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Mushrooms become meat

Global Goals & Global Society
Mushrooms become meat

Meat alternatives are a true substitute for animal meat from an environmental standpoint. The majority of the present production methods, along with the rising global consumption of meat and other animal products, pose serious threats to the environment, animals, and public health. These issues include the loss of rainforests to make room for soya farming for animal feed, the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming that generate pollution, the overuse of antibiotics in farm livestock facilities, and the terrible circumstances in which animals are kept. That’s why civil society is focusing on sustainable alternatives now to improve the well-being of the human race, the animals and the environmental situation.

A yellow tree mushroom gave Alison and David Stille the idea. On a walk, they discovered the sulfur porcini, took it with them and fried it in a pan at home. They already knew it was edible. "But it tasted really meaty, and we thought: It's crazy that no one has thought of making a product out of it," says Alison Stille. In English, the mushroom is called Chicken of the Woods - because it tastes like chicken.

"We really want to make a big splash with this fantastic tree fungus," says the biologist. In 2020, they founded their food start-up "Walding Foods," together with university friend Johannes Aman. For two years now, the three have been researching the miracle mushroom, which can be processed just as versatilely as chicken meat and contains a lot of protein. Vegans appreciate it - but cultivating it has not yet been possible. You can't simply cultivate it on trees, "sometimes it grows, sometimes it doesn't," says Stille.

They have succeeded in the laboratory, now they just have to manage to produce the fruiting body in a certain size. The founders recently filed a patent for the process - the first in the world to do so. They've already had plenty of inquiries from chefs and retailers, says 33-year-old Alison Stille, and they've also won several start-up awards.

Walding Foods is experimenting with different mushrooms. They infuse quinoa and white beans with mycelium, the roots of mushrooms, giving the mixture a consistency like ground meat. They give the burgers a marinade of fermented beans and koji mushrooms, which gives them an "umami booster" when fried. Umami is Japanese and refers to a spicy flavor that develops during fermentation, frying or cooking.

As yet, the quinoa burger is only available for pickup from the startup's own online store. But they offered it at the Wannda Summer Festival in Munich and it was well received, Stille says. Other Walding Foods products, such as soy sauce or miso paste, are already on the market. Their soy, Stille emphasizes, does not come from South America, but from the Dachau region; all ingredients are of organic quality, and they deliberately avoid flavorings or additives. They have also invented a vegan liver sausage made from fermented, roasted green spelt. "Fermenting is a centuries-old tradition, and we're now taking advantage of it," Stille says. The couple has three children, and they still have meat at home from time to time.

Meat alternatives not only offer health benefits, but in comparison to animal meat products are generally more resource-efficient and, above all, ethically unbeatable. Plant-based meat substitutes, for example from soy, wheat, peas or, as in this case, mushrooms, produce fewer greenhouse gases and many times less water consumption and land use compared to beef.

Inventions like these help to get one step closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.


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