The Mycoprotein story
In the early 1960s, experts were concerned that the predicted growth in the world’s population would lead to food shortages on a global scale and widespread famine... The British industrialist Lord Rank, also known as J Arthur Rank, was the Chairman of the Rank Hovis McDougall group of companies (RHM). RHM was founded on the flour-milling business and was a major manufacturer of cereals, the main waste product being starch. Lord Rank strongly believed that something needed to be done about the imminent food crisis and told his research director, Dr Arnold Spicer, to investigate the prospect of a process to turn starch into protein using a form of fermentation. Dr Spicer and Lord Rank had come to an agreement that the new food must be safe for human consumption, in view of the predicted food (specifically protein) shortage, it should be of a high nutritional value and finally, it should taste great! Most of us judge food quality on flavour, colour and texture. Previous attempts to create new foods proved that whilst it was possible to achieve great flavour and colour, it was texture that was proving to be the biggest problem. Eventually, Dr Spicer and his team concluded that a fungus micro-organism could hold the key to solving the texture problem thanks to its filamentous cell structure. For the first three years of his investigation Spicer focused his efforts on a Penicillium strain that was isolated from discarded surplus starch near an RHM factory. Although the organism performed well in a limited batch culture there were two issues – firstly, its protein content was too low and secondly, it simply didn’t grow satisfactorily in continuous culture to produce the quantities needed for commercial success. In 1967 everything changed. The RHM team tested 3,000 organisms taken from soil samples around the world. Incredibly, the organism eventually identified as the most suitable candidate for further research came from afar a field as … a...
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