The Better Meat Co. has been providing plant-based proteins to alternative meat and poultry companies for several years now. Most notably, Perdue Farms uses the company’s protein formulas in its Chicken Plus line of nuggets, tenders, and patties, which are sold in over 7,000 grocery stores. They are just one of many partnerships the Better Meat Co. has established since it began in 2018. Better Meat has also been busy developing a fermented protein product, which somehow remained a secret until early June when the company unveiled a new 13,000-square-foot fermentation plant.
The new mycoprotein meat substitute is called “Rhiza” and the new plant is already capable of producing thousands of pounds per month. The entire demonstration-scale facility and product line has been under stealth development pretty much since the company started. CEO Paul Shapiro said it is likely one of the largest whole biomass fermentation facilities in the world, outside of the ones used by Quorn, the U.K.-based fermented meat giant.
Shapiro says one of the advantages of fermentation is that it is already seen as a cost-competitive, scalable, and validated process. Cost-wise, the company says Rhiza is already cheaper than beef, but they haven’t yet reached parity with chicken. Asked about regulatory hurdles, Shapiro says he doesn’t anticipate any concerns. He also speculates that Rhiza might be better received by both regulators and the public than some of its key competitors, which use an organism that is new to the food supply. “Unlike Quorn or Nature’s Find, ours is an organism that has centuries of human consumption history.”
Rhiza is produced by feeding sorghum and starchy foods like potatoes to a specific (and secret) type of microflora in large fermentation tanks, similar to the process used by breweries. The result is a pale-colored, neutral-tasting ingredient with 43% allergy-friendly protein. Shapiro says the fermented ingredient can be made to order and harvested within hours, noting that they do add plant fibers in some cases for textural modification. Rhiza may be used to enhance ground beef, fish, pork or crab, or as a replacement for burgers, steak, chicken, crab, and fish. The ingredient may also be used as an egg replacer in baked foods, such as brownies or energy bars. (Sources: FoodDive, Meat&Poultry, Bloomberg)