WARF: P160349US02

Improving Storage Life of Meat Substitutes


Mark Richards, Nantawat Tatiyaborworntham, Mark Hargrove, Wenjing Zhang, Jie Yin

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing new methods for preserving meat substitutes. Natural, plant heme-stabilizing agents are used to reduce spoilage and help products retain palatable coloring for up to 9 days longer in refrigeration than untreated products.
OVERVIEWMeat substitutes or analogs are designed to mimic certain qualities (e.g., texture, flavor and appearance) and/or chemical characteristics of specific types of meat. The market share of meat analogs has grown in recent years and continues to increase.

For all types of food, preservation is a complicated process that requires both a means of preventing microbial contamination and a means of preventing the development of off-colors or off-flavors, rendering the food unpalatable. Indeed, off-odor and off-flavor development during refrigeration and frozen storage is a major obstacle to consumer acceptance. Off-coloring of meat analogs is a particular problem that has not been adequately resolved.
THE INVENTIONUW–Madison researchers have developed the use of certain natural substances to prevent oxidation of plant hemoglobin (Hb) and prolong the shelf life of meat substitutes. Their method includes specific concentrations of small molecules that react with plant heme proteins to reduce spoilage.

For example, the selected small molecule fits in the distal heme pocket of the plant Hb and will bind to the iron atom of the heme moiety. This results in better color stability and allows the meat analog to retain a red color mimicking raw hamburger. This binding to the heme-iron will also likely prevent oxidation of lipids, thereby protecting the flavor of the product during refrigerated and frozen storage.
  • Any food product that uses plant hemoglobin for red coloring could benefit from this innovation
  • Prolonged shelf life, color and palatability of meat substitutes
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENTPreliminary data shows that as little as 2.5 mmol/kg of small molecule allows meat analog to retain a pink-red color for four days. Since there is ˜150 μmol plant heme protein/kg meat (wet weight), as little as 150 μmol small molecule/kg meat (wet weight) should protect color. Treated meat analogs retain red color and/or remain palatable at 4 degrees Celsius for up to 9 days beyond the date upon which untreated products would brown and/or become unpalatable.

The development of this technology was supported by the WARF Accelerator Program. The Accelerator Program selects WARF’s most commercially promising technologies and provides expert assistance and funding to enable achievement of commercially significant milestones. WARF believes that these technologies are especially attractive opportunities for licensing.
For More Information About the Inventors
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Emily Bauer at or 608-960-9842.
The WARF Advantage

Since its founding in 1925 as the patenting and licensing organization for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, WARF has been working with business and industry to transform university research into products that benefit society. WARF intellectual property managers and licensing staff members are leaders in the field of university-based technology transfer. They are familiar with the intricacies of patenting, have worked with researchers in relevant disciplines, understand industries and markets, and have negotiated innovative licensing strategies to meet the individual needs of business clients.