Alt-Meat Needs Mycoprotein Rather Than Plant-Based Proteins
Of the three pillars of alternative protein, plant-based is getting the most mainstream attention and cultivated meat is the current darling of investors. But fermentation may be the most practical in terms of both cost and scalability, and one area of that segment turning heads of late is mycoprotein.
Photo Insert: Is it time to forget plants when it comes to alt-meat?
From an affordability and nutritional point of view, mycoprotein has a boatload of advantages over other forms of alternative protein, reported Jennifer Marston for The Spoon.
A key producer of mycoprotein, Chris Albrecht also reported for The Spoon, is the Buenos Aires, Argentina-based Kernel Mycofoods. In their own words, the folks behind Kernel are currently on a mission to “make a product that [is] comparable without a price that will exclude the emerging markets.”
But Kernel isn’t the only company hoping to bring mycoprotein to the forefront, which makes now a good time to take a closer look into what this segment of fermentation is and why it matters to alternative protein.
Mycoprotein is a single-cell protein made from a naturally occurring filamentous fungus called fusarium venenatum. To get mycoprotein, fungi spores are fermented alongside glucose in fermentation tanks in a process similar to that of brewing beer. The entire operation produces a pasty, doughy texture that resembles a chicken breast.
Up to now, the most well-known application of mycoprotein is as the main ingredient of Quorn’s meat analogues. But as noted above, several other companies are now getting recognition for their use of mycoprotein as an alternative to traditional meat. That list includes Kernel Mycofoods as well as Better Meat Co., which opened its production facility last month, and food giant Unilever.
The latter is producing a mycoprotein called Abunda through a partnership with Scottish company Enough.
Experts say mycoprotein is high in fiber, low in sodium, has an inherently meaty texture, and is rich in amino acids. Kernel, for example, says its mycoprotein has a higher protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score than beef, soy, or wheat gluten. Mycoprotein falls into the “biomass fermentation” category, as opposed to traditional or precision fermentation (though the lines between all three can be blurred).
Because of this, its biggest advantage compared to other forms of alt-protein is its ability to scale at a lower price point. The Good Food Institute noted in its 2020 State of the Industry report on fermentation that biomass fermentation offers “well-established examples of scalability and cost reduction suitable for alternative protein applications.”