While Americans have long begun to find plant-based alternatives for different types of food, it is not as easy for Malaysians to give up eating the juicy, succulent meat that they enjoy so much. In 2021, it was reported that Malaysia is among the top poultry meat consumers worldwide. Many scientists have proven that meat production has adverse effects on human health and the environment.
In a research study conducted by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ong Ghim Hock, Dr. Wong Kok Kee, and Sabrina Ling Shuet Yee from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at INTI International University, in collaboration with Dr. Loh Khye Er from Tunku Abdul Rahman University College’s Faculty of Applied Sciences, it was revealed that fungus can be an ideal choice to replace meat due to its high nutritional value and ability to reduce the effect of greenhouse emission.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ong Ghim Hock, Dr. Wong Kok Kee, and Sabrina Ling Shuet Yee from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at INTI International University in collaboration with Dr. Loh Khye Er from the Faculty of Applied Sciences at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College revealed in a study that fungus can be an ideal choice to replace meat due to its high nutritional value and ability to reduce the effects of greenhouse emission.
“Changing one’s diet can have a positive effect on the environment. It has become a popular trend for many individuals to choose plant-based diets and most become vegetarians. But due to a lack of awareness, Malaysians are still hesitant to cut out meat from their daily meal intake,” said Dr. Ong.
According to the study, a microbial protein from fungi is an excellent eco-friendly alternative that provides taste and texture like meat and barely has negative impact on the environment. It was found that nine fungal species namely Fusarium venenatum, Neurospora intermedia, Tuber sp. (edible truffles), Xerocomus badius,Ganoderma lucidum, Pleurotus eryngii, Agaricus bisporus, Pleurotus sajor-caju and Lentinula edodes werefiltered from the available literature. These fungi were found mostly in the market and demonstrate a high level of acceptance amongst customers.
When asked about how the fungus was evaluated, he said the nutritional value of potential fungus is the most significant as meat alternatives. This is mainly because humans’ minimum protein dietary intake is 1.0g per 1kg of body weight per day and the fungal species consist of higher protein value than the normal value of animal meat in the market. Other factors examined were also fungus toxicity and the growth rate of the nine species.
“The nine species of fungus are the least toxic and safest, so they are suitable as meat alternatives since they do not contain mycotoxins, and ingestion of them has no severe side effects,” he said, adding that the growth rate of fungus is fast as compared to animal meat.
Meat lovers should gradually switch to plant-based meals for the sake of their health and the environment.
The research titled ”Application of Fungi as Meat Alternatives in Food Industry” explained that the growth rate is crucial if it is to be used as a meat alternative due to a significant impact on the cost.
“Fungus with a slow growth rate will need more nutrients to accelerate the growth, resulting in an expensive cost, but the nine species identified had a growth rate faster than chicken and other poultry animals,” he added.
According to his research, the flavour and texture of fungus are as important because different tastes and textures between meat and alternative meats may cause consumers to lose faith in the market for fungi-based products.
“It is hoped that having a similar taste to common meat in the market will allow our people to have more options. Cutting meat consumption is difficult for some people but it benefits our planet and our health by changing our life choices,” concluded Dr. Ong.