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Organic Plant Protein

New research conducted by Aarhus University reveals the potential of Danish-sourced plant protein

A study from Aarhus University investigating the digestibility of RuBisCO, the primary protein found in the leguminous plant alfalfa presents promising results. Even at low purities the protein is viable as a locally produced plant protein for food.

Ensuring accessibility, affordability, nutritional value, and sustainability of protein is paramount for human nutrition. However, scholarly studies indicate significant challenges in meeting the protein requirements of a projected global population of 10 billion by 2050. Current consumption patterns, particularly resembling diets in North America and Europe, are unsustainable if aligned with the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the targets set in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

The exploration for new protein sources has led researchers to investigate green leafy leguminous plants, with alfalfa emerging as a promising option. As a perennial, locally grown, and sustainable protein source that can be harvested multiple times a year, the hard-to-pronounce plant alfalfa holds potential significance.

Researchers from Aarhus University’s Department of Food Science examined the digestibility of RuBisCO protein from alfalfa at various purities to delve into its potential as a new protein source. “My hypothesis was that the less refined proteins would have lower digestibility,” notes Hart Tanambell, who spearheaded the experiments, in an interview with Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture.

Despite variations in processing methods and refinement levels, the digestion of RuBisCO from alfalfa seemed unaffected by these factors. These findings are crucial as the composition of essential amino acids in RuBisCO surpasses that of soy protein, which Europe imports millions of tons annually for feed and food purposes.

“This is an initial demonstration of the high quality of this protein, given its excellent composition of essential amino acids and in vitro digestibility. It potentially positions it as a superior protein source in Denmark compared to soy,” Tanambell concludes.

Several Danish companies are already working with plant-based protein production in innovative ways.

Unibio, a Danish protein company, has pioneered a technology capable of generating nearly boundless quantities of protein through fermentation, mimicking a natural process occurring daily.

This fermentation process yields Uniprotein®, a densely concentrated and nutrient-rich protein suitable for direct inclusion in pet food as well as animal and fish diets. Uniprotein® is authorized as feed for animals, aquaculture, and pet food within the EU, and efforts are currently underway to adapt it for human consumption.

Read more about Unibio: A new way of making unlimited protein-based feed.

Another case of innovation in plant-based protein production is Organic Plant Protein. This Denmark-based company produces organic, textured plant proteins from peas and faba beans sold to retail and foodservice, as well as used as an ingredient by food manufacturers. In order not to compromise on the organic principles, Organic Plant Protein has as one of the first in the world been able to extrude plant protein without the use of isolates.

Read more about Organic Plant Protein: Clean-Label Organic Plant Protein.



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