Plant-based meat alternatives are not something new to us. We’ve all seen the meat free burgers, meat-free sausages, and even meat-free “steak like” items on the shelves of supermarkets but a true meat-free STEAK is something that still eludes us and is still considered the crown jewel for plant food advocates.
That may all about to change thanks to a startup company based in Slovenia. The firm is called Juicy Marbles and they claim to have produced the closest replication of a steak thus far created with their patented "Meat-O-Matic Grinder 9000” and no we’re not making that up, it’s really the work of their Wonka-esque machine that may be about to flip the plant-based steak world on its head.
Juicy Marbles stress that their plant meat is not supposed to be a replication of steak. It’s a standalone product that takes all of our favourite things about steak but produces them from plant matter.
The Meat-O-Matic 9000 doesn’t just press a blob of plant proteins into a vaguely steak like shape and it doesn’t even use the latest tech of “printing” the steak in a manner similar to a 3D printer. This machine works by layering plant protein fibres and stacking them up to mimic the muscle fibres in a steak. Its this groundbreaking process that produces the look, texture, and bite of a piece of beef.
It doesn’t end there though. You’ve seen the exquisite marbling on the “steak” in the image which wouldn’t look out of place on a piece of Prime or even Wagyu. While this marbling isn’t the traditional intramuscular fat and is actually produced with sunflower oil, the benefits of it are the same as fat marbling. It acts as a flavour booster, a haven for juiciness, and is the key to the long sought after meat-free steak.
Although only founded last year, Juicy Marbles is already looking like a serious contender in the huge meat alternatives market and its founders have the qualifications to make it. Food technologist Tilen Travnik, microbiologist Luka Sincek, and biotechnologist Maj Hrovat have pooled their years of experience into tackling the many problems we’re currently facing from our reliance on beef.
“Our food system’s current mode of operations cause environmental problems, health problems, and is failing its basic task of feeding humans properly. Not only from a nutritional aspect, but also in terms of distribution” Said co-founder Maj Hrovat
Juicy Marbles aims not only to tackle the problem of an overstretched biosphere but also the problem of distributing quality foods to some of the worlds poorest people and helping to solve the “injustices of the food system”
As just and as righteous as these causes are, there is also another factor that motivated the founders of Juicy Marbles into revolutionising plant free steak. The glaring gap in the market. We’ve all seen and tried the plant-based alternatives to your burgers, sausages, chicken nuggets etc but what’s always been missing is a plant replacement for steak. If you’ve got the tech, the experience, and the backing to make a plant-based steak then there’s little point in pumping out a rump.
No, with this sort of project you can only reach for the heights which is exactly what the team has done with their first steak replacement being the king of steaks. The filet mignon.
According to Juicy Marbles, the biggest challenge they faced was producing the proper fibre alignment and “marbling”. The best steaks in the world require a lot of energy and very rare and expensive cow breeds to achieve an ideal marbling.
“We were looking at existing technologies out there, like 3D printing, lab-grown meat and others, and found them to be too complicated, too slow, or had too many behavioural barriers. That’s why we developed our own original machine – lovingly called the Meat-o-Matic Reverse Grinder 9000 – which combines a couple of existing technologies, to which we have modified and added some of our own innovations,” Sincek explained.
“Essentially, we now have a machine that enables us full control over fibre alignment (texture), intramuscular fat structure (marbling), flavours, aromas, and other key meat parameters.”
The steak produced by Juicy Marbles is a seemingly simple mix of soy and wheat protein for the main mass, sunflower oil for the marbling, a selection of natural spice flavours, and finally a beetroot extract for its colour.
The Chefs Touch.
Food technologist Tilen Travnik explained that coming up with the ideal mix of ingredients was the result of numerous trial and error runs and rigorous testing. He referenced that Juicy Marbles was in a lucky position with numerous other companies doing groundbreaking work that has enabled his firm to get a running start in producing a steak like food and the addition of the Sunflower oil marbling is the real key to flavour.
As we steak lovers all know, the cooking process is as important to imparting flavour as the steak itself is. Juicy Marbles understands this as well and offers its product raw and unseasoned in contrast with the majority of plant-based meat analogues on shelves now.
“We can’t expect a necessary global diet shift towards plant-based without a wide variety of plant meats that will not only enable the continuation of culinary traditions but also enable a well-balanced and wholesome diet.” added Travnik.
Can It Save The World?
It’s no secret that the rate we are consuming meat right now in 2021 is causing devastation to the environment and is, as a whole, unsustainable in its current form.
While it’s not realistic that every human being eats on vegetables, we are in perhaps the golden age of plant-based food and Juicy Marbles aims to spearhead the movement with its fantastic offering.
As with almost all plant-based meat alternatives, the Juicy Marbles steak is a lot easier to produce and uses vastly fewer resources so it has a much smaller impact on the environment.
Is this the way forward to a sustainable ecosystem? Almost certainly and we’re incredibly excited to see the success of Juicy Marbles in the future.
“For every 100 soybeans fed to a cow, only three reach human bellies. We skip the cow.” - Juicy Marbles