The first steak in the U.S. made from alternative protein is launching next week.
Meati Foods, the Colorado-based company making whole cut meat analogs from mushroom roots known as mycelium, will offer the Meati Steak Filet for purchase on its website starting May 23. Meati co-founder and CEO Tyler Huggins said the company is excited to bring the first sustainable, whole-food, whole-cut steak alternative to market.
"Steaks are very complex in flavor," Huggins said. "So far, we're getting rave reviews from some of the top chefs in the world, and so we're pretty happy with where it's at."
The Meati Steak Filet is made of 95% to 97% mycelium, and it has a very simple ingredient list, Huggins said. Each steak is about 4 ounces and looks and behaves much like a lean tenderloin cut. According to the company, each serving of steak has 14 grams of protein and 9 grams of dietary fiber. It has 120 calories, 0.5 grams of fat and no cholesterol. It contains micronutrients including riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B12, zinc and copper. Starting next week, the steaks will be available on Meati's website in four-packs for $35.
Huggins said Meati's entire mission is to democratize nutrition. The company wants to use mycelium to create whole foods that are not only nutritious and sustainable, but also taste good, he said.
"We've hit all those boxes," he said.
How to make steak out of mushroom roots
Huggins said that mycelium is at the heart of what makes the Meati Steak Filet a convincing meat analog. They company has worked to grow its mycelium in a way in which it's clean and the nutrients are well preserved. The natural fibers of the mushroom root mimic the fibers that run through animal meat. And it's very carefully shaped into the cut of meat desired — in this case, a small piece of steak.
After creating the Meati Steak Filet, the company adds coloring, flavors and moisture to make it seem more steak-like. Huggins said that mycelium is somewhat of a blank canvas. It provides a high level of nutrition on its own, but it doesn't have much of its own flavor. Instead, the flavor comes from both the way Meati turns it into a steak filet, but also from the way that it is cooked.
A Meati Steak Filet can be cooked in any method that would be used for a beef steak, Huggins said. It can be grilled, fried or pan seared. It doesn't take as long to cook as a beef steak, he said. And while a Meati Steak Filet cannot be cooked to varying degrees of done-ness like an animal-derived version, Huggins said varying cook times contribute to the texture and juiciness of the product. The eating experience — both from using knife and fork and looking at the cut — are very similar to that with an animal-based steak, he said.
"You cook it on a grill and it absorbs that smokiness of the grill," Huggins said. "Pan fried, it gets a nice crisp on it."
Steak is the second major product line from Meati. The company launched two varieties of mycelium-based chicken analogs — the Meati Classic Cutlet and the Meati Crispy Cutlet — for direct-to-consumer ordering in March. As Meati ramps up its supply, it's been selling limited product drops once monthly. Huggins said the last chicken product drop sold out in 20 minutes.
While animal-derived steak and chicken are two very different products, Meati's alternative steak and chicken actually have the same mycelium source. And, Huggins said, mycelium can be processed and formed to create the experience of eating each kind of meat.
"We try to mimic those through the orientation of the roots, the flavoring, the moisture content and the mouthfeel," he said.
Huggins said that people who taste Meati Steak Filets are pleasantly surprised by the taste and nutritional profile of the product.
Continuing a big year
Meati is right now at the point that it can only sell limited product amounts, either in its direct-to-consumer drops or at a few partner restaurants. But the company is scaling up quickly. A portion of Meati's $50 million funding round that closed last summer is supporting construction of its nearly 80,000-square-foot "mega-ranch," which will be able to make 45 million pounds of product a year when it's at full capacity. At scale, the company has said it can produce the meat equivalent of 4,500 cows every 24 hours, using less than 1% of the water and land as traditional animal-based meat. Huggins said the mega-ranch is on target to open in the second half of the year.
Consumer reaction to Meati's products shows Huggins that there is demand that the company can meet with its new plant. The company has previously said that while direct-to-consumer and foodservice launches make sense at the beginning, its main path to commercialization runs through the grocery store. Plans are in place for a retail launch later this year, Huggins said, and the company has made inroads with several stores.
"We are on the precipice of massive growth," he said.
The Meati Steak Fillet is launching at a price that is close to parity with actual beef. As Meati's manufacturing scale increases, Huggins said that the company will try to stay in that price range — maybe eventually undercutting the price of beef.
While Meati has been able to make prototypes for many different meat analogs ranging from jerky to lunchmeat to pork, Huggins said this year it is mainly going to concentrate on its "Core Four" — the two chicken products, Meati Steak Filet, and a yet-to-come marinated steak product. For now, he said, it is important to become established, both as a brand and as a manufacturer that can meet consumer demand. In the future, Huggins said, Meati will be able to use its mycelium platform and technology to create the types of products that the market needs.
Putting an alternative steak on the market, Huggins said, is the beginning of Meati being able to impact the space.
"We think this is really a time in history that we can look back on and say, 'This was when we started seeing great innovation that both is healthy and enjoyable to eat hit the market,' " Huggins said.
Correction: A previous version of this story used an outdated projection for the capacity of Meati's mega-ranch. The company now says the facility will be able to produce 45 million pounds of product per year.