Meati is a new plant-based product made from mushroom root that’s taking the alternative protein sector by storm with its meaty flavor and texture.
New York City, December 7th, 2023 – Meati is one of the newest entries in the animal-free food space offering a slew of meat alternatives from carne asada steak to nibble-sized nuggets, from jerky to crispy cutlets and meat-lovers are raving about the taste, with one food writer calling Meati “ridiculously amazing.” Who knew mushroom root was so… meaty?
Meat-ing of the Minds
Meati is the brain child of two scientists, Tyler Huggins and Justin Whiteley, who met at grad school in Colorado and bonded over their shared concern for the environment. They soon realized they had stumbled upon what could be a revolutionary alternative to the environmentally disastrous animal agriculture industry… mushrooms, specifically mushroom root. Here’s how they put it. “Working closely with our greatest caretaker, Mother Nature, to cultivate the complete protein she intended — one that’s been the root of our living world for millennia. We’re connecting and empowering eaters everywhere to evolve energetically.”
What is Mushroom Root Protein?
We’re used to soy and pea-protein being the most common ingredients for plant-based foods like tofu, vegan nuggets and vegan burgers. But, recently, a new ingredient has hit grocery shelves at Whole Foods and Sprouts and it packs a serious protein punch.
Mushroom root, or if you want to get scientific, mycelium, is the thin and stringy part of the mushroom we don’t usually see because it grows underground. When we buy or forage mushrooms, we take the parts that grow above ground–the cap and stem. But there is a whole network of mushroom root underground that is ecologically important as it connects living trees across forests. This network acts similarly to how neurons function in the brain. Chemical signals can be sent across forests to communicate changes and imbalances, and can pass nutrients along these channels. That’s good news for the forests, but companies like Meati are hoping to use this natural wonder to make tasty and innovative food for the masses.
From Root to Plate
This October I was invited to visit the Meati “Mega Ranch” in Thornton, Colorado. After putting on a sterilized layer of protective gear, CEO Huggins, and CSO Whiteley, led a group of food writers through the entire production facility. We got to see how a tiny amount of mushroom spores (it looked to be about a table-spoon sized amount) got transformed into the cutlets and steaks that Meati sells across the nation.
The production facility opened up in late 2022 and is currently valued at $650 million, and is growing as demand for their products increases. What I saw were steel tanks, each one bigger than the last, like a row of stacking Russian dolls. These contained the mushroom root in a bath of nutrients and salts which help the mushroom root grow. Once a certain density is reached, it moves to a bigger tank. The proprietary part of the process, which we were not able to see, is how the mushroom root is transformed from a criss-cross of strings into a neat stack of fibers that make Meati products able to mimic the texture of meat.
The Taste Test
After our visit to the production facility, we drove a little ways farther to headquarters where we experienced the full potential of Meati at a dinner designed to show food writers that Meati is a delicious alternative to animal-based meat. We tasted what is currently for sale on grocery shelves. It was all very tasty. Then, an innovative chef took Meati’s ingredients to a gourmet level and whipped up several dishes that would astound even the most skeptical foodie. I had crispy cutlet parm bites, a burnt-ends slider, sourdough made with mushroom root flour, gnocchi, meatballs, and even a vanilla bean maple panna cotta. It was a 5-star experience that was so meaty, I had to remind myself that it was 100% vegan.
I learned that mushroom root can be 60% protein by weight, which means even the bread I was eating felt like a particularly guilt-free carb. It was the softest sourdough I had ever tried and the flavor was wonderfully umami, not quite mushroom but earthy. I called my boyfriend in New York, and told him, “I can’t wait for you to try this toast!”
Fast-forward to my recent housewarming where – to see the reaction – I decided to serve Meati steaks, prepared as a beef-less bourguignon over a soft vegan mashed potato. Before I knew it, the stew was gone from the slow-cooker as our friends had helped themselves to seconds, and even thirds!
Because the inputs for making mushroom root meat are so low, there is tremendous potential for making these products a leader in food sustainability.
Globally renowned chef David Chang is also excited about the future of mushroom root and used some of Meati’s products in his New York and Los Angeles restaurants this past year. With the production facility able to make up to 45 million pounds of vegan meat per year, if you haven’t tried it yet, you probably will soon.