Soy Masquerades As Chicken

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Vegetarians everywhere delight! Now you can have your chicken and eat it, too.

University of Missouri scientists have come to the end of a 10-year effort to transform unassuming little soy plants into a finished product that has the look, taste and texture of real chicken.

Lots of meat substitutes are on the market right now, such as the ever-popular Tofurky. But there isn’t one that tastes like chicken or, more importantly to these researchers, has the texture of real meat.

The fake meat is made by mixing up a batter of soy protein, wheat flour and water, and then pushing the batter through a high-heat extruder. The mixture firms up and develops a stringy, chicken-like texture, Fu-Hung Hsieh, a professor of biological engineering and food science at MU, said in a university press release.

The research has been published in the Journal of Food and Agricultural Chemistry, Journal of Food Science, and Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society.

Although the team hasn’t perfected the taste yet, according to one reviewer, the texture seems to be right on.

“But the way the meat broke across my teeth felt exactly how boneless chicken breast does,” wrote Time Magazine’s John Cloud, who visited the laboratory where the soy-chicken is being made.

“It was slightly fibrous but not fatty. The soy wasn’t mashed together as in a veggie burger; rather, it was more idiosyncratic, uneven, al dente — in other words, meatlike,” he wrote.

The soy-chicken substitute has the potential to be to America what Quorn is to Great Britain. But many questions remain about the product’s marketability. For instance: How cheaply can it be made, and are hard-core foodies going to like such a highly processed substitute?

But the more persistent one that’s been on my mind is this: What are we going to call it?

Image from Flickr.

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