Curious what a steak made from fungi tastes like?
You’re in luck if you are in Sacramento, California this weekend because that’s where the Better Meat Co will debut their mycelium-based steak. Made using Better Meat Co’s proprietary Rhiza mycoprotein, the alt-steak will be available for one day only at Bennett’s American Cooking steak house this Saturday.
The debut of the company’s new cut comes just a couple of months after the company opened its Rhiza manufacturing plant in West Sacramento. Better Meat CEO Paul Shapiro told me in a video call this week that they were able to create a steak-like experience so quickly in part because fungi are much closer in texture and overall makeup to meat than plants.
“It takes a lot to get plants to taste like animals, but because we’re using fungi which are much closer to animals, you have a shorter distance to bridge,” said Shapiro. “We can create a more meat-like experience with our fungi than we can with plants.”
In addition to Rhiza, the steak also had added avocado oil, fava beans, beet juice for coloring, and some natural flavors. The results, according to Shapiro, are pretty close to the real thing.
“[American Cooking Steak House owner] Brian Bennett says it’s the most convincing alternative meat he’s ever had,” said Shapiro.
And while that may be true, the steak still isn’t 100 percent there, in part because it’s missing the structural and flavor complexity of the fatty marbling that comes in in a traditional cut of meat. Shapiro admits this is something their alt-steak 1.0 edition doesn’t have but says they are working on it.
“[Marbling] is something that we would like to pursue but we have not yet gotten that down,” said Shapiro. “However, when you eat it, it really does have a steak-like experience.”
Better Meat is not the only company working on alt-steaks. Whole cuts are quickly becoming an obsession in the alternative meat space, as startups like Novameat, Green Rebel Foods, Atlast, and even Impossible Foods are working on plant-based steak, while ingredient companies like Motif and Melt&Marble are developing building blocks like plant-based fat to help those creating consumer products get closer to the real thing.
According to Shapiro, he believes this is the first time an alternative steak has been served at a high-end steakhouse. Maybe, but it’s certainly not the first plant-based steak on the menu at a restaurant, as companies like Meati (also made with mycelium) have been showing up at places like SALT’s Bistro since last year.
Either way, it certainly won’t be the last steak made with Rhiza and, according to Shapiro, the next one could be from one of their partners.
“This is our 1.0. What we want to do is showcase what our ingredients can do, and work with companies who can utilize these ingredients to take them to even higher heights.”