Fu-hung Hsieh, professor of biological engineering and director of graduate studies at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Missouri, was honored at the Institute of Food Technologist’s Annual Meeting & Food Expo July 13-16 in Chicago.
Hsieh was recognized for developing a soy-based food product that is sold in grocery stores nationwide. A “Day in the Life of a Food Scientist” video about Hsieh and his work was shown during the Opening General Session.
IFT is the largest food science organization in the world. Its expo brings together professionals involved in both the science and the business of food — experts from industry, academia and government. More than 1,000 companies exhibit at the show that attracts 16,000-22,000 people from more than 75 countries.
Hsieh is the developer of a meat analogue marketed under the Beyond Meat brand name. The product mimics the taste and texture of a chicken breast, but is made from powdered soy. This soy chicken is aimed at the vegetarian market, but also offers meat eaters a healthy meal.
Soy provides important bio-active components, such as isoflavones, which help maintain healthy bones, and prevent prostate, breast and colorectal cancers. Soy foods are a good source of essential fatty acids and contain no cholesterol.
Eating soy protein may help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol and increasing the flexibility of blood vessels. The FDA has approved a health claim stating that “25 grams of soy protein in a daily diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol that is moderately high to high.”
Hsieh’s product not only replicates the taste of chicken, which is fairly easy to do, but mimics its fibrous texture and appearance, which is difficult. Hsieh has spent more than 20 years of research into the product which uses heat and an extruder to convert powdered soy into a product that tastes and feels like chicken breast meat.
A New Market
Meat alternatives are becoming an increasingly big part of the world’s diet. The Soyfoods Association of America says such meat substitutes are purchased by vegetarians, chefs wanting faster preparation time, people with food allergies or shoppers looking for a cheap source of high quality protein.
Hsieh’s research was licensed to Beyond Meat which opened a Columbia, Mo. factory to produce it. Hsieh is working on a new soy product that replicates the taste and eating experience of steak.
Prior to beginning his academic career, Hsieh was awarded several patents for his innovations in cereal and dried fruit while working as a senior research engineer for Quaker Oats Co. In addition to his work as a professor, Hsieh is a co-leader of the Food for the 21st Century Bioprocessing and Biosensing Center at the University of Missouri.
Hsieh has been an IFT Fellow since 2009. IFT has conferred the Fellow designation on a select number of Professional Members every year since 1970.