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Unlocking the Potential of Plant-Based Meat: A Collaboration Between UAEU and NUS

Unlocking the Potential of Plant-Based Meat: A Collaboration Between UAEU and NUS

Mon, 10 June 2024
United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) - Top Universities in Middle East


In a groundbreaking effort to revolutionize the food industry, researchers from United Arab Emirates University and the National University of Singapore have joined forces to spearhead the development of plant-based meat substitutes with the goal of establishing a sustainable food system in the UAE.

The market for plant-based meat alternatives is a rapidly growing and highly dynamic sector within the food industry. The term "meat substitutes" or "plant-based meats" refers to products that are specifically designed to emulate the flavor, texture, and nutritional content of traditional animal-based meat– while utilizing plant-based ingredients. Such products are a viable solution for environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and can act as healthy food choices.

With an aim to formulate sustainable food system in UAE, a research team led by Prof. Sajid Maqsood at the United Arab Emirates University is exploring novel plant-based protein sources to incorporate into meat substitutes that can mimic the texture, taste, and nutritional value of real meat. The team is investigating various techniques and approaches to produce meat analogs that can mimic real meat. In addition, the team is also considering the development of a gluten-free meat analog that can be a good alternative for those with gluten intolerance issues. All these products are studied at the molecular level where the interactions of various molecules are mapped using advanced techniques. Focus is also to utilize locally available ingredients or food by-products as functional ingredient in meat analogue formulation.

Interestingly, plant-based meat analogs' digestibility in terms of plant-based sources is a big concern in society. According to Prof. Sajid, the team is simultaneously investigating the digestive profile while developing the meat analogs and tailoring the composition to improve digestion. Inspired by the positive responses from a previous survey conducted by the team with the native Emirati population on substituting real meat with plant-based meat, the team is unravelling the novel protein sources and utilizing them in formulating meat analogs. “Producing meat analogs from novel and under-utilized plant sources fulfils and aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN’s-SDGs) in terms of ethics, food security, and sustainability for the UAE and region” says Prof. Sajid. Keeping in view the diverse and multinational population residing in UAE, there will be good demand for plant-based meat analogues in UAE, if the products formulated will be attractive enough to activate the taste buds of the consumers. The team will continue to work on this niche and aspires to partner with potential industries to contribute to the plant-based food industry’s evolution in UAE and the region. This research is currently being pursued in collaboration with the research lab of Prof. Weibiao Zhou from the Department of Food Science and Technology, National University of Singapore (NUS). Prof. Zhou has been working on food processing & engineering for 30 years and his group has been exploring sustainable food production options using plant- based proteins. Prof. Zhou’s department at NUS have been working on plant-based meat, fish and egg using 3D-printing and more recently, extrusion has been used to produce fibrous meat analogs. He has published more than 300 research publication and secured and conducted 40+ research grants in Australia and Singapore. His H-index is 52 (Scopus-based) and was listed in Top 2% scientist list released by Stanford University (2020-23). Prof. Sajid Maqsood has established an active research program at Food Science Department, UAE University which focuses on alternative proteins (plant-based proteins, plant-based meat analogues etc) and sustainable means of food processing is being carried out. He has recently received grants on plant-based proteins and meat analogue and food waste Valorization where intensive research on Food sustainability related issues is being carried out. He is leading an active research group in Food Science Department of UAE University with multidisciplinary collaboration within UAE and abroad. His h-index is 43 and has published over 160 publications and edited 5 book and several book chapters. He has received several awards for his research at UAEU and was listed in Top 2% scientist list released by Stanford University (2020-23).

United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) - Best University in Abu Dhabi, UAE


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