How This Entrepreneur Turned Pig Farms into Vegan Bacon

Entrepreneur Eben Bayer grew up on a small family farm in Vermont where he helped raise and kill chickens and pigs. Now his passion to solve the world’s biggest problem is destroying the livestock industry, with a focus on replacing pork bacon with a vegan version made from mycelium, the mushroom’s fast-growing root system. It is directed towards

Bayer is best known for his company Ecovative, which harnesses the magic of mycelium to create sustainable solutions to problems such as plastic packaging, leather production and building materials. Ecovative’s products are widely used by major clients such as IKEA. Last year, the company worked with fashion brands Calvin Klein and his PVH Corp., parent company of Tommy Hilfiger, to transform both plastic-based vegan leather and animal-derived leather into environmentally and animal-friendly mycelium leather. I started working on a replacement.

My Forest Foods

Bayer inspired him to start Ecovative while he was a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. There, the late Professor Burt Swersey inspired him to identify the world’s most pressing problems and develop technologies to solve them. But the entrepreneurial background didn’t see mycelium as a solution to the environment-destroying animal husbandry industry…until now.


“I had a food blind spot. I moved away from eating meat completely in my life, but I had this view [about] Beautiful animal husbandry and the way it’s not so bad,” Bayer told VegNews. “I got hit twice in the head by my friends in the sustainability community. Once and finally when I looked into factory farming about how animals are terrible for the planet if they are intensively raised from a carbon perspective. Twice.This is nothing like the pigs we raise in Vermont.”

These realizations prompted Bayer to expand Ecovative with its food division, MyForest Foods, under which he launched MyBacon. MyBacon is a vegan his bacon made from an edible mycelium, grown into a slab of meat, then salted and sliced ​​like pork belly.


My Forest Foods

“Completely replacing animal husbandry was one of the most important things I could work on, and it happened to coincide with where I was developing this mycelium,” Bayer said. At the time, my first idea was leather, and I never thought it would make food. [at the time] It was everything but the food, but I am totally back in this space. It’s a space that I’m really passionate about. ”

Growing vegan bacon from mushrooms

Bayer first introduced the concept of making meat from mycelium at the 2018 Biofabricate Summit in New York City, showing off sizzling bacon. What most people didn’t know was that this mycelium fragment was not edible and was instead destined to become a prototype of mushroom leather. We conducted extensive business analysis on cuts of meat, including environmental and ethical considerations and production value. The company created mycelium-powered chicken breasts, steaks, and even pasta, sampling different fungi before arriving at the fungi they use in MyBacon. In addition to mycelium, MyBacon is made with beet juice for coloring and contains coconut oil as a greasy fat component.

Ultimately, MyForest Foods can produce a wide variety of mycelium meats, but Bayer chose to focus on vegan bacon for maximum effect. “Interestingly, the bacon looks like what I call ‘trim tabs. This is the rudder that turns the boat. The idea is that it’s the point of maximum leverage,” Bayer said.[Bacon] Of all the whole cut meats we made in the first iteration, the bacon was blown out of the water in taste tests against existing bacon, plant-based bacon, and generally people liked it.


My Forest Foods

Making meatless bacon is also a profitable business, and MyForest Foods has raised $40 million to help bring it to market in 2021. “This is he one of the most profitable cuts of whole meat you can sell. It’s very compact,” Bayer said. “If you want to put venture money into such an impactful science program, you need a good business case.”

By making vegan bacon that is identical to animal bacon in all important ways, Bayer also aims to stop the most common resistance people have to not going plant-based. Another thing is that people bring out bacon all the time as a deterrent to switching bacon. [from meat]said Bayer. “If you can get really great stuff here…you can order the Impossible and Beyond burgers with bacon on top. It felt like the point of maximum leverage.”

Bringing vegan mushroom bacon to the masses

This month, Bayer takes MyForest Foods to the next level with the opening of Swersey Silos in Green Island, New York. The 120,000-square-foot vertical mycelium farm, the world’s largest farm of its kind, is dedicated to Bayer’s inspirational professor, using his AirMycelium patented technology developed by Ecovative to We grow the ingredients for MyBacon. Here, MyForest Foods can produce up to nearly 3 million pounds of mycelium per year. Combined with a major partnership with Canadian company Whitecrest Mushrooms that was signed this year, MyForest is aggressively expanding its production capacity with the goal of serving his 1 million customers vegan his bacon by 2024. is expanding to


My Forest Foods

By making bacon from mycelium rather than pigs in this way, Bayer hopes to begin to reconcile with the way humans interact with animals and nature. “We put them in these little boxes. We give them grain. They can’t turn around. It’s all the perversion that makes pigs great,” Bayer said. “Putting the mycelium in a big box like you would do on a vertical farm, giving it wood chips, giving it fog and airflow is exactly what the mycelium wants. It exists and is far more efficient at creating things like pork.

next generation bacon

While many companies look to large retailers like Whole Foods as their first buyers, Bayer prefers to get products to market as quickly as possible, and is headquartered at Honest Weight Foods in Albany, New York. Utilized Co-Op as MyBacon’s retail debut partner. In a co-op, MyForest Foods is vegan so he can test his bacon on a small scale with animal bacon. And the results so far are promising.

Despite a three- to four-fold increase in supply, Bayer says MyBacon has “outperformed the pork bacon next door” for 70 consecutive weeks. This month, MyForest expanded vegan bacon to two more retail partners, Berkshire Foodcorp of Great Barrington, Massachusetts and Cornucopia Natural Wellness of Northampton, Massachusetts, to his marketplace.

Between Ecovative and MyForest Foods, Bayer has spent $45 million to build three independent plants, providing the infrastructure to produce $60 million worth of bacon on a raw material basis. “Over the next 18 months, we will take the numbers from zero to 60 and see how capitalist factories can be run as profitable factories, the amazing response we got in consumer tests and the first retail outlets across the East. We need to show that we can expand the coast,” Bayer said. “That’s the next Rubicon, and then we’ll start making more cuts, go to Europe, and do it all.”


My Forest Foods

To fill his food “blind spot,” Bayer founded Gary Hershberg (co-founder of yogurt giant Stonyfield Farms) and Applegate Farms as a “better bacon” company with a message. We assembled a team of food industry professionals, including Stephen McDonnell, who Around happier pigs. After selling Hormel to Hormel for his $775 million in 2015, McDonnell transferred similar recognition to Bayer and is now helping My Forest Foods commercialize his vegan bacon.

Just as the domestication of animals ushered in a new era of food production, the discovery of how fungi act like meat has put companies like MyForest Foods at the forefront of a new era. “One of the big things people say about why meat is great is that it’s unprocessed,” Bayer says. Assemble the same structure found in steak or pork, then slice it, brine it, smoke it, salt it, and you fry it. It’s pretty close to what we’ve been doing.”

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