In recent news, a handful of researchers in Denmark are on a mission to make grass digestible for humans rather than having to go through cows first.
Yes, that’s right –– the grass that you maintain in your front lawn may very well be the next source of vegan protein, at least according to a handful of scientists at the Technical University of Denmark’s National Food Institute and Aarhus University in Denmark.
As it stands, grass is not very human-friendly, due to the extremely fibrous nature of it that causes it to be hard for humans to metabolize. However, the Denmark scientists are developing a method of collecting proteins (in the form of a powder) from grass matter, ryegrass in particular.
The great thing about the grass protein powder that results is that its amino acid profile is near-complete, comparing similarly to eggs, soy, and whey. However, the powder still retains a very bitter flavor, which the researchers are working to reduce. Once the taste is improved, however, the grass protein can be used in many applications.
As the researchers test and improve on this protein, one of the primary goals of their research is to make the grass protein profitable as well as useful. This is because the protein would naturally be competing with existing cheap plant-based proteins, such as soy and protein-rich vegetables. According to Peter Ruhdal Jense, a professor at DTU’s National Food Institute, the grass protein “should be cheap to buy, offer good functionality in foods, and it must be tasty”.
Before becoming a commercially available product, grass protein would need to be approved by the European Union as a safe ingredient for human consumption. In hopes of expediting that approval process, the Denmark scientists are performing further intensive research to provide as much information as possible. “The Institute contributes to us moving closer to a radical change in our eating habits—away from animal proteins that have an adverse impact on the environment and towards more sustainable alternatives,” Jensen told FoodnavigatorUSA.