Mush Foods, Ltd., a portfolio company of the Strauss Group Kitchen FoodTech Hub, has developed a mycelium protein ingredient, called 50CUT, with the aim of reducing animal protein content in meat products by 50%.
"Our mushroom-derived products address the reality that there is a sizeable population of carnivores who are simply not willing to compromise on beef's rich taste, nutritional boost and textural experience," explains Shalom Daniel, co-founder and CEO of Mush Foods. "50CUT is tailored specifically for hybrid meat products to satisfy flexitarians and carnivores with the unique sensation they crave, while easing the impact of global meat consumption."
Mush Foods' 50CUT product is composed of three edible mushroom mycelium species. "By combining different types of mycelium we can create a unique ingredient which perfectly pairs with the particular taste, formability, texture, aroma and even color of beef," says Dan Levanon, PhD, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Mush Foods. "Once you add 50CUT to ground beef, it acts like a sponge and absorbs all the water, juiciness, fat, aromatic compounds, and assumes the visual appearance of the beef. From the full organoleptic and nutritional perspectives, 50CUT functions as the perfect complement to beef, enhancing its taste."
The mycelium network is a thread-like, root-like underground system of fungi. It breaks down forest plant matter and nourishes the mushrooms growing above ground as well as the surrounding ecosystem. Mush Foods' technology for upcycling food side streams from local manufacturers was initially developed at the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute, Israel.
"We grow the mycelium above the ground in indoor farms using a highly efficient method," explains Idan Pereman, PhD, co-founder and mycology director for Mush Foods. "Our fermentation platform recreates the underground growth conditions without light and uses minimal land, energy and water. After harvesting, we produce the mycelium in a 100% natural process, with gentle preparing and shaping, reducing liquid to create a final product which contains no additional ingredients, binders, additives or flavorings."
"Mush Foods mycelium is clean-label, nutritious, and naturally knows how to hit that perfect savory spot," says Daniel. "Chefs of leading restaurants have been the first adopters of 50CUT. They fully appreciate its potential in hybrid burgers, as well as its high nutritional value—it is a truly new and exciting culinary experience."
"There are several challenges that are holding back the wide adoption of foods which are 100% plant-based, keeping its market share at unsatisfying levels," adds Amir Zaidman, chief business officer of The Kitchen FoodTech Hub. "Mush Foods' solution tackles these challenges and has the potential of widespread adoption. Having a million people cutting their meat consumption by 50% is a lot more likely to make an impact than one hundred thousand giving up on meat altogether. For this reason, we are sure Mush Foods will be a gamechanger."
Mycelium is a whole protein, housing all the essential amino acids. It is rich in fiber and vitamins and contains no saturated fat, no cholesterol, and acts as a natural binder. According to Mush Foods, unlike other alternative proteins, mycelium reportedly possesses a natural umami flavor similar to meat, eliminating the need for masking agents or added flavors. The company also says that it boosts the flavor of the meat product while contributing to the meat-like texture and aroma. In formulations, the mycelium fibers reportedly maintain the volume of the ground meat matrix by absorbing the meat juices, further preserving flavor and making the addition of fillers such as texturized proteins unnecessary.
Mush Foods says its mycelium ingredient requires no agricultural land and uses minimal energy and water. Cultivation does not depend on season or climate. "Our mycelium ingredient is grown from food waste, making it highly sustainable and exerting a minimum carbon footprint," says Daniel. "It also grows exceptionally fast: While it takes a year to grow a cow, and four months to grow soy, it takes only eight-ten days to grow mycelium, making it a highly scalable—and affordable—option."
In a November 2022 pilot study of 4,000 participating employees drawn from various financial institutions in New York, Mush Foods' 50CUT hybrid beef and mycelium burger scored the highest out of 11 main dish options, the company states.
"The encouraging results reflect a consumer demand for this kind of alternative," adds Daniel. "To make a true impact, the product must benefit consumers and food companies as well as restaurateurs. All are attuned to evolving food trends and do not want to compromise when seeking quality alternatives that are affordable, nutritious, tasty, and kind to the planet, Mush Foods ticks all the right boxes."