Newest meat substitute created from rice bran

Courtesy of Masanori Watanabe
Meat substitute made from protein extracted from defatted rice bran

YAMAGATA — Defatted rice bran often goes to waste due to having few practical applications, but a Japanese scientist and a machine maker have managed to turn the byproduct into a high protein food.

Yamagata University Prof. Masanori Watanabe and rice milling machine manufacturer Satake Corp. have announced that they have succeeded in producing a meat substitute using protein extracted from defatted rice bran. It is hoped that this technology will lead to a new source of income for farmers in the future.

Meat substitutes are made from soybeans and other plant-derived ingredients, which are processed to closely resemble real meat. It is thought such substitutes could provide a protein source to help stave off a food crisis caused by global population growth, and they are already attracting attention as a foodstuff for the health-conscious.

The defatted rice bran used in Prof. Watanabe’s project is the residue left over when rice oil is extracted from rice bran. It has few uses other than as livestock feed and is often discarded. Watanabe, who specializes in biofunction and bioprocess engineering, developed a technology to extract highly concentrated and nutritious protein from this defatted rice bran, and obtained a patent for it in 2015.

The meat substitute produced is close to real meat in appearance and tenderness, and the aroma and taste can be adjusted during the production process. The substitute can be produced from domestically grown ingredients and is not genetically modified, which could help it gain acceptance as a product that is safe to eat.

“The shift to an agriculture that produces white rice and protein will help promote a shift to profitable and sustainable rice cultivation,” Watanabe said at a press conference held at the university’s Kojirakawa Campus on Nov. 6.

The tenderness of the plant-based meat can be easily adjusted so that elderly people with a reduced appetite will find it easy to consume, he said.

“It will help prevent loss of muscle mass and extend people’s healthy life expectancy,” he said.