Using mycelium as a healthy and sustainable meat alternative

27 Oct 2022

Biomass fermentation uses mycelium, a fibrous protein-rich fungi which mimics the texture and nutritional profile of traditional meat. Quorn and Meati are just two manufacturers using this ingredient for their meat alternatives.

Through this process, the high-protein and rapid growth microorganisms in the mycelium are cultured at scale to produce animal-free meat analogues. The naturally occurring structure of the fungi means that minimal processing is required to achieve a similar texture to that of traditional meat.

Using mycelium as a healthy and sustainable meat alternative
© AdobeStock/marilyn barbone

Arguably the most well-known mycelium-based product, Quorn’s mycoprotein is derived from Fusarium venenatum, an ascomycete, which is a type of fungus that naturally occurs in soil. Not only is mycoprotein high in dietary fibre, low in fat, and full of mineral such as phosphorus, zinc, and choline, but it is also a means to sustainable protein production.

A study published in Nature journal shows that if consumers were to replace just one fifth of their red meat consumption with microbial proteins derived from fungi or algae, deforestation could be reduced by a staggering 56% come 2050.

In May this year, Colorado-based alternative meat producer Meati, launched its whole-cut steak fillet, made via mycelium bioprocessing, to market. Containing 14g of protein, micronutrients such as riboflavin, niacin, folate and B12, and zero cholesterol, each 4-ounce steak serving can be prepared at home and offers consumers the same umami flavour as real beef. The company also produce two mycelium-based chicken products, breaded, crispy and grilled chicken cutlets, made from 95% mushroom root.

Consumers are hungry for plant-based alternatives

In the past two years, the proportion of flexitarian consumers has risen by a noteworthy 9%. Meanwhile the number of vegetarian and vegan consumers is also on the up, accounting for 10% and 3% of the total population, respectively. But as data from NPD group shows, it is not only vegans and veggies driving the plant-based trend, as almost one in nine of those who opt for meat and dairy alternatives do not consider themselves as part of this group.

With data from FMCG Gurus showing that in the coming months 62% of regular meat-eaters plan to reduce their meat intake even more, the opportunities for manufacturers of plant-based products are immense.

The results of a recent EU barometer show that when making food purchasing decisions, consumers’ top considerations are cost (54%) and taste (51%). It is no surprise then that these same two qualities are often the main barriers to plant-based adoption. To get ahead, manufacturers must keep their finger on the pulse when it comes to the processing technologies offering to make up for limitations in the plant-based market.

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