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This company has discovered a way to 'grow' steaks out of a surprising ingredient: 'This is the future'

"When we started, no one knew that mycelium was a mushroom."

Meati, Mycelium steak

Photo Credit: iStock

You may have heard of a portobello mushroom burger before, but what about … a mycelium steak?

Mycelium is a network of fungal threads from which mushrooms can grow. It may not sound like a very appetizing substitute for one of the most popular foods in America, but one company is out to change that feeling.

Meati, a Colorado-based startup, is hoping to take mushroom steaks mainstream. The company just reached a deal with Sprouts grocery stores to distribute its products to almost 400 locations nationwide. But that kind of success didn't sprout overnight.

"When we started, no one knew that mycelium was even mushrooms," Meati CEO Tyler Huggins told Fast Company. "People were like, 'This is pretty wild.' Now people are like, 'This is the future.'"

Eating red meat can not only lead to coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and strokes, but it can have a profound effect on the environment. Nearly 25% of global food industry pollution is attributable to beef production, and animal farming accounts for almost 80% of all agricultural land use worldwide.

Journalist Wulf Wilde of the German news organization Deutsche Welle puts the environmental consequences of meat consumption in an eye-opening perspective

"To become carbon neutral by 2050," Wilde writes, "every person on the planet would need to cut their emissions to an annual 2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, or less — roughly the amount attributable to European meat eaters." 

For his part, Huggins is looking to scale Meati to meet whatever demand is needed to make those changes. 

"I think supply will be our challenge," he told Fast Company. "The numbers are in the billions to make an impact." 

In January, the company announced the opening of its new Mega Ranch, a production facility with the potential to produce "tens of millions of pounds of mushroom root."

The facility may be opening just in time, as news about Meati, like its trademark ingredient, is spreading. The company's offerings earned it a writeup in the New York Times, and celebrity chef David Chang has rolled out a number of limited-time dishes featuring Meati products at three of his restaurants in New York and Los Angeles.

Now, the only question left is … how would you like your mycelium cooked?

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