Inside MyForest Foods’ strategy to make mycelium bacon sizzle

Écrit par abadmin

GREEN ISLAND, NY — As Eben Bayer sees it, mushrooms and animal meat are very similar.

Animal meat is muscle and fat that grows together as a unit and is eaten as a whole cut. Fungi do the same thing, he said, creating mushrooms that can have a texture similar to meat when eaten. 

The root structure of mushrooms, known as mycelium, can do something very similar. Through the unique growth process used by Bayer’s company MyForest Foods, mycelium grows together in a slab of whole tissue. And that slab of mycelium can be sliced, shaped, flavored and cooked — just like animal meat.

“You could think of them as sort of like this fermentable animal, really,” Bayer said. “It’s the closest thing you can get to animal flesh, right? Grown, self-assembled, it’s a whole cut — without having it be a sentient being.”

MyForest Foods has taken the idea of mycelium being a fermentable animal and spun it into a bacon alternative that has been popular everywhere it appears. MyForest’s mycelium bacon has sold out nearly every week for two years at Honest Weight Food Co-Op in Albany, New York, near its home base in Green Island, New York. Since its first retail sale, MyBacon has become available in 10 other natural food stores in New York and Massachusetts, as well as a few local restaurants. 

Even though MyForest is a small player right now, the company has plans for much bigger launches in the near future. Its 78,000-square-foot Swersey Silos facility, which the company says is the world’s largest mycelium farm of its kind, is ramping up to begin production of nearly 3 million pounds of mycelium annually. In a year and a half, Bayer said, the high tech mycelium farm will support about $20 million in annual bacon sales.

At the beginning of last month, the facility was half R&D center, half construction zone. Two towering green silos have wood chips inside that are being infused with the fungus needed to grow mycelium.

On one side of the silos is the headquarters of Ecovative, Bayer’s first company, which is dedicated to mycelium packaging, leather and other materials. It’s a large, mostly open area where people work with and test mycelium. A large screen flashes a variety of information, including how much mycelium has been harvested, how much water has been conserved and how many pigs have been saved through making MyBacon. 

A look at MyForest Foods’ Swersey Silos mycelium farm facility from Ecovative’s headquarters in Green Island, New York.

Megan Poinski/Food Dive


On the other side of a large paved road and equipment parking area, right next to the silos, are cavernous rooms filled with racks that nearly reach the ceiling. In recent weeks, the construction finished, and each one of those rooms can be filled with trays growing mycelium for MyBacon.

MyForest Foods, previously known as Atlast Food, has attracted attention from both big funders and prominent people in the food business. It’s received $47 million in investments so far, according to Crunchbase, including from former Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg, Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition, Whole Foods Market co-founder Walter Robb and Applegate Farms founder Stephen McDonnell. 

Time magazine even called MyBacon one of the best inventions of 2022.

“We want folks to enjoy this product because it’s enjoyable — its tasty, delicious, like-bacon experience,” Bayer said. “We’re really trying to communicate this idea that this is not a foreign new space food, but this is something that has been part of our way of living forever. It’s a new way of doing it, but it still brings you the things you enjoy.”

Why bacon?

Mycelium can do almost anything — and nobody knows that better than Bayer and his co-founder Gavin McIntyre.

The duo first became interested in harnessing the abilities of mycelium as students at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, where they were challenged by professor Burt Swersey — who the mycelium farm is named after — to “do something meaningful.” 

Bayer recalled his childhood on a Vermont farm, where he got up close and personal with mycelium growing around the wood chips near the maple syrup evaporator. For Swersey’s class, he worked on a project to grow mycelium as a compostable substitute for plastic packaging. From that initial project, Bayer and McIntyre formed Ecovative.

About seven years ago, Bayer was learning about the ecological issues caused by factory farming. Plant-based meat was an up-and-coming segment for food, which made Bayer think.

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