There’s a new kind of food on the scene today in U.S. natural food stores and the natural food sections in leading supermarkets. As health conscious people on fitness programs, I feel this food deserves our attention. It’s meatless, high in protein, low in fat, all natural, tastes good, comes in many varieties and has a funny name to boot! It’s called Quorn (pronounced “k-worn”) and it is the brand name for a premium line of all-natural, meat-free foods that are produced by Marlow Foods of the United Kingdom. What is unique about this food is that it is made from a fungus similar to that of a mushroom! Now calm yourself down and stop trying to hide under the bed. I know what you are thinking – “Did this man actually say the words “food” and “fungus” in the same sentence?” Yes I did, and if you listen up you will learn about a unique product that might become the new food of the future.
First, let’s start with a bit of history. In the 1960’s nutrition and health experts were concerned that the predicted growth in world population would mean that by the 1980’s there would be a global protein shortage. As a teenager growing up in the 60’s I vaguely remember something being said about this in school. However, at the time I honestly was much more interested in chasing girls and listening to the likes of James Brown, The Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix, than I was about a global protein shortage. What was there to worry about anyway, when Joe Weider was selling all kinds of protein powder in his muscle magazines? Apparently nutritionists and food scientists took a different view of the situation than I did and they started a search to find new foods which would help to meet the predicted protein doom.
The Development of Mycoprotein
In the early 60’s the discovery of a plant organism (Fusarium Venenatum) occurring naturally in soil, and growing in a field near the village of Marlow in Buckinghamshire, England, gave nutritionists the opportunity to develop a food ingredient given the name Mycoprotein (I looked “myco” up in the dictionary and it means fungus from the Greek “mykes”, thus mycoprotein would mean a protein derived from fungus).
This tiny organism could not initially be grown in large quantities and so several years were spent finding ways of growing it at a larger scale. Thus, in the late 1960’s, initial research and development of mycoprotein began, recognizing its potential as an efficient and effective protein source. But it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that mycoprotein could actually be grown and harvested on a commercial scale. It was found that the most successful way of growing mycoprotein was by fermentation similar to the process used when making products such as yogurt, cheese, and beer. When harvested, mycoprotein has a similar appearance to bread dough and is composed of a mass of very fine fibers. Because of the similarity between mycoprotein and meat fibers, Quorn products have a texture similar to that of lean meat although non-animal in nature.
As it turned out, the 1960’s prediction for a global protein shortage was thankfully wrong. Apparently a slowing in world population growth and improved food production techniques prevented this disaster from happening. However, by this time Marlow Foods had perfected the technique for producing mycoprotein in commercial quantities. This led to the creation of the Quorn product line of meatless mealtime food products released in Europe in the mid 1980’s. Today, over 17 years later, Quorn has been enjoyed by 20 million European consumers with nearly 1 billion servings. There are more than 100 varieties of Quorn all-natural meat free foods available in Europe at this time.
Quorn Comes to America
With the success of its 17 year history in Europe, Marlow Foods decided to launch the Quorn product line in the United States. Since January 2002, Quorn has sold over 2.2 million portions in the U.S. with a current product line of 11 varieties. Some of these varieties include chicken-style nuggets, cutlets, patties, meat-free dogs, sausage style links, turkey style roast, fettuccine alfredo, and lasagna, with new items being offered on a continuing basis.
Of particular interest to fitness and bodybuilding enthusiasts is that Quorn foods taste great and are a good source of quality protein and dietary fiber, have zero cholesterol and are low in fat, especially saturated fat. They contain all eight essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and ounce for ounce Quorn has as much protein as egg. The protein quality is very much like whey protein, easily digestible, and great for bodybuilding. They are quick and easy to prepare using a conventional oven or a microwave and make the perfect after workout meal. My own experience with Quorn foods has been very positive. Of the five products that I have sampled, all were light and easy to digest, plus they tasted delicious. A definite thumbs-up in my book!