Consumers looking for meat alternatives love their nuggs and burgers, but no company has recreated the experience of a chicken cutlet or scallop in taste and texture. Bosque Foods leverages the power of fungi to create whole-cut meats to satisfy any vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian using clean ingredients and minimal processing. We spoke with CEO Isabella Iglesias-Musachio about her whole-cut alternative and the future of food.
“I think that we’re gonna have a lot of different types of foods that are coming to market in the next 5 to 10 years that are really going to change food and our culinary traditions.”
How did you learn about the problems around our current food systems?
I was born in New York, and I ended up going to school for sustainable agriculture and sustainable development. It was while studying about agriculture that I learned about animal farming, and all of the disastrous side effects of our mass agricultural system and how that links to issues of climate change. It’s where I learned about largely the carbon footprint of the animal agriculture industry, as well as the inhumane practices in terms of raising livestock.
That’s what made me decide to become a vegetarian at 16. That’s also where I got really interested in food and food technology. And, yeah, that’s what sparked my interest in sustainability, in different types of food products, and why I would later one day start Bosque Foods. Kinoko Labs.
What led you to found Bosque Foods?
I got my degree, and then I ended up working actually in different NGOs and nonprofits, with sustainable agriculture as well. But eventually, I started working in the tech industry.
I got recruited by a French corporation, so moved to Europe, and helped to open multiple Tech Shop startups throughout France. After that, I went on to work for another startup in Berlin, in Germany called InFarm. So over the course of my career, I worked in pretty much only startups after, you know, working in just nonprofits and NGOs. I found from that experience that I really love the pace of startups. I also felt like you could tackle really ambitious problems and really big humanitarian issues with the startup and actually succeed.
So I’m very used to working in startups. I’m very familiar with building them and you know, also have a lot of experience in working in different stages of the startup, so for me, it was kind of like a natural step to start my own startup.
What is missing from plant-based products available on grocery shelves today?
In comparison to plant based meat alternatives, what’s on the market today is mostly burgers and sausages and nuggets and all these de-texturized protein products. And at the end of the day, what consumers want are processed products that are minimally processed, healthier, nutrient dense, and that they have more variety and texture.
It’s very hard to create a whole textured product with just a pea protein isolate, it has to be extruded, which means it has to become ultra-processed with a label that’s, you know, 20, 40 ingredients long. Consumers look at that, and they don’t want to eat that every day or they feel they don’t want to feel guilty about eating that every single day.
So what we’re able to create are products that are minimally processed, nutrient dense, thereby healthier, while also having a meat like texture, naturally. Mycelium has an inherent fiber structure and network that allows us to leverage that, you know, perfectly for the use and creating whole cuts.
How do mycelium create whole-cut meat substitutes?
Mycelium is the vegetative root network of a fungi. An everyday example of where you would find mycelium is actually underground–if you were to go in the forest and you see a mushroom for example, popping up, then you what you can actually understand is that mycelium is all the root network underneath, that connects to different mushrooms and also to different plants
But there’s also ways that you can cultivate mycelium not using soil, you can cultivate it the way that we do, which is essentially like tricking the mycelium into thinking that it’s in the ground, or that it’s in a tree trunk, for example.
And so we mimic the environment of soil or we mimic the environment of a tree trunk so that the mycelium grows within our very pure and clean environment. And in that way, we’re able to cultivate pure mycelium. We then harvest that and we use that as the main ingredient in our meat alternatives.
What is your dream for Bosque Foods’ products?
By creating products that consumers can make a one-to-one switch for and that they that they love and that they adopt, we’ll be able to lessen their reliance on animal based products. So the idea is essentially that the more we can convince people to eat non-animal-based products instead of their typical animal meat.
For me, I hope that people will just really love the product and love the way it tastes and be able to use it in the way that they would typically use regular animal meat. I think the ideal is that a consumer can basically have a one-to-one switch for their animal product with our product. So anytime that a normal person, a consumer, would want to have a barbecue or, you know, make themselves whatever their favorite meat dish is, they could instead use the product that we create.
How will our food landscape change in the next few years?
We’re really at this inflection point, I think in history. There’s the Industrial Revolution, and we’re now in this other type of revolution, where we can create food in extremely different ways, that are not only very different, but also healthier and more sustainable.
We’re at, I think, one of the most interesting points in history from a technology perspective, because it’s really right now that the future of food is being created.
Ideally, we’re creating a product that people can use today, that they’re going to be able to, you know, not change their entire culinary tradition, but just incorporate what we’re building. But at the same time, I think that we’re gonna have a lot of different types of foods that are coming to market in the next 5 to 10 years that are really going to change food and our culinary traditions.