With nearly five million visitors every year, Yellowstone National Park is one of the country’s most popular summertime destinations. But this year, tourists will be dazzled by more than the Grand Prismatic Springs. The national park is adding vegan products to its general store and lodges that are made with the help of fungi that was discovered at the park.

Chicago-based Nature’s Fynd developed the “Fy Protein” – a nutritional fungi protein with all 20 amino acids, rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins – from a microbe that founder and scientist Mark Kozubal, Ph.D., found in 2008 at Yellowstone. The Fy Protein is the central ingredient in the company's selection of breakfast sausage patties and dairy-free cream cheeses. The plant-based products use a proprietary microbial fermentation process that is significantly more environmentally friendly than traditional animal agriculture.

Yellowstone guests will be able to try the innovative meat alternative at seven hotels and lodges around the national park this summer. Nature’s Fynd’s meatless sausage will first be available at breakfast buffets, and eventually, guests will be able to order breakfast bowls that feature the vegan crumbles. The company will also distribute its vegan cream cheese, featuring both Original and Chive & Onion flavors. The cream cheese and sausages will be available for purchase at five general stores around the park.

Yellowstone guests will be able to find the microbial protein at Canyon Lodge, Roosevelt Lodge, Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Old Faithful Inn, Mammoth Hot Spring Hotel, Grant Village, and Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

“We’re truly having a full-circle moment here at Nature’s Fynd. Feeding our growing population in the face of the climate crisis is crucial, and without our initial research with Yellowstone National Park, we wouldn’t have been able to become part of the solution with Fy Protein,” Co-Founder and CEO at Nature’s Fynd Thomas Jonas told VegNews. “It’s quite remarkable that now our delicious, vegan foods made with Fy are available at the Park—it truly speaks to the power of nature and science coming together to nourish people and the planet for generations to come.”

What Exactly is this Microbe-Based Protein?

While researching fungal life for NASA at Yellowstone, Kozubal encountered the microbe which would eventually used to develop the Fy Protein ingredient. The microbe – called Fusarium strain flavolapis – was isolated and collected without harming the park’s ecosystem. Kozubal and his team at Nature’s Fynd developed the fermentation technology to produce large quantities of the fungal microbe to create protein isolates that can effectively replicate the taste, texture, and nutritional profile of traditional meat and dairy.

“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless about climate change,” Nature’s Fynd Chief Marketing Officer Karuna Rawal told VegNews. “We know that changing our current food system is hard work and demands innovative solutions, but we also know that changing how we eat is something every single one of us can do to mitigate the impact of climate change.

“When visiting Yellowstone National Park, it’s important that people see the opportunity to help the planet, not harm. We want our consumers to share in our optimism about the future of our planet and preserve the very place they’re visiting. That’s why we’re thrilled that our delicious, vegan foods made with Fy, our nutritional fungi protein, will be available to park goers.”

Nature’s Fynd is partnering with Yellowstone Forever – the official non-profit partner of Yellowstone – for the national park’s 150-year anniversary. The company donated to the organization and will help sponsor the sesquicentennial celebration. The celebration will also include the 15th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which will last until May 18th.

The fungus-based sausage just launched at Whole Food Markets in 10 states ahead of the Yellowstone announcement. The company revealed that it intends to continue expanding as its sustainable product becomes more popular. Currently, customers can also find the meatless sausage at Berkley Bowl in California, Fairway Markets in New York City, and Mariano’s in Chicago.

Microbes Can Save the Planet

Nature’s Fynd is one of the latest companies to join a growing microbial movement. Microbial fermentation is noted as one of the most sustainable methods of developing meat alternatives. This month, a study revealed that replacing 20 percent of conventional animal agriculture with microbial-based meat such as mycoprotein (fungus-based) production could cut deforestation by 50 percent. The staggering statistic emphasizes how environmentally helpful this innovative process could be as the global population nears 10 billion people.

Companies including MyForest Foods and Meati have turned to mycoprotein due to its minimal environmental footprint and its nutritional density. Quorn – another meatless brand that uses mycoprotein – claims that its mycelium-based products' carbon footprint is at least 10 times lower than beef.

“We have relied for over 11,000 years on a small group of animals and plants to feed ourselves but as planetary resources become scarcer with the impact of climate change and our population heading toward 10 billion, we need new solutions,” Jonas said.

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