- Researchers in Brazil and Spain found replacing up to 60% of pork back fat with a hydrogelled emulsion of chia and linseed oils results in low-fat burgers with unimpaired sensory quality and a healthier lipid profile. The study was published in the journal Meat Science.
- The research involved replacing pork back fat in burgers in different percentages up to 100%. A significant increase in lipid retention occurred, but no changes were observed in retained moisture, diameter or cooking loss — although hardness increased and significant color changes were seen, the scientists said.
- The study concluded that use of the chia and linseed oil emulsion could reduce animal fat, produce a healthier fatty acid profile and allow pork burgers to be labeled with health claims.
The findings of this study could be significant for pork producers looking for healthier labeling claims and marketing approaches for their products — and for consumers trying to limit animal fat in their diet.
More ingredient companies have been developing plant-based fat replacers for use in baked goods, confectionery, frozen dairy and desserts. Epogee Foods recently introduced a product made from non-GMO rapeseed oil that it claims can reduce fat calories by up to 92% without sacrificing taste, texture or appearance.
Chia seeds have attained superfood status due to their omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, protein and fiber, and they are appearing in more products than ever. Manufacturers of pork burgers could especially benefit from using chia oil, which has a healthy fat content. Linseeds also provide essential fatty acids, and their applications are extensive after being made into oil and flour.
Consumers might be more interested in eating pork burgers if some of the saturated fat content was replaced with an emulsion of healthier fats sourced from chia seeds and linseed. It's possible the combination could be applied to other products as well — perhaps ground beef made from high-fat cuts, for example. Should these items carry greater health claims as a result, sales could potentially boost them past the competition. Some individuals might get turned off by the hardness or major color changes in the product — characteristics researchers or food manufacturers might consider improving if the chia and linseed oil substitutes get more widely incorporated into pork burgers.
While the study didn't apply the chia and linseed oil emulsion to plant-based meat items, there may be uses in that segment as well if the meat-alternative products are drier than what consumers prefer.
Recent projections show plant-based protein and meat alternatives increasing from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion in 2030, so there could be a promising path to growth for companies taking that route.
Adding a chia and linseed oil emulsion also might add costs to the production of animal-derived and plant-based meat products, so that could be a consideration. But if their inclusion results in less-fatty options — whether in pork burgers or in other types — health-oriented consumers who eat meat may very well be intrigued enough to try them out even if they take a bigger bite out of their wallets.