“人造蛋白”何时走上餐桌?

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国家发改委近日印发《“十四五”生物经济发展规划》,提到“发展合成生物学技术,探索研发‘人造蛋白’等新型食品”。消息一出,不少网友感到好奇:“人造蛋白”食品能吃吗?好吃吗?何时能吃到?

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蛋白质被誉为“生命的基础”,有生命的地方就有蛋白质,是人类食物中最重要的营养素。现有的人造蛋白食品依据其蛋白质来源,主要分为三类:植物蛋白食品、微生物蛋白食品、动物细胞培养肉。第一类以大豆、豌豆、小麦等植物蛋白为原料开发,制成肉、蛋、奶等制品。第二类通过酵母菌等微生物发酵合成蛋白,效率是传统养殖业的上千倍。第三类通过干细胞技术,采用牛、鸡等动物的细胞培养,获得细胞培养肉。

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“能吃吗”涉及食品安全。

传统肉制品生产存在的食品安全风险主要有动物养殖过程中的疫病传播、过量使用抗生素等。上述三类人造蛋白食品均不需要养殖完整的活体动物,从生产方式上规避了这些风险。当然,其他风险也需要警惕,比如植物肉常常过度加工,味道不够酱料来凑,盐分高,对心血管健康不利。但总体来说,只要遵照相关食品标准进行生产,“人造肉”安全性是可控的。

“好吃吗”关系营养风味。

目前超市里能买到的“人造肉”主要是“植物肉”。有人问,这不就是传统美食吗?确实,中国人用豆制品做素鸡素鹅历史悠久。但与动物肉相比,植物肉缺乏维生素B12、n-3多不饱和脂肪酸、铁、锌等营养素。现代工业化生产的植物肉制品,会添入合成生物学技术生产的品质提升关键物质,如血红蛋白、谷氨酰胺转氨酶、维生素等,还会通过物理加工方式改变植物蛋白的球状结构,制造出类似真实肉纤维的拉丝蛋白,让植物肉具有动物肉的质感、咀嚼感和香味。而微生物发酵蛋白和动物细胞培养肉在营养方面更有优势,比如酵母蛋白含有全部必需氨基酸,属于全价蛋白,能够满足人体的营养需求。

“何时能吃到”取决于生产成本。

研发“人造蛋白”新型食品,主要出于可持续发展的考虑。利用植物、微生物以及动物细胞培养,以工厂方式大量生产高品质蛋白,能够显著减少土地资源依赖和碳排放,降低传统养殖业带来的环境资源压力。理论上讲,产量高和资源消耗少,意味着生产成本低,人造蛋白食品应该做到质优价廉才能被大众广泛接受。不过,目前国际上三类人造蛋白食品的价格都比传统同类食品贵,其中细胞培养肉最昂贵。这说明,人造蛋白食品的生产技术还有很大的研发改进空间。

我国合成生物学研究主要集中在医药和化学品生产领域,食品领域合成生物学的基础和应用研究起步相对较晚,但也取得了一些可喜成果。去年,中国科研团队就在国际上首次实现了从一氧化碳到蛋白质的一步工业化生物合成,且已形成万吨级生产能力,生产出的乙醇梭菌蛋白可以做养殖业的饲料原料。

总之,我们期待中国发展出大规模、低成本、可持续、高质量的蛋白生产方式。不仅要在数量上保障国家食物安全,也要在质量上提升功能与营养,让人造蛋白食品安全又营养、好吃又便宜,满足人民群众对美好生活的需求。

Protein is known as the "foundation of life". Where there is life, there is protein, which is the most important nutrient in human food. According to the source of protein, the existing artificial protein food is mainly divided into three categories: plant protein food, microbial protein food and animal cell culture meat. The first kind uses soybean, pea, wheat and other plant proteins as raw materials to make meat, eggs, milk and other products. The second kind of protein is synthesized by microorganism such as yeast, which is thousands of times more efficient than traditional aquaculture. The third kind uses stem cell technology, using the cell culture of cattle, chicken and other animals to obtain cell culture meat.

"can I eat?" involves food safety.

The main food safety risks in traditional meat production are the spread of epidemic disease in the process of animal breeding, excessive use of antibiotics and so on. The above three types of artificial protein foods do not need to raise complete live animals, which avoids these risks from the mode of production. Of course, other risks also need to be wary of, such as plant meat is often overprocessed, does not taste enough sauce to make up, and is high in salt, which is bad for cardiovascular health. But generally speaking, the safety of "artificial meat" can be controlled as long as it is produced in accordance with the relevant food standards.

"is it good?" is related to nutritional flavor.

At present, the "artificial meat" that can be bought in the supermarket is mainly "plant meat". Some people ask, isn't this traditional food? Indeed, the Chinese have a long history of making vegetarian chicken geese with bean products. But compared with animal meat, plant meat lacks vitamin B12, nMel 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, iron, zinc and other nutrients. Modern industrial production of plant meat products, will add synthetic biological technology to improve the quality of key substances, such as hemoglobin, glutamine transaminase, vitamins, etc., but also through physical processing to change the spherical structure of plant protein, to produce silk drawing protein similar to real meat fiber, so that plant meat has the texture, chewiness and flavor of animal meat. Microbial fermented protein and animal cell cultured meat have more advantages in nutrition, such as yeast protein contains all essential amino acids, belongs to full-valent protein, can meet the nutritional needs of the human body.

"when to get it" depends on the cost of production.

The research and development of "artificial protein" new food is mainly for the consideration of sustainable development. The mass production of high-quality protein by plant, microorganism and animal cell culture can significantly reduce land resource dependence and carbon emissions, and reduce the pressure of environmental resources brought by traditional aquaculture. In theory, high output and low resource consumption mean low production cost, and artificial protein food should be of high quality and low price in order to be widely accepted by the public. However, at present, the prices of three types of artificial protein foods in the world are more expensive than those of traditional similar foods, among which cell culture meat is the most expensive. This shows that there is still a lot of room for research and improvement in the production technology of artificial protein food.

The research of synthetic biology in China is mainly concentrated in the field of medicine and chemical production, the basic and applied research of synthetic biology in food field started relatively late, but also achieved some gratifying results. Last year, the Chinese scientific research team achieved one-step industrial biosynthesis from carbon monoxide to protein for the first time in the world, and has a production capacity of 10,000 tons, and the produced Clostridium ethanolum protein can be used as feed raw material for the aquaculture industry.

In short, we look forward to the development of large-scale, low-cost, sustainable and high-quality protein production in China. It is necessary not only to ensure national food safety in terms of quantity, but also to improve function and nutrition in quality, so as to make artificial protein food safe, nutritious, tasty and cheap, so as to meet the needs of the people for a better life.

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