Israeli food tech start-up launches ‘hybrid meat’ revolution in Tel Aviv
Mycelium product is animal-free and can be added to meat for a leaner, healthier alternative
An Israeli food tech start-up is gearing up to launch a ‘hybrid meat’ revolution in Tel Aviv restaurants next month.
Mush Foods, a startup founded last year, uses food waste to grow an edible fungus called mycelium.
The company cultivates 14 species of mycelium which can be mixed with a wide variety of animal proteins, including beef, chicken, fish, pork and seafood.
According to Shalom Daniel, founder and CEO of Mush Foods, the ingredient is not only vegan and economical, but also healthier than eating pure meat.
Unlike other vegan products, the startup does not target vegetarians or vegans, but meat lovers.
“I think we already have enough options for vegans,” Daniel told The Media Line. “The meat market is worth 1.5 trillion dollars a year and only a very small fraction of this amount – less than 1.5% – is made up of meat substitutes. If you ask me why: I like meat and I’m not going to be vegan. If you ask most people here, they’re not vegan, and to tell you the truth, they won’t be.
The startup was founded with Professor Dan Levanon and Dr Idan Pereman of the Migal Galilee Research Institute, as well as Strauss’ The Kitchen FoodTech hub.
Cooking the mycelium is simple: once the mushroom is dried and chopped, it is mixed with an animal protein to create a half-meat, half-mycelium hybrid product. No binder or fat is added.
The goal is to drastically reduce global consumption of animal protein, food waste and the environmental footprint of the meat industry.
“Whether it’s beef, chicken, fish, seafood or pork, we know how to combine these proteins with the mycelium to create a 50/50 mix,” said Or Shapira, chef at Mush. Foods at The Media Line. “This not only reduces meat consumption and costs, but also makes the end product healthier and tastier.”
Mush Foods plans to launch the new food product in select Tel Aviv restaurants in August, including Margoza Bar and Café Dizengoff.
According to them, the mycelium grows quickly and is ready to eat within a few days.
“It’s better for you in terms of nutritional value because when I reduce meat by 50%, I also reduce 50% of cholesterol from saturated fat and about 20% of calories while maintaining a high level of protein, fiber, vitamin D and other [nutrients]”Daniel said.
Mush Foods isn’t the only food tech company seeing mycelium as the food of the future.
The Hamburg-based company Mushlabs also cultivates this innovative ingredient and collaborates with the Bitburger Brewery Group – one of Germany’s largest private breweries – to produce it. On top of that, Danish scientists are working with a Michelin-starred restaurant known as Alchemist to ferment seaweed and mycelium to produce a seafood substitute.
Nonetheless, Shalom Daniel says the Israeli startup‘s technology is unlike any of its competitors. On the one hand, Mush Foods grows the mycelium above ground using a process known as solid state fermentation, a culture process in which microorganisms grow on solid materials in l absence or absence of water.
“Most of the companies growing mycelium today use bioreactors and liquid fermentation,” he explained.
Yet, in the world of food, taste is king.
During this week’s pilot at Margoza Bar, Chef Shapira served gourmet hybrid burgers, pasta bolognese and arais – a crispy pita filled with spiced ground beef.
The guests seemed impressed.
“The food was great,” said Sharon, a resident of Rehovot town who tried an array of dishes. “I couldn’t feel the difference between this and regular meat.”
“I’ve tried many meat alternatives and they always taste weird,” says Omer, who lives in Petah Tikva. “I personally didn’t like Beyond Meat at all because I didn’t feel like it tasted like meat. But it tastes like real food, like meat.
For now, Mush Foods relies on a business-to-business model to advance its product. In other words, it will initially not be sold directly to consumers, but rather marketed to meat distributors and catering companies.
In addition to their upcoming launch in Tel Aviv, Mush Foods also hopes to find success in the United States this fall, when they serve mycelium to thousands of New Yorkers.
“We’re actually going to feed 6,000 people with our product as a pilot, and after the next round of funding, the seed round, we’ll start [scaling] up,” Daniel recounted.