Textured Soy Protein Offers Processors Cost-Effective Way To Compete In School Lunch Market

Tom Katen Cargill
Tom Katen
Technical Service Specialist

With nearly 5.5 billion school lunches served each year, these midday meals are an opportunity to make a big impact on childhood nutrition.

Never before has so much attention been paid to school lunches. In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised the guidelines for the National School Lunch Program, calling for more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk, in addition to limits on sodium, calories, saturated fat, and trans fat.

If your company is searching for ways to cost-effectively compete in the new school lunch market with meat products, textured soy protein is one way to do it. Versatile and packed with protein, soy can make meat go further and meet school lunch program credit requirements.

Beef prices have soared due to fewer cattle being raised and high production costs. Likewise, chicken, pork and turkey prices have risen due to increasing input costs. Fortunately, soy is affordable and available. Cargill has a soy protein plant in the United States and relationships with farmers around the world.

For example, Cargill combined Prosante® textured soy flour and Prolia® defatted soy flour with beef in its mini-beef patty on a whole-grain bun prototype, which debuted at July's IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Las Vegas. The soy flours are 50% protein, and Prosante improves the texture of lean meat products. With their kid-friendly size and juicy texture, it's easy to forget that these 2-ounce cooked patties are reduced in fat at 5 grams per serving compared to 10 grams in a traditional 2-ounce hamburger. The buns have 7 grams of whole grain per 28-gram bun made from MaizeWise® 100% whole-grain corn and WheatSelect® 100% white whole-wheat flour.

That's just one example of how food manufacturers can answer demand for kid-friendly, cost-effective reduced-fat products. Not only does textured soy protein make meat go further, it controls cost per serving when it is enhanced with the Accubind® modified starch, soy flour and citric acid stabilizer system, as in the mini-beef patties. Accubind retains water and fat to give higher cook yields.

Consistent and functional, textured soy protein offers a pleasing texture, builds viscosity, manages water and oil and ensures proper gelling. Textured soy protein chews, tastes, and feels like meat but is less expensive than fresh meat and soy protein isolate.

Food manufacturers look to us to help overcome meat formulation challenges because we have a holistic view of the industry as one of the large meat producers and ingredient suppliers in North America. We can even suggest "swing meat formulas" for use during times of high demand for a particular meat protein, as well as ways to reduce yield loss.

Lunch should be something kids look forward to. With Cargill's textured soy protein backed by our technical expertise, it can be good for them, too.

Tom Katen is a technical service specialist with Cargill. He has been with the company for the last 9 of his more than 25 years in the industry.