When the fungus is grown via a fermentation process patented by Nature’s Fynd, it produces rectangular slabs of Fy that look sort of like thick, gargantuan lasagna noodles. Fy can then be pulverized and watered down for soft or liquid foods, or it can be sculpted into nuggets, patties, balls and more.
“It’s got the texture that we want and the protein content that we want, but it’s a blank canvas that we can then give to food scientists and chefs to build into the products,” Kozubal told me. And it’s produced on racks of stacked trays — in a warehouse in the Chicago meatpacking district, as it happens — using much less space and water than traditional agriculture demands.
Last month, Nature’s Fynd unveiled a direct-order breakfast combo of faux-sausage patties and a mock cream cheese for $14.99 and quickly sold out. It’s restocking and expects to have those products plus others — maybe the yogurt, maybe meatballs — on store shelves later this year. If all goes well, it will expand from there. A burger can’t be too far off.
“There’s tremendous potential here,” Specht told me, referring to fermentation-derived proteins. She added that while they’ve been around awhile — a British company, Quorn, has been making them for decades — they seem to be taking off only now. For example, the companies Meati Foods, Mycorena and Prime Roots are all developing or selling products along these lines.
But given the long love affair that many humans, including this one, have had with animal meat, is there really a chance that these substitutes can make all that much headway in the near future? Thomas Jonas, the chief executive of Nature’s Fynd, said that a conspicuous change in America’s beverage-scape suggests so.
“Ten or 15 years ago, if you were looking at soy milk or almond milk, you were looking at something that was considered to be for health stores and tree-huggers and hippies, right?” he said. Now, both take up considerable space in every supermarket I visit, and there’s nary a coffee shop without one or the other. Nobody, Jonas argued, would have predicted that.
Also, he said, there’s a discernible awakening of people’s consciousness of the degradation of the environment, our contribution to that and the impact of individual behavior on communal health.
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