It looks, feels and tastes like chicken, but it's made of soy

Feb 04, 2010
The goal with the University of Missouri research is to create a product that has the same stringy texture as chicken. Credit: Christian Basi/University of Missouri

Sure, some delicacies might taste just like chicken, but they usually feel and look much different. Soy meat alternatives, such as the soy burger, have become more popular recently, with increased sales of eight percent from 2007 to 2008. Now, scientists at the University of Missouri have created a soy substitute for chicken that is much like the real thing. The new soy chicken also has health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and maintaining healthy bones.

Fu-Hung Hsieh, an MU professor of and in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the College of Engineering, is leading the project to create a low-cost substitute for chicken. His research, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Illinois-Missouri Biotechnology Alliance, has led to a process that does more than just add color and flavor to soy. Hsieh has developed a process that makes the soy product simulate the fibrous qualities of a chicken breast.

"Early tests provided some of the fibrous texture to the final product, but it tasted more like turkey," Hsieh said. "In order to produce a more realistic product, we had to tweak the process and add extra fiber to give the soy a stringy feeling that tears into irregular, coarse fibers similar to chicken."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This video describes the process of taking a paste made primarily of soybeans and creating a product that looks and feels like chicken. Credit: Kent Faddis/University of Missouri Video Cooperative Group

To create the soy chicken, Hsieh starts with a soy protein extracted from soy flour. The soy then goes through an extrusion cooking process that uses water, heat and pressure while pushing the mixture through a cylinder with two augers.

"This particular soy substitute is different because we are working with a higher , which is up to 75 percent," Hsieh said. "The high moisture content is what gives the soy a very similar texture to chicken — in addition to the appearance."

Along with pleasing the senses, Hsieh's soy chicken provides health benefits for consumers. Soy foods contain important nutrition components, some of which help maintain healthy bones and prevent prostate, breast and colorectal cancers. Soy foods also are a good source of essential fatty acids and contain no cholesterol. The FDA has approved a claim that encourages 25 grams of in a daily diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol to help reduce cholesterol that is at or above moderately high levels.

Hsieh's research has been published in the Journal of Food and Agricultural Chemistry, Journal of Food Science, and Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. The next step in Hsieh's research will be to taste-test various texture combinations and make final refinements to the formula.

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User comments : 14

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baudrunner
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2010
"Early tests provided some of the fibrous texture to the final product, but it tasted more like turkey," Uhm... and how is that not a good thing?
BigTone
5 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2010
I'm going to continue to avoid soy until a study tells me the proper dosage of soy for a man not to have adverse effects of estrogen like chemicals in our system. Or that the estrogen like chemicals derived from digesting soy doesn't matter for some other reason i.e. absorption
pubwvj
2 / 5 (4) Feb 04, 2010
It still has the problem that it is from the lab/factory. I'll take real pastured chicken, pork and beef. Accept no fake substitutes.
brant
Feb 04, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
robbor
not rated yet Feb 04, 2010
These guys in the lab don't look like culinary wizards. I'll wait for the final word from Mario Batali.
Skepticus
3 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2010
"tastes like chicken" is totally misleading. Free-range chickens have tastes and textures completely different and superior to cage-raised intensive farming. Their smell and taste when cooked are species-distinct (many Asian species are yellow skinned, while most of the Western species are white), and superior to the caged variety. You can discern the tasty "crunchiness" of the fibers in the meat. The sensation is of that a mix of fine tendons, fatty threads and muscle fibers. In comparison, the meat fibers of intensive-farmed-cage-raised chicken when over-boiled/roasted disintegrated into a paste when firmly squeezed between the fingers, like well-soaked cardboard (and taste much on the same level). Too bad 99% of consumers never know what they missed, and what crap the poultry industry produced and heaped on their plates. They may raise record tonnage of protein in form of chicken meat in record time with hormones and antibiotics, but that's all they've achieved and nothing else.
GrayMouser
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2010
"Early tests provided some of the fibrous texture to the final product, but it tasted more like turkey," Uhm... and how is that not a good thing?

Well, I wouldn't feed it to growing kids, pregnant women, or anyone worrying about bone loss.
http://www.sfgate...e=health
http://www.weston...y-Alert/
http://www.articl...015.html
poi
1 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2010
@GrayMouser
Well, I wouldn't feed it to growing kids, pregnant women, or anyone worrying about bone loss.

uhm... then just do it as the Chinese do... for centuries...
SmartK8
1 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2010
There is still one problem thou. I can have a real chicken, that looks, feels, tastes, smells and more importantly IS a chicken.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2010
uhm... then just do it as the Chinese do... for centuries...

Because they're the pinacle of health aren't they.

The Chinese do not consume large amounts of soy. They use soy germ as a side dish, or a sauce component, not a main attraction.
Shootist
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 06, 2010
. . . Too bad 99% of consumers never know what they missed, . . .


Grew up on a farm. Had scratch chickens since the 1870s. Yard bird is yard bird, no matter where it is from.
Caliban
1 / 5 (3) Feb 06, 2010
The thing that I find amusing is that so many people are willing to go so far to make their vegetarian food resemble evil old meat- avoidance of which is the reason for going vegetarian in the first place. Just doesn't add up.
What is more worrisome here is that, if they are successful in manufacturing substitutes that are indistinguishable from the real thing, what's to stop them from substituting the fake and pocketing the difference?
Quantum_Conundrum
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 07, 2010
The thing that I find amusing is that so many people are willing to go so far to make their vegetarian food resemble evil old meat- avoidance of which is the reason for going vegetarian in the first place. Just doesn't add up.
What is more worrisome here is that, if they are successful in manufacturing substitutes that are indistinguishable from the real thing, what's to stop them from substituting the fake and pocketing the difference?


What, you mean like poultry companies already do? They sell you water by the pound at "meat" prices. Just look at your bird, "some water added".

You can also see this with canned vegetables and mushrooms. They claim x amount by volume, i.e. "4 ounces dry, etc", and yet, if you drain it you don't have anything.

Capitalist pigs.

Oh yeah, yard chicken is better, but been a long time since I had any.
derricka
not rated yet Feb 07, 2010
Many people are allergic to Soy, and I happen to be one of them. It's on the top ten list of most common food allergens. Until low allergen forms of Soy are commercially available, I will continue to avoid Soy products, even though I support the environmental benefits of lowered meat consumption.
rickconanan
Feb 08, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
dewittdale
not rated yet Feb 09, 2010
I made tempeh in 1976 from a free USDA sample of Rhizopus oligosporus, and pressure cooked raw soy beans. I was impressed how satisfyingly close it came to that sensory appeal of chicken. It helped to have conducted another mycological project at the time, thus sparing myself from wasting beans to contamination. I doubt the fungus complemented the singular amino deficiency in soy. Then I've not followed up on the trial. Lack of interest. Maybe. Maybe just laziness.