Scientists will grow giant slabs of meat from mushrooms

Illustration for article titled Scientists will grow giant slabs of meat from mushrooms
Photo: Betka82, vvmich (iStock)

The frontiers of fake meat are expanding so quickly, we can barely keep up: In the past month alone, we’ve had Impossible Whoppers, 3D-printed beef, and Incogmeato. Now scientists from the Atlast Food Co in upstate New York say they have figured out a way to build entire cuts of fake meat—steaks, chicken breasts, bacon!—from “meaty scaffolds” made from fungi.

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Fake-meat companies have so far produced only burgers and nuggets from extruded wheat, soy, or peas. Atlast is a division of Ecovative, a company that has until now has produced only packaging, clothing, and skincare from mycelium, the threads that make up the “root” of a mushroom. Atlast is looking for a plant-based meat company to partner with. Together they hope take over the meat world!

Atlast’s executive director of marketing, Andy Bass, described the technology to the site Food Navigator as “programmable mushrooms.” It’s possible to grow “gourmet sheets” of meat in a variety of flavors and textures; each one takes about nine days. The mycelia Atlast uses come from edible mushrooms; after the sheet of meat is grown, manufacturers can slice it into different shapes and add flavor, fat, and extra protein. The material is versatile: it can also be used for snacks, and Atlast is experimenting with crispy pizza dough. In a letter posted to Atlast’s website, the company’s CEO promises new foods produced by its “mycelium foundry.” Mushrooms have never before sounded so metal.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

Hopefully this will be different from Quorn products, which are extremely dangerous for people with mold allergies although I believe Quorn products are directly derived from fungus and not specifically mushrooms.

I remember buying Quorn chicken nuggets and thinking that they were the closest thing I had ever eaten to actual chicken nuggets only to spend the next two days with essentially flu-like and severe asthma symptoms (tremors, fever, extreme lethargy, upset stomach, diarrhea, cognitive issues) as my body tried to get rid of the substance that was toxic to my body. It was terrifying going to the doctor and having them prescribe the usual steroid and antibiotics, only to have no affect on my symptoms. I literally thought I was dying from a mysterious illness until my wife uncovered information that the protein was derived from mold. I immediately stopped eating the products and was surprised that there were no warnings for people with mold allergies. Many people have suffered even more server reactions and have even died from eating the product, yet the manufacturer refuses to do anything about it.  I guess most people wouldn’t be too keen to find out that their favorite food product is derived from mold and it was bad for marketing.