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Made of Mushrooms. . .Kind Of?

Millions of dollars in investments have been poured into the plant-based protein game and mushrooms are a major player - kind of. Companies have been successfully mass producing and selling their own mycoprotein, a new-ish form of protein that is pretty much the fibrous substance that is supposed to blossom into a mushroom, but is instead harvested and fermented.

The Better Meat Co., headquartered in Sacramento, CA, calls theirs Rhiza - a whole food, complete protein ingredient that’s versatile, allergen-free, neutral in taste, naturally has the texture of animal meat, contains more protein than eggs, more iron than beef, more fiber than oats, more potassium than bananas, and naturally contains vitamin B12.

Backed by a UK company, Quorn® created their own branded mycoprotein from the Fusarium Venenatum fungus. The texture of Quorn® is not unlike chicken and is processed with rehydrated egg whites, so their product line includes both vegan and vegetarian offerings.

Over in Sweden, biotech startup Mycorena uses Promyc®; it's neutral in color, taste, and smell and very versatile in application. Their product provides a sustainable vegan ingredient and also comes in a wide range of ready-to-cook products: Nuggets, Crispy Burger, Vego Balls, and Schnitzel.

While there is no argument over the environmental benefits of plant-based food sources, one negative impact they do cause is the increase in processing and chemical and/or artificial additives. Firming and gelling agents, oils, synthetic vitamins, milk solids, other genetically modified- or lab-created ingredients, and more are almost always added to these products to mimic meat as much as possible.

Switching to an all plant-based diet is one thing, but what other issues on human health could these new 'alternatives' create? How are these 'better' for us if the ingredients to make these products aren't naturally occurring on our planet and require advanced technology? Cutting animal-based products from our lifestyle poses a challenge in and of itself, but at what cost down the line will these alternatives produce?



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