Section 1: What is MushroomRoot?
We are so glad you asked! MushroomRoot is Meati’s hero ingredient and really what we are — it constitutes 95% of most of our products. It’s a naturally nutrient-packed root-like structure that makes possible Meati’s textures, clean ingredient list, and provision of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and other important components of a healthy diet.
Our MushroomRoot is special for many other reasons. We love it — and think you’ll love it, too — in particular for it being something happily present in just about every nook and cranny of the world. To boot, it has been used in traditional fermentation for hundreds of years. All we had to do was shepherd this remarkable people-friendly member of Mother Nature’s toolbox indoors. Inside our pristine Mega Ranch, it really becomes the best version of itself, which means rather than just growing crazy fast like it would in the soil of a forest or field (it particularly loves to show up after a fire and plays a big role in nurturing ecosystems back to full health), it grows super crazy fast. This speed is a critical requirement of making sure we can feed everyone, everywhere, as the global population continues to surge. We like to think of our MushroomRoot as an “infinite” food source because of how simply and quickly it grows.
So then… what is mycelium?
Looking to get a bit more technical? “MushroomRoot” is what we call the mycelium that Meati uses, which is a member of the crazy-cool fungi family. Mycelium is the main part of our fungi friends’ structure. Your scientist friends might describe it as the vegetative or nonreproductive body. In nature, mycelia are most prevalent in fields, forests, and heavily wooded areas. As we said before, Meati’s mycelium, or MushroomRoot, thrives after fires, supporting soil revival and plant regrowth. If Mother Nature was a gardener, our MushroomRoot would be like the magic dust she sprinkles to get the land ready for all kinds of life again. Pretty cool stuff! Now, let’s get to the “root” part of “MushroomRoot.”
Fungi have other parts, too. You’ve probably said “mushroom” to refer to the entire biological kingdom of fungi. So have we. The thing is, mushrooms technically are the reproductive part of fungi. Not all types of fungi produce mushrooms. But if they do, the mushrooms will grow from the root-like mycelium when the conditions are right. We like to think of mushrooms kind of like flowers or fruits to the roots of the plants that nourish them. Mycelium can be considered as the “root” of fungi because it functions similarly to how roots function in plants. It spreads through the soil, breaking down organic matter, absorbing nutrients and forming a complex network of branching structures. In short, when conditions are favorable, such as when there is sufficient moisture and the right temperature, some mycelium can develop reproductive structures called fruiting bodies, which we commonly recognize as mushrooms.
Getting to the root of it all
You can see where this is going, right? We and all the folks we talked with felt that “MushroomRoot” was the simplest way to quickly and clearly describe what Meati is made of — it’s that big cotton-candy-like bundle of superfine fungi filaments that are found beneath mushrooms. We could have said mycelium, but then you’d have to do some time-consuming Googling rather than read two words to land at the same answer. Our special type of fungi does not actually produce mushrooms. But that’s okay — it’s still the stuff that would be beneath the mushrooms if they did pop up.
This is a fascinating world, folks! Keep reading if you want to learn more, and thanks for coming along on this journey with us! You can also see a summary of how we make Meati here.
Section 2: Let’s talk about mycelium.
Let’s recap and build on what we talked about in the “What is MushroomRoot” section. Meati is made from mycelium, the root-like body of fungi, a kingdom of life the world is just beginning to appreciate and explore in depth. If you examined mycelium closely, you would see it is composed of long, interwoven, branching, and incredibly fine fibers (hyphae). Mycelium can span thousands of acres and can be found, among other places, in the soil of forests and fields, in the cracks of felled trees, and among swaying seagrasses. From some mycelium emerge mushrooms, the reproductive structure (aka fruiting bodies) that some but not all fungi produce. The analogy is imperfect, but you could think of mushrooms being to mycelium as flowers or fruit are to plant roots.
Mycelium can look like a swirl of sugar-white cotton candy because it’s made of gazillions of tightly interwoven fungal filaments. These living threads are so small that it would take about 1,000 of the tiniest ones to make a strand as thick as a credit card (just 1 millimeter). They are fearless explorers of all of life’s nooks and crannies!
Section 3: Why are mycelia amazing? (This is the question we should all be asking!)
Mycelia are vital to agriculture and play an important role in the health, nutrient intake, and growth of plants (many of which have co-evolved with fungi). Some mycelia increase the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption of most plants and confer resistance to some plant pathogens. Mycelia help underpin the vitality of ecosystems by healing the soil and bolstering its health, assist with managing the flow of the gasses vital to life, and contribute to the containment of carbon emissions.
Section 4: Why did we choose to use our species of mycelium?
There are millions of species of fungi, and our founders invested years into finding the right one with the mycelium that makes our nutrient-dense, whole-cut products possible. Our MushroomRoot (mycelium) grows incredibly fast, is naturally nutrient-dense, is super safe, and serves as an incredible culinary canvas due to its rich texture and ability to carry virtually any culinary flavoring!
Section 5: What is the most technical and scientific way to understand what Meati is made from and how we are branding it?
If you’ve made it here, we know you’re serious. Maybe you’re a budding mycologist or someone who really wants to dig into science. So let’s start from the beginning and get down to brass tacks quickly! Meati is crafted from the mycelium of the fungi species Neurospora crassa (N. crassa), which we grow indoors with water, sugar, and nutrients in pristine tanks like those used to brew beer and make cheese. The company’s Ph.D. founders chose to use N. crassa after carefully assessing thousands of species over multiple years.
N. crassa is an elegant solution to many of humanity’s most pressing food system problems. It produces zero toxins, unlike some other fungi species. Foods crafted with fungi of the Neurospora genus have been eaten by indigenous tribes around the planet for generations. N. crassa naturally generates an impressive nutritional profile, offering protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, and other important elements of a healthy diet. It grows incredibly quickly and efficiently, making it a powerful method to sustainably produce high-quality food. Its filamentous structure gives it the texture of animal meat, ensuring it can provide the dining experiences that carnivores enjoy while being a flexible and familiar ingredient ready to channel everyone’s existing culinary skills. It offers a neutral flavor, supplying a blank canvas for seasonings that can please any and all palates. And with Meati’s patent-pending process, N. crassa can hyper-efficiently thrive indoors, unlocking the ability to use much less of the globe’s dwindling supply of land, fresh water, and clean air to meet the world’s demand for nutrients.
“MushroomRoot” is Meati’s name for our N. crassa species. We decided on the phrase because, much like plant roots, mycelium spreads through the soil, breaks down organic matter, absorbs nutrients, and forms a complex network of branching structures. It is also easy to visualize roots and to see them as resting beneath mushrooms, just as a tree’s roots lie in the soil a drop down from the apples they nourish.
A fun twist on our use of “MushroomRoot” is that our N. crassa is one of those types of fungi that produces no fruiting bodies (aka mushrooms). We still proceeded with the term due to how people commonly understand the word “mushroom” — it is often used, albeit technically inaccurate, to describe the entire biological kingdom of fungi. Our research indicated that “MushroomRoot” made it as easy as possible for the average consumer to visualize what our products are made of.
Meati has formed a scientific advisory board to continue exploring the benefits and attributes of N. crassa. Their work will refine and build upon some of the research and observations that have been produced to date. Stay tuned for their insights!