Spilling the Beans On Soy

By Lynn Petrak, special-projects editor

Can soy protein and animal protein co-exist peacefully? Proving that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive or, for that matter, competitive, two soy experts recently talked with The National Provisioner about the benefits of soy applications in meat and poultry products. What follows is our conversation with Nancy Chapman, executive director of Soyfoods Association of North America, and Charles Ross, marketing director, North America, for The Solae Company.
NP: What does soy protein add to meat and poultry products as an ingredient?
Chapman: Soy items with meat offer two different things: functionality and nutrition. One of the major benefits from a functional standpoint is the fact that soy protein retains water, so you end up with a product that is always moist. That is important, especially when you are looking at leaner products. From the nutritional side, clearly when you replace meat, you are replacing it with a product that is very low in saturated fat and, depending on if there is any oil in the product that you are substituting, you usually have a high polyunsaturated fatty acid profile instead of a saturated fat profile. Iron levels are pretty comparable, too.
Ross: Soy protein provides three primary benefits in meat applications: functional and economic; hold time/product quality; and nutrition. Soy proteins enhance product quality by improving moisture retention during all stages of distribution and during final preparation and, for marinades, improve yields and retention by preventing excessive drip loss after injection. Soy proteins help provide a superior finished product while controlling fat and caloric content.
NP: What are some of the most common applications for soy in meat products?
Chapman: There is a whole array of products. For example, anything that can be made from ground beef, like chili mix, sloppy joe mix or hamburger patties. There is also a variety of sausage products, including links, patties and frankfurters, and there are all kinds of entrees coming forward with meat alternatives that are quite interesting, either with a combination of animal and soy protein or 100 percent soy. They can be sold as just a patty or as something like a chicken-less chicken with noodles or a stew or chili.
Ross: Ground meats, hamburgers, meat filling, whole-muscle meats, frozen chicken (whole/bone-in), boneless, nuggets and patties and roast beef. Also, soy proteins enhance rotisserie and fried chicken.
NP: Are applications mostly for foodservice, or fairly equal with products sold in supermarkets?
Chapman: It’s pretty much across the board. But a menu may have one Boca® burger, for example, and put everything in it they want to, while a retailer would carry a lot of burger flavors.
Ross: Applications are predominantly sold in processed frozen foods for retail and institutional foodservice, such as schools, colleges and universities, correctional facilities, military bases, etc.
NP: What are the advantages for the food processor in using soy in meat applications?
Chapman: One thing about soy substitute is that it doesn’t spoil. Also, unlike meat, there is no shrink — when you get a soy protein product, you get exactly what that weight is. For example, a four-ounce hamburger patty may shrink to three ounces after cooking, but a product with soy is still four ounces, and you also get the full protein content. If people want to keep form and weight, soy helps food processors achieve that.
Ross: Soy protein offers food processors a variety of potential advantages. These include, but are not limited to, formula optimization, cost management, yield improvement, moisture retention and product quality improvement.
NP: What are the advantages for the consumer in using soy in meat applications?
Chapman: It used to be that the product was a cheap alternative (to meat). Now, people are looking at soy as a health enhancement. It is not like a medication, but soy is one of the only foods that can lower cholesterol, and that benefit has been realized by many consumers. Also, a lot of people use it because it has a long shelf life and it’s hard to distinguish the flavors from a meat. There is a way to process soy now to remove the indigestible fibers that tend to bring forward the grassy flavor.
Ross: Adding soy protein in meat applications doesn’t only benefit the processor. It extends to the end consumer. Some of the consumer advantages include juiciness of the product, product quality of reheat and all of the nutritional benefits associated with soy. In some cases, soy protein can allow a meat processor to reduce the amount of fat, calories and cholesterol in the final product.
NP: Do you have any additional comments on the benefits of soy in meat applications?
Chapman: The nice thing I see is the way that formulators are working on their new products — they can change the protein amount, the carbohydrate-protein mixture and all kinds of other things, like textures, flavors and other properties that individual product developers want. It’s really an exciting time.
Ross: The Solae Company has invented a versatile new generation of concepts, applications and ingredients that allow meat companies to produce a nutritious product with virtually the same exceptional taste and texture of traditional beef or chicken. It is a result of several years of closely guarded research and development at our company, and we consider it a game-changing innovation.