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CSIRO’s Aarti Tobin: Innovating the future of protein

Dr Aarti Tobin’s Future Protein Mission is inventing creative ways to enhance the value of meat, hoping to tackle challenges such as malnutrition and sustainability

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At Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, Dr Aarti Tobin, with her decades of expertise in food technology, stands at the forefront of a revolution.

Her mission: to reinvent the way we think about protein, to bridge the gap between tradition and innovation, and to ensure that no one, regardless of age or circumstance, goes without essential nutrition.

“The way in which food is consumed is changing,” Dr Tobin, animal protein lead for CSIRO’s Future Protein Mission, remarks. “Sitting down to three meals a day is no longer the norm. People want food on the go, but they also want convenient food to be healthy.”

Inspired by this evolving landscape, she embarked on a mission to create Just Meat protein powder, a groundbreaking product with the potential to reshape the food industry.

Just Meat; Aarti Tobin
Tobin is on a mission to revolutionise protein food tech for sustainibility (Source: CSIRO)

The Future Protein Mission aims to maximize the potential of existing protein sources such as meat, plants, and fish, while also exploring innovative alternatives to complement them.

“Protein is an essential macro-nutrient. And while there are plenty of protein powders on the market already – from pea to whey and rice proteins – there’s a gap in the market that Just Meat is set to fill,” says Dr Tobin.

Dr Aarti Tobin’s Just Meat protein powder represents a paradigm shift in protein consumption. Derived from lower-value parts of the carcass through a meticulous hydrolysis process, this innovative powder offers a nutritional powerhouse unlike any other.

“We call this ‘manufacturing grade’ meat that is used to make burgers or mince, for example. By turning this meat into a nutritious, high quality protein powder we can add value to the red meat sector,” Dr Tobin explains.

Protein Balls developed by Dr.Tobin (Source: CSIRO)

Beyond its nutritional benefits, Just Meat protein powder holds the promise of global impact.  “It provides consumers with an allergen-free protein option,” Dr Tobin notes. “It could also support food security by taking red meat’s nutritional benefits to situations where refrigeration and transportation is challenging, such as very remote locations or in disaster relief.”

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) is an investor and collaborator in the product’s development.  MLA Group Manager Science and Innovation, Michael Lee said the versatility of Just Meat is demonstrated its potential to capitalise on market demand for red meat globally.

Amidst a surging global population and evolving dietary preferences, there’s a rising demand for convenient and nutritious food options. Recognising this trend, Lee highlights the potential of innovative products like meat protein powder to meet these needs effectively. Offering a shelf-stable, easily transportable, and versatile protein source, this groundbreaking creation transforms meat into a valuable food ingredient. Beyond its nutritional benefits, the emergence of meat protein powder opens up new revenue streams for the industry, diversifying beyond traditional meat trading avenues.

As concerns over additives and processing methods loom large, Dr Tobin emphasises CSIRO‘s commitment to transparency, safety, and ethical sourcing.

“The meat in Just Meat is sourced from the Australian red meat sector and hydrolysed into a shelf-stable powder, so there are no additives in it. The nutrients, such as proteins, minerals and amino acids, remain in the powder. We factor in consumer demand for ethical, sustainable and healthy products when we develop new ingredients and product ideas,” she assures.

In a world witnessing a surge in plant-based diets and alternative protein sources, Dr Tobin remains steadfast in her mission. “Each protein powder has its own advantages,” she acknowledges. “CSIRO is working on a suite of different powder options from meat to plants. One of the advantages of Just Meat is that it contains naturally-occurring amino acids and micronutrients, so the product doesn’t require fortification to achieve that. It also provides an allergen-free option for consumers with a dairy or soy intolerance, for example.”

But Dr Tobin’s work is far from over. “We’re looking at new protein products to meet changing consumer preferences, and which will play a big role in feeding a growing world population that’s set to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Innovation like this is crucial because we need to produce more protein, from more sources, sustainably to meet a growing world population,” Aarti said.

Looking ahead, Aarti Tobin envisions Just Meat as a catalyst for growth in Australia’s red meat industry. The powder has the potential to grow Australia’s $75.4 billion red meat industry, by capturing more value from a greater percentage of the carcase.  “Our Protein Roadmap estimates that targeting the health and wellness market could add $3.8 billion in value to the sector by 2030,” she reveals. “It’s a valuable opportunity for Australia to lead the way in protein innovation and meet the demands of a rapidly growing world population.”

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Mamta Sharma
Mamta Sharma
Mamta Sharma is a freelance journalist committed to sharing stories of diversity, inclusion, and equity, alongside narratives on leadership, entrepreneurship, start-up innovation, and wellbeing.

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