United Poultry Concerns April 10, 2003


Iowa State Daily, Hillary Silver, April 10, 2003

NASA astronauts will soon be able to enjoy chili in space, thanks to Soy Creations, an Iowa-based company, and the NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center at Iowa State.

Soy Creations, a division of Triple "F" Inc., is a corporate partner of the NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center at Iowa State. They have spent a year developing soy-based food products for a space program. Their first completed product is freeze-dried soy chili. Katherine Carlson, communication specialist at the NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center in Ames, said the soy chili is a breakthrough in technology for the NASA program.

Soy nutrition is important to the program as it contains a great deal of protein and may be substituted for meat, which must be dehydrated and thermo-stabilized in order to be used in space, she said. The soy chili was approved by scientists at the Johnson Space Center for the astronaut food list, Carlson said. In order to be approved, food provided for the astronauts must have a shelf life of one year, be nutritious, palatable and flavorful. "I really enjoy soy chili," Carlson said. "I couldn't tell that it contained no meat." Elaine Wolf, commercial product developer for Soy Creations, agreed. "It tastes just like your mom's chili."

Before the soy chili was approved, Wolf said the only vegetarian option for astronauts in the Space Program was a tofu dish. The freeze-dried chili is spicy and palatable when rehydrated, she said, which is the program's goal for space food. All food is sent into space in a dehydrated state and then much of it must be hydrated to eat when water is added by the astronauts, Carlson said. However, this often leaves the food mushy. Chili does not become mushy, instantly hydrates itself and is edible, Carlson said. Most space food must be soaked with water for 10 to 20 minutes before it can be eaten. "Getting foods to taste good after being rehydrated is of high priority for NASA," Carlson said.

When an astronaut is in space, there is a fluid shift in their body because of the lack of gravity. This causes food to taste differently. Although the astronauts choose their own menu, they often find once in space their food does not taste the same. Astronauts often resort to using spices and hot sauce to season their food, Carlson said. Wolf said soy chili is also available to consumers on Earth. Soy Creations packages the soy "meat " and spices for their chili as part of their Premier Harvest line, available at Hy-Vee stores. Carlson said she hoped the chili will be the first of many soy-based food products to be accepted for NASA's food list.

Wolf said Soy Creations is already working on a soy taco meat. This new line of soy products is very important to the NASA space program, Wolf said. Someday, the program plans to have sustainable agriculture grown at the space stations on the moon or Mars, she said. There are 15 different plants that NASA hopes to sustain on the moon, including the beans used to make soy products. Currently, the only product grown at the space station on the moon is lettuce, Carlson said, but as of yet U.S. astronauts are not allowed to eat it. Eventually, NASA plans to have 90 percent of all food for the astronauts grown at the station, she said. The NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center at Iowa State is working to develop this goal.

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. http://www.upc-online.org


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