (vitamin B1), zinc, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12.

I was intrigued by this article from Food Navigator about the color problem. Plant-based meats are naturally an unappealing grey and need color to make them appear palatable. What to do?

According to botanical extract supplier, Naturex, whose portfolio includes colouring foods, plant-based meat analogues are "a booming sector" and, with colour one of the most important factors in determining a food's appeal, manufacturers are interested in natural ways to colour meat alternatives.

Category manager for natural colours at Naturex Nathalie Pauleau said that carmine, derived from cochineal insects, is the most frequently used colour for real meat applications but cannot be used in plant based products because it is not vegetarian.

Vegetable-based alternatives include beetroot or red radish concentrates that deliver good colouring results, and in Europe, both can be classified as colouring foods, she said.

But there are big problems with color stability under conditions of heat and high or low pH. If manufacturers want a browner color, carmelized sugar sometimes works.

As for the "bleeding" burger produced by Impossible Foods: this is

A plant-based burger made from the standard base ingredients of wheat, potato and soy protein. The addition of its IP-protected ingredient, leghemoglobin, however, means that the burger's label lists added flavours but no colours. Leghemoglobin is a heme molecule similar to myoglobin and haemoglobin that make blood and meat red but is found in the roots of nitrogen-fixing plants such as soy, meaning it is vegetarian-friendly. When added to the burger, it looks like blood.

And how do these taste? Not bad, by most reports.

But one of my personal food rules is never to eat anything artificial. These products are off my dietary radar.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
The Dakota Access pipeline being built in Iowa. Carl Wycoff / CC BY 2.0

The fight between the Standing Rock Sioux and the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline is back on, as the tribe opposes a pipeline expansion that it argues would increase the risk of an oil spill.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less