Meet the Partner: Teagasc

Teagasc is the food and agriculture authority of Ireland, a national body that provides integrated research, advisory services, and training courses to the food and agriculture industry as well as rural communities. Teagasc means ‘instruction’ in Gaelic, and this is reflected in Teagasc’s mission statement “to support science-based innovation in the agri-food sector and wider bioeconomy so as to underpin profitability, competitiveness, and sustainability”. Research at Teagasc takes place within four research programmes: the Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Programme; the Crop, Environment and Land Use Programme; the Rural Economy and Development Programme; and the Food Research Programme.

The Teagasc Food Research Programme

Teagasc Centre

The Food Research Programme at Teagasc is the largest of the four research programmes and is delivered via two research centres, in Dublin and Cork. The programme encompasses a broad range of food research, including dairy and meat processing and the cereals and marine-food sectors, as well as providing training and development support to the food industry. It collaborates closely with other national and international institutions, as well as food companies worldwide.

The Teagasc Food Research Centre at Moorepark, Cork, has a long history in dairy research, specifically the isolation and characterisation of microbial cultures. Today, the primary focus of the research centre is health, microbiome research, and dairy processing. The Teagasc Food Research Centre at Ashtown, Dublin, has an excellent track record in research on microbiological and chemical food safety, meat and meat products, cereal and bakery products, sensory science, and nutraceuticals.

As outlined in the Teagasc mission statement, the Food Programme also supports research and innovation in sustainable food production. Teagasc’s approach to this is multi-faceted, and includes improving the energy efficiency of food processing systems, improved valorisation of the by-products of food production systems, and the identification of novel food ingredients. In this regard, Teagasc is pleased to be a partner in the Smart Protein project.

Teagasc and the Smart Protein project

Professor Catherine Stanton, Senior Principal Research scientist at Teagasc, is the leader of Work Package 4: Food Nutrition and Health. Stanton’s research interests include the nutritional aspects of functional foods, bioactive lipids and peptides, and the microbiome at extremes of life. With the Smart Protein project, Stanton’s group is conducting a human intervention study comparing the crackers, pasta, and beverages made with Smart-Protein-based plant protein isolates to products made with animal-protein and placebo ingredients, as well as providing high-intensity training. The results will provide further insights into the impact of plant proteins on the human-gut microbiome, as well as its influence on immune markers during post-exercise recovery compared to animal proteins. The outcomes from this study will hopefully help to understand and improve recovery and attenuate exercise-induced physiological responses using plant proteins, which are, in part, necessary for training adaptations and performance enhancement.

Professor Song Miao, Senior Research Officer at Teagasc, is part of Work Package 6: Consumer Studies. Miao’s research interests include the physio-chemical properties of biomaterials, food’s structural and textual designs, encapsulation of functional food ingredients, functional delivery, stabilisation of probiotic and dairy ingredients, dairy technology, and plant-based ingredients. Within the Smart Protein project, he is leading on localisation and the implementation of Pan-Europe consumer studies in China. Talking about the project, Miao commented, “We are not only looking at consumers’ preferred attributes of foods prepared using the prototypes designed in several EU countries, but we will also implement the consumer survey on consumer readiness and trust towards alternative plant-based protein and food products in China. Additionally, we are exploring the sensory and hedonic properties of industrially produced plant-based ingredients and products that target Chinese consumers, which will help us to understand the difference between eastern and western aspects in terms of consumer acceptance toward novel plant-based protein sources and products”.