Mycelium Meat: 8 of the Best Brands Turning Fungi Root into Whole-Cut Steak, Chicken, Bacon & Deli Meats
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Mycoprotein – essentially mycelium created from microscopic fungi – has already been on plant-based radars for decades, with Quorn being the world’s first producer of meat alternatives made from the ingredient. Now, a host of startups are taking the concept of mycelium further.
The global mycoprotein segment is set to reach $976M in 2032, according to Future Market Insights. Alt-meats made from mycelium, the substrate root of certain types of fungi, offer similar – and often superior – protein content, and are considered a complete food. They’re also better for the environment – as the harmful impact of livestock farming on climate change, while severely underreported, has been thoroughly researched.
Here are the most exciting mycelium meat brands on the market:
Founded in 2015, Boulder-based company Meati is a mycelium pioneer. Its patented tech used mushroom roots to make plant-based whole-cut meat, with the current product portfolio comprising vegan steaks (in classic and Carne Asada varieties) and plant-based chicken breasts (in classic and crispy options) – which sold out in under 24 hours after being made available for pre-order in February 2022.
Mycelium constitutes 95% of the classic chicken cutlet and whole-cut steak, supplemented by natural flavourings, juices for colour acacia gum, oat fibre and chickpea flour. The other varieties only have a spice blend and breading mix added to them.
In January, it opened a large-scale, “infinitely scalable” production facility to rival the output of conventional animal farms, while it collaborated with AI company Pipa in July to better and faster understand the health benefits of its products. The startup, which has raised a total of $250M in various funding rounds – including an investment by Chipotle – also has a working collaboration with American chefs David Chang and Rachael Ray.
Prime Roots launched in 2017, creating a koji-based mycelium protein that it claims successfully replicates the texture and flavour of conventional deli meat. And its offerings go a step further: these aren’t deli slices, they’re whole joints.
Its current lineup includes deli meats, charcuterie and bacon. The whole cuts include turkey (cracked pepper and smoked) and ham (smoked, black forest and sugar shack maple). The charcuterie range features salami, pepperoni, pizza-style pepperoni, apple-sage and black truffle patês, and foie gras torchon, while the bacon is hickory-smoked.
In 2021, Prime Roots also debuted a line of plant-based ravioli, which included what the company claimed was the world’s first vegan lobster ravioli. Earlier this year, it received a minor investment from mycoprotein giant Quorn to expand both brands’ reach and product range. Prime Roots closed a $30M Series B funding round in May, bringing its total financing to $50M.
There aren’t too many ingredients apart from the mycelium in this vegan bacon – salt, coconut oil, sugar, natural flavours and beet juice for colour. The Robert Downey Jr-backed brand’s mycelium is grown with a particular blend of woodchips and is ready for harvest in 12 days. The startup has so far raised $30M in funding, after closing a $15M Series A round in June.
Green Queen reported in December 2021 that Libre was hoping to be the world’s first company to unveil mycelium-based whole-cut steak. While bacon is its first product, it aims to create an entire range of whole cuts, including poultry and seafood. It closed a $2.5M funding round in April 2022, announcing its plans to launch across Europe.
The Better Meat Co
Founded in 2018, The Better Meat Co. leverages the power of mycelium to make Rhiza mycoprotein, its base ingredient for its plant-based meat. The fermentation-based ingredient can be grown 365 days a year and harvested within just hours, and has a neutral flavour and a meatier texture than extrusion plant protein isolates.
The Better Meat Co. claims Rhiza contains more protein than eggs, more iron than beef, more fibre than oats, and is free from all the main allergens and GMOs. The B2B company also says it sells its ingredient for cheaper than the price of beef, and it aims to be cost-competitive with chicken too.
Rhiza forms part of Perdue Farms’ hybrid product Chicken Plus, and has partnered with meat corporation Hormel Foods to develop mycoprotein-based alternatives. The company, which has also conducted limited-edition tastings of its product worldwide, has infamously been in a legal battle with Meati over a proprietary mycelium harvesting technique since 2021.
German biotech startup Mushlabs uses mushroom mycelium to create raw ingredients for meat alternatives, leveraging the natural umami flavour of mushrooms to replicate the taste of meat. It was part of the ProVeg Incubator and, in 2020, raised $10M in a Series A round.
Mushlabs feeds the mushroom cells with the sidestreams of the agricultural and food industries, making its process highly circular and sustainable. The brand says it aims to develop sausages, meatballs, spreads and burger patties, among others – but adds that its products aren’t yet vegan.
Fellow German brand Bosque Foods creates whole-cut chicken and pork filets and bacon from mycelium using solid-state fermentation. And just like Mushlabs, it also upcycles agricultural sidestreams by using them as feed in a 10-day harvesting process.
Last year, Bosque closed a $3M seed funding round to expedite product development and commercialisation and establish it with chefs and restaurants. It showcased its chicken cutlet – which contains 85% mycelium – at the Vegan Women Summit in New York City this May.
UK-based Adamo Foods just secured £1.5M in fresh funding for its whole-cut mycelium steak in June. The startup claims it has discovered a technique to grow mycelium into long, dense fibres that form a texture analogous to the “grain” of a steak or chicken fillet.
Adamo wants to fight climate change, improve global health and boost food security. It aims to keep its products price-competitive with conventional meat, and says its steak and fillets will be available later this year.