A wide variety of new meat and meat analogue products made from soybeans, grains and legumes are perfect for consumers—whether they are seeking vegetarian, non-vegetarian or hybrid products.

Patties, nuggets, sticks, stars and other shapes can be produced in a consistent manner, using technology from Clextral, Tampa, Fla., whose parent company is located in Firminy, France; its partner, Protial, is located in Beaucouze, France.

How It Works

At the heart of the technology is Clextral's fibration technology: twin screw extrusion that transforms protein from meat or vegetable sources into muscle-like structures. Two other technologies—cracking and jellification—complement this technology.

Cracking technology takes meat by-products and less desirable cuts of meat and separates it into its different components, explains Gilles Maller, sales manager, Clextral. Intermediate products and ingredients are separated through extraction, concentration and purification.

“Cracking removes collagen, sacoplasmic protein and fat,” says Maller. “We end up with a block of protein with less than 2% fat. This protein, called Myofibre™, is undenatured and has all of its functionality.” The highly consistent Myofibre can be used as an ingredient to bind other foods. It is also the raw material for jellification and fibration to formulate additional products.

Jellification is a cooking and forming process that produces a variety of new textures and shapes. Processors can control texture, weight and levels of various ingredients. Surimi products in the form of sticks can be achieved, as well as chicken nugget-type products, meat sticks, shreds and other shaped products.

Fibration technology employs high moisture extrusion cooking (HMEC) to produce long fibers that resemble muscle meats. The starting ingredients are high protein bases from animal or vegetable sources with protein levels of 50-90% total dry weight. Poultry, beef, pork and fish proteins may be used, as well as vegetable proteins from soy flour, concentrate or isolate, wheat gluten, pea protein or other vegetable sources. Other ingredients are added to the proteins to create the products, including starches, preservatives, flavors, colors, oils and vitamins.

Ingredients are mixed and metered to the twin screw extruder, at the heart of the fibration system. The extruder compresses the ingredient mass, plasticizes and forces it through the die where the proteinic melt is textured. The fiber texture is achieved by controlled cooling.

The HMEC system operates at 70-80% moisture levels and uses thermal more than mechanical energy to transform the proteins into fibers. Operating at temperatures greater than 121° C, the system produces commercially sterile products that can be aseptically packaged, frozen, canned or vacuum packed.

A Variety of Healthy Products

Fibers can be extruded longitudinally or in sheets, allowing the surface appearance to be smooth, rough, shiny, matte or marbled. Colors can be designed to resemble beef, chicken, pork or fish, in shapes such as ropes, cubes, flakes or patties. The flavors imparted are also diverse and include meat, fish, poultry, special recipes or ethnic specialties.

Product quality, shape, weight, flavor and texture are very consistent, which is a benefit for producers of entrees and other products. “With fibration technology, you can control the product size, weight and fat level, which is very important in making soups and meals where portion consistency is a goal,” says Maller. Clextral.