Eating grass is not for ruminants only

Tuesday 29 Oct 19


Peter Ruhdal Jensen
Professor, Head of Research Group
National Food Institute
+45 20 85 56 01
The juice of grass contains protein, which—in its concentrated form—is a new ingredient with the potential to become an important alternative to the proteins that are derived from meat in particular. This is one of the ways the National Food Institute works to feed the growing world population where more and more people will need protein on their plates.

The composition of the world's population places new demands on the production of food. There are more and more of us, and many are getting richer and richer and want a different diet. As such, there is an increasing demand for proteins and thus, basically, for animal products. Therefore, we need alternative and better methods to produce proteins with a lower impact on the environment. This is where grass enters the picture.

Grass can taste like liquorice and peanut butter
"The ambition is that research from the National Food Institute can make the utilization of grass profitable. It must be able to compete with cheap products such as soya. It should be cheap to buy, offer good functionality in the foods, and it must be tasty. The idea is that we will eat many products based on grass. In particular, the market seems to be big among young consumers who, fortunately, pay great attention to the environment and sustainability."
Professor Peter Ruhdal Jensen

The National Food Institute together with AU Foulum have found a method to convert grass into an edible ingredient. The new ingredient has an amino acid composition that is equally as good as soy, egg and whey. However, production of grass protein has a significantly lower impact on the environment and the climate.

The National Food Institute has succeeded in making products such as protein bars with a grass protein content of up to 10%, without people disliking the taste. The taste of grass can be camouflaged by adding aromatic ingredients such as peanut butter, honey, ginger, and liquorice. 

New on the plate—and on the way to being approved by EFSA

The next step is ensuring that grass is safe to eat—and, as such, that it can be approved as a novel food by the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA.

In the so-called InnoGrass project, the National Food Institute is at the head of a study of the nutritional content of the grass protein as well as any unwanted substances such as toxins and allergens. The goal is to have the grass protein approved as food so that businesses can start using it in their own products.

Read more 

Read more about the National Food Institute’s research into grass as a source of protein in an article from the National Food Institute’s 60th anniversary publication: Eating grass is not for ruminants only.

The National Food Institute is celebrating its 60th birthday this year, as it was decided on June 5, 1959 to establish a national food institute in Denmark. The other articles from the anniversary publication will be published over the coming months.

You can also read the article: At the forefront of healthy, safe and sustainable food.

The National Food Institute develops new and better food products for a growing population

According to forecasts from the UN, the world population will grow by more than two billion people over the next decades so that the total world population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. At the same time, the middle class is growing, and more people are moving from the countryside to the cities.

As such, there will be more mouths to feed, and the demand for healthy and convenient foods is also increasing.

The UN estimates that in 2050 we must produce 70% more food than we do today to feed the world population. However, the current way of producing food will most likely not be able to meet this demand.

There is a need for research and innovation to find new sources of healthy, safe, and better foods and food components, and with lower environmental impact.

The National Food Institute’s vision is to make a difference by developing new and better food products for the growing population. The institute finds new raw materials and ingredients, assesses their nutritional content and the safety in using them – and develops technologies with which to produce them.

Foods must be healthy, safe and preferably also tasty.

Image: National Food Institute