A meat alternative made from mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, at a food conference in San Francisco Photo: AFP

Like meat, but not meat -- the latest tech advances

By Juliette MICHEL

Meaty mushrooms, printed "steaks" and NASA discoveries -- the latest array of meat alternatives has been showcased at the Good Food Conference in San Francisco.

At various stages of production, here are a few of the ideas gaining attention as producers and investors focus on the booming vegetarian sector.

The Ecovative company was founded in New York in 2007 to develop bio-degradable packaging made from mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms.

That project was to find alternatives to plastic packaging -- but the company then applied the same technique to make a leather substitute, and is now moving onto a meat alternative.

"You can grow a mushroom into a unique form" by changing its growing environment, says co-founder Gavin McIntyre.

Once mature, the mushroom "has the structure and texture to simulate whole cut meat" -- not just burgers and sausages -- and can be a "blank canvas" for other ingredients to add taste and nutrients.

The company is seeking partners to develop its product.

Italian technology entrepreneur Giuseppe Scionti was a university specialist in tissue engineering, who worked on creating human tissue using a three-dimensional printer. He has applied his expertise to the food sector after founding the Spanish start-up NovaMeat that uses plant ingredients such as rice, pea protein and seaweed.

The printer uses the material to create alternative beef steaks and chicken breasts, with texture claimed to match real meat.

NovaMeat announced at the conference that it had raised $2 million from New Crop Capital, a specialty food fund, for further development of meat substitute technology.

Sustainable Bioproducts, based in Chicago and led by Frenchman Thomas Jonas, is developing a new way to grow edible protein using NASA research.

The company's technology emerged out of studying organisms that survive extreme temperatures in Yellowstone National Park's volcanic springs.

It says it has discovered a so-called "complete protein" with all nine amino acids essential to the functioning of the human body, and that it can re-create the protein to manufacture food.

The company, which plans to open a factory next year, recently raised $33 million in financing from venture capital funds and food and agribusiness companies.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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1 ( +3 / -2 )

Apparently from an investment point of view, stock on all this stuff is going thru the roof.

The product will keep getting better. The ethical and environmental arguments against meat becoming stronger and clearer. Economics, profits, are changing the game.

They reckon that the US Vegan meat market to reach $3 billion by 2024.

Meanwhile, the 9 billion chickens, 32.2 million cattle and calves, 241 million turkeys, 2.2 million sheep and lambs, 121 million hogs slaughtered are worth $7bn.

Sounds a lot easier to grow meat in labs that in a filthy, inhumane feed lots.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

It's not like meat, it's mostly horrible and all of it is ultra processed. It's the worst kind of junk food, anyone who buys into this as a healthier option is being conned.

It should be described as meat or given meat like names, it's fraudulent.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Who knows what long term ingestion of these franken-foods will do to the body. Only time will tell and for millions that could be to late. Decades of testing with volunteers should be carried out before being released for general consumption.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Humanity needs this and needs it badly. I hope advancements of this product will continue until its truly safe, delicious and viable. Factory farming and slaughter is horrific and bad for the planet and needs a substitute so it can end.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It probably will never be really similar to meat, if people reject the meat of most animals as "gamey" or any other word to describe it as undesirable, obviously artificial meat will be easily distinguished.

They should concentrate on making it a good material to eat without trying to make it a meat equivalent. market it as protein or an organic meal or wathever, but no need to force it into the "meat" category.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It probably will never be really similar to meat

I've had it - it's pretty similar to meat. It's not exactly the same, but similar enough that if someone gave me a burger of it and didn't tell me, I think I would just think they'd spiced the meat interestingly. I would actually describe it pretty much exactly as "similar to meat".

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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