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Forget pulled pork, Helsinki firm looks to export 'pulled oats'

A Finnish firm has developed a form of environmentally-friendly protein that’s made from oats, broad beans and peas. It looks like pulled pork and in blind tastings has fooled testers into thinking it’s actually meat.

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Oats: Food of the future? Image: Kari Mustonen / Yle

Pulled pork has become a restaurant and supermarket staple in recent years, but now it has a new and greener challenger. ‘Pulled oats’ are in development by Finnish firm Gold&Green Foods, which claims they’re a Nordic, environmentally-sound alternative to protein derived from animals.

The product is made from oats, broad beans and peas, all plants that grow easily in Finland. The maker’s goal is to produce something that can replace minced meat and chicken in everyday cooking.

Maija Itkonen from Gold&Green Foods says that the goal isn’t necessarily to produce a ‘fake meat’ product, but to produce something that’s more environmentally friendly from locally-sourced ingredients.

A vegan future?

Her goal is not without foundation: experts say that to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of feeding everyone on the planet properly by 2030, land currently devoted to livestock must instead be used to grow food to feed people. That means that for there to be less hunger in developing countries, people all over the world will have to eat less meat.

That’s not an impossible goal, by any means. Itkonen says that oats are difficult to handle because they don’t contain any gluten, but through heating and processing it can be given more texture.

In blind tastings, the product has even been mistaken for meat.

"The goal is an easy form for the busy home cook,” said Itkonen. “Pulled oats are easier than, for instance, minced meat because you don’t need to prepare them too much, just push them around a hot pan and that’s enough."

"The pulled oats don’t contain milk or eggs and they keep a lot longer than meat, so they’re a good emergency option for ‘vegetarian days’."

According to Itkonen, there’s a worldwide boom in oats and Finland might have an opportunity to join it. The crop grows well here and at present just 6-8 percent of all the oats grown in Finland are for human consumption.

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