Watch out, beef? 4 proteins on the way 'in'

Watch out, beef? 4 proteins on the way 'in'

Institute of Food Technologists says algae, quinoa and pulses are becoming popular proteins

Watch out, beef? The Institute of Food Technologists says algae, quinoa and pulses are becoming more popular for consumers seeking alternative proteins.

The three were identified as the top alternative proteins in a presentation at an Institute of Food Technologists meeting in Chicago on July 12. IFT says the proteins could ultimately reduce food waste and help feed the world's growing population.

Algae is a new vegan source of protein with a comparable carbon footprint to existing vegan proteins, such as rice and soy, according to Beata Klamczynska, who leads food application development at Solazyme.

Institute of Food Technologists says algae, quinoa (pictured) and pulses are becoming popular proteins (Thinkstock)

Algae contains 63% protein, 15% fiber, 11% lipids, 4% carbohydrates, 4% micronutrients and 3% moisture, she said, and is easily digested and considered heart healthy. It's found in the ingredient lists of some protein shakes, crackers or bars, cereals, sauces, dressings and breads.

Related: Survey: Consumers Prefer Beef, Chicken as Protein Source

"There are thousands of algae strains to choose from for a variety of products," Klamczynska said.

Another protein alternative is quinoa, a "poor man's" crop grown in the High Andies Mountains of Bolivia and Peru.

"Quinoa is here to stay," said Laurie Scanlin. There are more than 1,400 quinoa products currently on the market. "It's a nutritious, sustainable food and protein source," she says.

According to Anusha Samaranayaka, scientist at POS Bio-Sciences in Saskatoon, Canada, pulses, also known as legumes, beans, chickpeas and lentils, are also high in protein and cover all the foodie trends of today: vegetarian, gluten-free, non-allergenic, non-GMO.

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Bugs, too?

While plant-derived proteins are getting more popular, IFT says, bugs also could be a protein source that doesn't require much area to raise.

"We have 7 billion people now and that's projected to be 9 billion in 2050. We're already using a third of the land on Earth for raising livestock, and the demand for protein is growing even faster than the population, especially animal protein," said Aaron Dossey, Ph.D., founder of All Things Bugs LLC.

"The good news is I think insects are a very nutritional alternative."

Dossey's company, which will produce about 25,000 pounds of cricket powder this year, has received research grants for several projects related to using insects as food, including how it can alleviate childhood malnutrition.

He says insects are efficient, can reduce GHGs, reproduce quickly, are biodiverse and contain protein as well as Omega 3s.

Despite the idea that bugs are a decent protein alternative, George Ziobro, Ph.D., of the U.S. FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said FDA's requirements indicate that all food be clean, manufactured under sanitary conditions and properly labeled.

Related: Beef checkoff presents protein info to dietitians

n the case of insects used in food manufacturing, that means they must be raised specifically to be used as human food, not simply taken from the outdoors, because of the risk of disease or pesticides.

"We all eat insects or insect parts. In most cases, it is accidentally," Ziobro said. "The FDA restricts the sale of insect-infested or insect-damaged foods. The vast majority of people don't want to see part of their breakfast walk off the plate."

So maybe alternative proteins are taking a swing at traditional meat-based protein, but it could be a while before they take hold.

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