Plant-based meat might not take over the market, but it’s a market that’s certainly growing. Especially now that we’re starting to realize the downsides to eating meat and how the production of it can result in illness. We’re seeing that mushrooms are little miracles that can be used for a tremendous range of meat alternative options. Mushrooms are taking center stage in the plant-based meat industry and many meatless recipes. If you’re vegetarian, flexitarian, or just someone looking to eat less meat you may have noticed this.
This is an industry that’s continuously evolving and changing, and so we’re always looking to find ways to develop tasty, healthy, and sustainable plant-based alternatives. More importantly, meat alternatives are adaptable to a meal for everyone. Sustainability is a huge factor that so many companies need to consider. We anticipate a future of less meat consumption and more versatile plant-based meat options that are delicious and healthy. Mushrooms are highly nutritious and satiating, so they’re a great option.
Plant-Based Meat With Mushrooms
We’re also getting technologically savvy and companies like Ecovative are transforming mushrooms into everyday materials, even bacon. They have a food-tech company called At Last Food. They believe that the quickest way to reduce carbon emissions from animal agriculture is to address the whole cut portion of the meat market. Think steak and bacon instead of hamburgers and sausage. Whole cuts are the hardest part of the market to address with plant-based solutions. Mainly because of the texture and mouthfeel of a steak. Therefore it’s necessary to have structure. This is why most plant-based companies like Beyond Burger, Impossible Foods, Fry’s, etc all focus on using ground meatless products. These are easier to produce and rely on high-temperature, high-pressure extrusion methods. However, the reality is this is not enough. The world needs a meatless, whole-cut alternative, and fast.
Like It Or Not
Biting down into something solid and texturized is very satisfying.
AtLast Food explains that some mushroom varieties have strikingly similar characteristics to meat. They’ve got the looks, the taste, and the texture. There’s the beefsteak mushroom that looks like steak. Apparently, chicken of the woods mushrooms also has the same texture as chicken. It’s quite an amazing realization because it means that mother nature created plant-based meat options years ago.
But the challenge with using these mushrooms is they’re elusive and found in forests only at certain times of the year. No one has been able to domesticate and farm these wild mushrooms on an industrial scale. This is because they’re selective, having adapted closely to their natural environment. This is why mushroom foragers go to great lengths to find these Pokémon of the forests. However, Ecovative has developed a patented process to grow the mycelium of these specialty gourmet mushrooms in a scalable way.
Without a doubt, mushrooms are a good meat substitute. The only downside is that they don’t necessarily contain loads of protein. But they’re better than meat in many other ways. Mushrooms are plant-based meat alternatives rich in sources of vitamins including selenium, zinc, vitamin B1, B2, B5, B6, and B12. They’re also filled with antioxidants and do not contain fat or carbohydrates. Better yet, they’re the only vegetable that contains vitamin D naturally as a result of their exposure to sunlight.
There’s a Wide Selection of Plant-Based Meat
Mushrooms often also have quite a “meaty” texture and add an umami flavor that tends to be quite satisfying. So they’re a great addition to a dish that’s meat-free because they provide texture and taste. Also, if you want to replace a quarter of the meat in your dish then mushrooms are a great option because they’re low in calories and still delicious.
The nice thing about mushrooms is the fact that you get quite a big choice. There are many different ones to choose from when preparing your plant-based meat and meals, so you won’t get bored.
You can get some real diamonds like the IQF cremini and Portobello mushrooms that have a “meaty” texture. As well as oysters, shiitake and oyster mushrooms. There are so many! Certain plant-based brands take freshly gathered mushrooms and cook them in their own juice, without blanching or adding anything. The result is a clean label, shelf-stable mushrooms with a fresh taste and texture with a two-year unrefrigerated shelf life.
Also, if you still haven’t made the complete switch to eating plant-based meat, mixing your meat with mushrooms is an easy way to increase eating vegetables and decrease meat consumption. This way you can still maintain meaty satisfaction. You could even prepare your own burger patties and blend them with mushrooms which would be low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, and sodium. Therefore, mushrooms alone are extremely healthy for us and contribute to a wholesome plant-based diet.
Plant-Based Meat Revolution
There’s no denying the fact that we’re experiencing a pro-plant revolution. You’re either moving with it or you’re falling behind and at this point, we don’t have a choice. Looking at the stats, our planet needs for us to be more conscious about what we put into our mouths sooner than ever before. This is why Eben Bayer the CEO of incubator Ecovative is using the versatility of mushrooms to the max. Over the past decade, Bayer has made packaging, textiles, insulation, and furniture out of fungus. However, this fall through spinout Atlast Food, Bayer is launching an even more ambitious product… Mushroom bacon! This is the first, he hopes, of a whole new category of mushroom meat alternatives.
In the plant-based meat industry, this resource is relatively untapped. Researchers can easily extract cells from a specimen and grow them in bulk quickly, affordable, and in specific shapes. Ecovative’s early work focused on using mushroom cells in composite materials, growing mycelium with wood chips or hemp stock to create replacements for Styrofoam, and building insulation. This material has been produced for Dell, Steelcase, and others to be used in packaging. Better yet, they’ve even developed a vegan mushroom leather licensed by Bolt Threads and used in partnership with Stella McCartney.
Plant-Based Bacon, What?
Yes, you had better believe it! The only reason this idea became a reality is because of mushrooms. Particularly varietals such as chicken of the woods and oyster mushrooms. These mushrooms have a similar cellular structure to meat and can be cultivated to mimic bacon, steaks, chicken breasts, and other whole cuts. This is pretty revolutionary since they oppose Impossible Foods’ and Beyond Meat’s ground meat options.
Bayer says Mycelium forms beautiful, micron-level structures, with extreme precision, in 3D. This incredible design takes into consideration the kinds of texture and structure meat requires to recreate. Mycelium is essentially the root structure of mushrooms. It’s unique in that it is easy to both grow and shape into different forms.
At Last is planning to launch its own mushroom bacon brand this fall, before supplying other companies with the ingredients.
Therefore, mushrooms are the latest miracle material for a variety of different plant-based options. Interestingly, they can be used to recreate favorite breakfast additions like bacon. As well as other plant-based meat options like chicken, beef, or pork steaks. In the end, texture and structure are what make food so satisfying. So if we’re going to go plant-based, we need to find ways to recreate meat for the long term.
Plant-based milk has a new contender: Meet Pea Milk. Here’s why you need to try pea milk next.
Mycelium: The Miracle Mushroom That Can Replace Everything from Bacon to Shoes. Vegconomist. https://vegconomist.com/companies-and-portraits/mycelium-the-miracle-mushroom-that-can-replace-everything-from-bacon-to-shoes/.
Vegetarian: why mushrooms are a good meat substitute. Scelta Mushrooms. https://www.sceltamushrooms.com/en/stories/vegetarians-replace-meat/#:~:text=Without%20a%20doubt%2C%20mushrooms%20are,%2C%20B5%2C%20B6%20and%20B12.
Why mushrooms are a miracle material—and might be your new favorite meat. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/90532731/why-mushrooms-are-a-miracle-material-and-might-be-your-new-favorite-meat.
Bacon with the Oink. At Last Food. https://www.atlastfood.co/