Don’t you want to know how the vegan sausage is made?! Join Elysabeth Alfano on a live guided tour of The Better Meat Co.’s mycelium plant with Paul Shapiro on The Plantbased Business Hour. After the tour, Elysabeth tastes The Better Meat Co.’s bacon, burgers, sausages and more!
Specifically, Paul takes me through to factory to discuss
- What is mycelium and how it becomes meat
- The history of animal agriculture and
- The increasing consumption of meat and if we can divert this to mycelium-based foods.
Here is a short clip and transcript from their conversation. Podcast here.
Paul Shapiro: Hello Elysabeth! Welcome to The Better Meat Co. We call this the pilgrimage that people come to Sacramento to see the mecca of mycelial fermentation. So, we’re going to take you on a tour here, Elysabeth. We’re going to let you tour. We’re going to show everybody what we’re doing here at The Better Meat Co. So, let’s get started.
So Prachi, what do you have here?
Prachi: So, this is mycelium which is harvested freshly from our largest scale reactor. As you can see here, I’ll try to show you, it’s grown in a liquid medium. So, it kind of has the consistency of applesauce at this state, but we’re going to show you a magic trick also known as a science trick right now and show you how we turn this applesauce-looking slurry into meat. So, in our process we have one magically processing step, very different from most plant-based meats, and that processing step is literally just squeezing out the moisture. So, on a larger scale we have machines that replicate what my hand is doing now, but you’ll see within a span of seconds you have something that was basically 99% liquid looking like something that looks like chicken.
Paul Shapiro: So, you can see there’s virtually no downstream processing at all here. It’s straight from a fermenter. Just merely through the power of fermentation, we can take mycelium that has been growing for less than a day in our fermenter and turn it into something that really looks like raw chicken, except, this is much better than raw chicken. Not only because it’s better for the chickens, but also because what Prachi just showed you- this product on its own, it’s a whole food. It’s not an isolate. It’s not an extrudate. It’s not a fractionate. It’s a whole food that on its own has more protein than eggs, more iron than beef, more potassium than bananas, more fiber than oats, and it also naturally contains Vitamin B12 because it’s a product of microbial fermentation.
So, you’re coming behind the curtain. You can come around here and you can see what we’re doing here in terms of trying to create a system where we can run a fermentation where there’s only one organism in that fermentation in the same way that let’s say you were raising chickens for food; you wouldn’t want turkeys in there eating all the food so there’s none for the chickens. We don’t want bacteria or yeast. We just want our microorganism in there and so we sterilize anything that we put in there. Any corn byproducts or any potato byproducts that we feed to the mycelium; we are sterilizing it so that’s what all of this equipment is for. So, everything you’re seeing behind me right now is intended essentially to sterilize.
So, this is just dried shreds of mycelium. So, you can hydrate this and it’s a whole food. Again, it’s very nutritious and a customer just hydrates it and then they can add it to any foods that they want.
So, you can come on around here. What you can see here is actually mycelium that is fermenting and that will be harvesting shortly. And so that’s mycelium that you can squeeze and turn into that type of meat that Prachi showed you just a few minutes ago.
Once this is done fermenting, we will take an entire batch of that mycelium and put it into this dryer behind us so that we can create those shreds that I showed you. Right now, you’re just passing by a tunnel dryer that will just show you exactly how we create a system where we can go from that wet chicken product into a shelf stable ingredient that is shelf stable for a very long time.
So that’s our pilot scale facility here. Our goal is to build a full-scale fermentation facility where we can create a river of mycelium flowing through the food industry in order to reduce humanity’s reliance on animals for food. And so right now we have really mastered this. We are selling everything that we produce to our customers including Hormel Foods so that they can create great products that will be commercialized nationwide and even globally in the future. But for now, we’re focused on product development and process development here in Sacramento to inform our future full-scale plant where we will have fermenters the size of office buildings. And that will be when we actually reach scale and start achieving our company’s mission which is again to reduce humanity’s footprint on the planet so that we can treat the other animals of this planet not as if they exist merely for us, but that they actually exist with us.
Elysabeth Alfano is the CEO of VegTech™ Invest, the advisor to the VegTech™ Plant-based Innovation & Climate ETF, EATV. She is also the founder of Plant Powered Consulting and the Host of the Plantbased Business Hour.