Scientists have devised a way to reduce waste from the meat industry while creating new products for those (the elderly, athletes in training) who need easily digestible protein: process the meat by-products and put them in ice cream.
No, I didn’t make that up!
A process to make use of more of the by-products from the meat industry has been devised by scientists who are part of a project funded by the European Union, PROSPARE. Currently, almost 50 percent of the animal weight processed in the meat industry ends up as compost or is incinerated.
Those animal by-products still contain lipids and proteins. Turning the lipids into biodiesel has proved expensive. Efforts to reuse the proteins have been slightly more successful: 22 percent of the leftover meat has been turned into feed while just about 3 percent is consumed as food. But the methods used are energy-intensive, still leave quite a lot of waste and create products with “meals with poorer digestibility and nutrient properties.”
The new process (pdf) developed under PROSPARE uses enzymes (such as the pancreatic protease enzyme) to turn poultry bone and feathers and meat trimmings into proteins called “functional animal proteins hydrolyzates.” Hydrolyzed protein is protein that has been broken down into its component amino acids. Protein hydrolyzates made from eggs, buttermilk or fish are already available and can be used as supplements for an athlete’s diet (to help build up muscle tissue) and as additives in processed food. These processed meat byproducts have been shown to be prebiotic, antimicrobiotic and antioxidant.
Putting these animal protein hydrolyzates into ice cream is not exactly the scientists’ plan for their product. A Belgian company, PROLIVER, makes dietary, health and sports food supplements and hopes to use the newly created PROSPARE product. Indeed, the company already produces protein powder made from both chicken and turkey as well as a protein hydrolysate powder.
A partner company from Russia, Mobitek-M, makes protein-rich products and is planning on putting them into ice cream. In fact, Mobitek-M has already constructed a plant in Russia which, according to Science Daily, is poised to begin “transforming functional animal protein at a capacity of one hundred tonnes per day.”
Since ice cream (not, of course, versions made from soy, rice or nut milk, or fruit-based products like sorbets) is made from milk, eating a creamy frozen dessert that has its protein content boosted from animal protein hydrolyzates might not make too much of a difference to some. Such protein-enriched ice cream might be a way for those who can’t digest more solid foods to get in more nutrients besides drinking products such as Ensure. People have indeed been making bacon ice cream (and a company called Arrfscarf also makes ice cream for dogs in flavors including beef brisket, chicken cheddar and gouda burger).
Will products containing protein hydrolysate powder be clearly labeled as containing animal products? Not everyone is going to know that such an ingredient is made from meat. Given the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe, in which numerous products (frozen lasagne, hamburgers, Swedish meatballs sold in IKEA stores) were found to contain horsemeat despite the labels not mentioning this at all, a consumer who is vegetarian has reason to wonder and certainly to exercise caution.
Could meat ice cream be the answer not only to provide protein for those who are elderly and ill, but for children who are picky eaters? Or is this attempt to use up wasted leftovers from meat processing well-meant, but only creating more over-processed food products?
Photo from wallyg/Flickr