The main raw material for the product is cashew bagasse, discarded by juice and mashed fruit industries, which is sold or simply donated to animal feed factories.
The hamburger is still in its testing phase and should reach the market in the month of December. It is turned to the vegetarian market – the idea is to compete with the soy hamburger, although it should cost much less.
A group of students at the Animal Husbandry and Food Engineering College at the University of São Paulo (USP), in the city of Pirassununga, in the interior of the state of São Paulo, developed the cashew hamburger.
According to Rubem Fernando dos Anjos, who participated in the project, the hamburger is rich in fibre and has a high nutritive value. "The flavor still needs improving, but it brings to mind the taste of shrimp," he explained.
The students started working on the product six months ago, for their end of course project in the Project Planning discipline. The challenge was to establish a company and develop a new product.
"We wanted to work with industrial waste," explained Fernando dos Anjos. After some research, the students arrived at cashew processing industries. "Cashew nuts are exported, the pulp is used for juice and the fiber is discarded, generally used by the animal feed industry," he said.
But as Brazil has its peculiarities, the students discovered that in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará, which has over 50% of the Brazilian cashew nut production, families used the fiber discarded by local industries to make sweets.
That was when they elected cashew for the development of an alternative hamburger recipe. As the project forecasted the establishment of a company that would make possible future partnerships and guarantee the continuation of research, they established Cajubrás and the cashew hamburger.
The production process, according to Fernando dos Anjos, is similar to that of normal hamburgers. "The fibres, after being discarded, are cooled and then undergo a whitening process, in which the bagasse is cooked in water to eliminate the strong smell and possible micro-organisms that may be found in the fruit," he explained. The objective is to stop the action of cashew enzymes, which cause oxidation and the darkening of the fibres.
After the whole of the preparation of the fibres, comes the recipe. The hamburger is made with at least 60% cashew fibre, plus cheese, isolated soy protein, condiments and water. According to Fernando dos Anjos, although the taste is similar to that of shrimp, there is still an aftertaste that must be lightened.
"It must be improved, I am testing other formulas, more additives, but those who tasted the product, liked it," explained the researcher. Another of the group’s challenges was the consistency. "When placed in a frying pan, the cashew hamburger lost a little of its shape, not being totally faithful, but that should not be hard to solve," explained Fernando dos Anjos.
One of the advantages of the product is that it will go on the market at a cheap price. "It will compete with the soy hamburgers that are called light, as it is natural, but it will cost what cattle beef or chicken hamburgers cost, around 5 reais (US$ 2,33 at current exchange rates) per box with 12 units," stated Fernando dos Anjos.
Soy hamburgers cost around 10 reais (US$ 4,66). One of the reasons is the low production cost. "The raw material is a residue, industrial waste, so, even if companies decide to sell the input, to price it, the value will not be the same as that of soy, for example, and production will not be so expensive," believes the researcher.
Production in Brazil
According to Fernando dos Anjos, the ideal site for production of the hamburger, for a Cajubrás factory, is the Northeast of the country, due to large cashew production.
In Ceará, for example, according to figures disclosed by the Sincaju (Cashew Producers Union of the State of Ceará), there are 330,000 hectares of land on which common cashew is grown.
In the first seven months of this year, exports of nuts brought to the state US$ 77.52 million in revenues. The state of Ceará answers to 85% of Brazilian foreign sales of the product. The main buyers are the United States, Canada, Italy, Lebanon and the United Kingdom.
Cattle beef hamburgers are an invention of tartar knights, in the 13th century. To feed themselves during their travels, they took pieces of raw meat under the saddles of their horses. After four hours galloping or trotting, the meat was ground, made into a paste that was easily chewed. It was the beef tartar, eaten raw.
Five centuries later, the food arrived in the port of Hamburg, Germany, where it was incorporated into the feeding habits of the local population. With immigration to America, in the 19th Century, the custom was taken to the United States.
At that point in history, the recipe had already been altered: the pressed Hamburg beef cake was grilled and served with onions. The Americans liked the idea and spread it all around the world through fast food chains. It has become a universal custom.
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