Out to pasture: could grass be the next must-have nutrient?

Researchers have created a grass protein product in a quest to find the next sustainable food.

31 January 2018
proteinsustainabilityNPD

The grass is actually greener for a bunch of Danish scientists. In a search to find something that can help feed the world’s growing population, the group settled on grass protein as a financially viable and sustainable ingredient for food manufacturers.

Researchers from the Technical University of Denmark have already created a nutrition bar. Containing up to 10% grass protein, there were (allegedly, we haven’t got our hands on one yet) no nasty tastes that caused people spit it out on first bite.

To achieve this, the scientists removed some of the grass taste and added aromatic ingredients such as peanut butter, honey, ginger and liquorice, which helped to camouflage the lawn-like taste.

So is this the next extreme in plant-based eating?

Grass grazing

Clean eating is still on everyone’s lips, and the idea is that grass grazing could be up the next evolution of this movement. Grass is cheap and easy to produce, but the protein from it has a similar amino acid profile to other alternatives such as soy, eggs and whey.

Researchers say the benefit of using grass over these more widely consumed proteins is it has a considerably smaller impact on the environment and climate.

They have also developed a method to extract the protein from the grass – using a screw press, which acts as a huge juicer. It separates raw grass into a fibrous, dry segment and a protein-containing liquid. The liquid is then treated to separate out the protein, before being dried into a powder.

So what’s next? Well, the Danes plan to remove even more flavour and colour from the protein powder and test its properties in a wide range of food products.

So does Sparkie think it’s a great idea or is it making him/her green around the gills?

 

Sparkie says:

The sustainability of the process is contingent on where the grass is grown, how it is harvested, whether anything more productive could be grown on that land, what the full process involves and the yield of protein powder.

My inclination would be that more than one of these will fall short or someone would already be doing this on a commercial scale, because protein extraction methods are nothing new – you could harvest the protein from almost anything.

The food industry has a strong preference for bland white proteins and they seem to be a long way away from that. Ultimately, when it comes to the protein market, the primary consumers rarely care about the source. The draw points will be the bioavailability of the protein and the amino acid profile. If the amino acid profile has no major advantages over other plant-based proteins, they would need to find another strong selling point – which I think they will struggle to do.

I think this is an example of research to see if it could be done, without stopping to think if it should be done.

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