A new facility that will be able to produce more than 45 million pounds of mushroom-based food when fully scaled up has been built by Meati Foods in Thornton, Colorado, US. This company makes a variety of “animal-free whole-food proteins” as alternatives to animal meats from traditional animal agriculture or from modern cell cultivation. Their products are made of 95% mycelium, with additional ingredients including oat fibre, seasonings, fruit and vegetable juices, and lycopene.
Meati’s new “Mega Ranch” plant in Colorado will occupy 100,000 square feet, and its products are already sold through retail and food service partners that include Sprouts Farmers Market, Sweetgreen, and Birdcall.
The company’s main protein source is the mycelium from fungi, which is the filament-like network that spreads on substrates under the mushrooms we see (which just happen to be the reproductive organ of the fungi, which is much bigger in the mycelium form underneath). This company grows the mycelium in stainless steel vats, where it is fed sugar and nutrients to accelerate its growth.
The mycelium of fungi not only has been used to produce alternatives to meat products for decades, but it has also been used for packaging, leather alternatives, and biomedical scaffolds. It grows very fast, and it is easy to manipulate. For those meat-eaters who refuse to eat any plants (vegetables, grains, fruit, pulses, etc.) these fungi-based products may provide a suitable alternative to meat, and even to cell-based meat (lab meat or cultivated meat) which would be more expensive and still carry many of the chemicals that make meat unhealthy (such as cholesterol). Mycelium-based alternatives do not have cholesterol and have been tried and tested since the 1980s (the British company Quorn has been successfully commercialising them in 14 countries since 1985).