Binding Together - PulseResearch
April 25, 2017
Research tests pulses as meat binders in commercial food products
As we see more and more consumer demand for healthier food options made with plant-based protein sources and gluten-free ingredients, the opportunities for pulses as ingredients in commercial food products continue to grow.
One opportunity is in the use of binders, which are used in processed meats to hold ingredients together while also enhancing the juiciness and texture of the product, making it thicker. Binders are commonly made with soy, wheat, and dairy products, so pulses offer the potential to serve as a nutritious alternative as they are naturally gluten-free, act as meat extenders, and are high in protein and carbohydrates.
The idea of pulse binders is a relatively new concept to the commercial food industry and is an area in which the industry lacks knowledge of how to best use pulses. Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) funded research, led by Dr. Phyllis Shand, Professor and Head of the Food and Bioproduct Sciences Department at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), aims to fill that knowledge gap. Dr. Shand’s research will build scientific knowledge on why and how to use pulses as consumer-friendly binders in commercial meat products and will then share this information with commercial food partners.
“The ultimate goal of this research is to showcase the commercial possibilities for this ingredient and encourage consumers to consider lentils and other pulses as part of their healthy diet,” Dr. Shand says.
In the first part of the study, now complete, Dr. Shand and her collaborators evaluated a variety of pulse flour options to determine which would work best as binders and colour stabilizers in two types of processed meats, beef patties and low-fat bologna. The pulse flours were evaluated for characteristics that best predicted how they would perform in food systems, including their composition, emulsifying abilities, lipid-water holding capacities, colour, and gelatinization/pasting properties. The research team also experimented with using a variety of infrared thermal heat-moisture treatments (micronization) on the pulse flours to determine the best process for improving their beneficial properties and inactivating detrimental enzymes. Finally, consumer evaluation panels were run at the U of S and University of Manitoba on the final prototype products to determine the attractiveness of the final product from a marketing perspective.
Results showed that micronized lentil and chickpea flours were the best candidates as ingredients in processed meat products, as a binder and colour stabilizer, and as a healthy, low-fat, and gluten-free alternative to traditional binders. Most importantly, the products made with lentil and chickpea flours also appealed to consumers in panel evaluations. “We consistently observed that consumers liked the taste and texture of low-fat beef burgers with added micronized lentil and chickpea flours and rated them at least as high as burgers containing toasted wheat crumb as a binder, which is commonly used in Canada,” Dr. Shand says. “In addition, adding pulses likely would raise the ‘healthy quotient’ of burgers in the eyes of the consumer, as over 75 per cent of consumers in an earlier study considered lentils to be a good source of nutrition.”
The next stage of this research, which will be carried out in 2015, aims to increase the use of pulse ingredients internationally. In order to facilitate this, Dr. Shand and her team are developing prototypes of lentil-enhanced consumer products designed for international markets, including frozen burgers, meat or fish balls, and various sausages. These products will be tested locally, and then in different regions chosen for the research.
“Once we confirm the region for our consumer trial, we will use local consumers to help us fine-tune the regional meat, poultry, or fish products that will be developed as a platform to introduce this concept to that region,” Dr. Shand says. “Then we will explore consumer responses there to help open up these new markets.”
Once this research is complete, the outcome will have several effects on the pulse industry in Saskatchewan. At a local level, an increased demand for high-value, lentil-based ingredients in commercial food products means an increased demand for Saskatchewan-grown lentils and for value-added products from our province. “But the success of the project will be measured more tangibly in the form of new pulse-based food products on the market,” says Dr. Shand, She is confident this will happen, as her team has been in touch with several food companies to share results of the research. Although she is not at liberty to say which companies specifically, due to client confidentiality, some major Canadian meat companies and food ingredient suppliers are currently doing pre-market evaluations on products containing micronized lentil flour. “We are eagerly awaiting the first commercial release of these products on the market,” she says.
SPG Investment: $19,818
Co-Funders: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and InfraReady Foods Ltd. (collectively $188,912)
Project Lead: Dr. Phyllis Shand, Professor and Department Head, Food & Bioproduct Sciences, University of Saskatchewan