‘A startup just announced the world’s first fake-meat “steaks” made from fungi. Are we ready?’

Joe Fassler for the New Food Economy:

A Boulder, Colorado-based startup has opened a new frontier in the world of vegan meat replacements. The company, Emergy Foods, announced on Tuesday morning the imminent launch of a brand called Meati Foods—the world’s first line of fungi-based steaks.

The whole piece and photos are interesting, but this bit about language and description follows after he gets to try the product:

That allowed doubt to creep in. The more I thought about it, the more I struggled to classify my experience, scribbling phrases in my notebook, reaching for descriptions that made sense. That strangely unsettled feeling helps explain why Emergy used the term “plant-based” in its press release, even knowing the label doesn’t quite fit. It wants to provide customers with a comforting reference point, a way to make its product not feel quite so unfamiliar and new. 

In our email interview, Nicole Civita explained further. 

“Unfortunately, such foods are notoriously hard to market—‘fungal foods’ doesn’t sound terribly appetizing! And it’s not accurate to describe the protein rich foods made from mycelium as ‘mushroom-based’ either, because they are made from the precursor to mushrooms, not mushrooms themselves,” she wrote. “So, companies in this space have struggled to describe their products in ways that are both accurate and appealing.  And sustainable food advocates have favored the less accurate and insufficiently encompassing “plant-based” vernacular. While this drives biologists crazy and could run afoul of food labeling regulations, lumping myco-foods in with the plant-based alts is a reasonable shorthand.”

Time will iron these things out, but for now we’re all enveloped by slang, jargon, and an evolving language.