Ashley On the Mushroom Meat Company with Kesha Stickland (Rough Podcast Transcript)



Hello, welcome to the show. Today's show is with Mushroom Meat Co. founder, Kesha Stickland from the mushroom meat company. Kesha is a plant-based food one entrepreneur who left a 20-year career leading software product development to build a healthier, more sustainable food system. Kesha had a car accident that left her in constant pain and struggling with an auto-immune condition, and then she discovered that by changing her diet, she could heal her body, so Kesha, I have a lot in common in that regard... Kesha adopted a low inflammation plant-based diet, and for the first time in years she was pain-free and her auto immune symptoms are gone. So she began looking for ways to replace meat in her favorite dishes, and she turned to mushrooms and discovered that they could really fill one up, much like meat does. The rest is history, Kesha and her husband, Dan are now the founders of the mushroom meat company, and so I hope you enjoy learning about how mushrooms can deliver nutrition, natural energy and how mushrooms boost the immune system. I hope you enjoy the show.


As always, today's show is brought to you by my favorite tea manufacturer, Packed with Life. Packed with Life adaptogen and mushroom is available at their online tea store and on Amazon. If you're like me, many of you are looking for health hacks and ways to improve your diet. A while back, I discovered Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, and Cordyceps mushrooms were great for all day decaf energy and for keeping my immune system strong. But I didn't want to take another capsule and the mushroom beverages available typically taste awful. That's where Packed with Life comes in, Packed with Life has 12 organic adaptogenic herbs and spices to hide the mushroom tastes behind a delicious light and zesty flavor. I prefer Packed with Life on ice with no sweetener, but it's also a great hot or with a bit of honey if you like, use code at the PackedwithLife.com online tea store today for 20% off and free shipping. Enjoy the show.


Hi, Kesha Stickland, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us.


Thanks for having me on.


Well, did I get your name right? You did. Great. 5050. Shot. Thanks for joining us, I'm so excited to talk to you. As the co-founder of the mushroom meat company, I can't wait to learn more and find out more detail about the company and also your story behind it, which I'd love to just start with you introducing yourself and telling us what got you into the mushroom business.


Awesome. Yeah, sure. So I'm co-founder and CEO of the mushroom meat company, and our mission is actually pretty simple, it's to make it easier for people to eat plant-based without compromise. When we talk about compromise, we think about not having to compromise a caste ingredients or sustainability, and we do that essentially by doing exactly what our names as we transform culinary medicinal mushrooms and actually cycle plant proteins into healthy crave animal premade. And right now we're focusing on beef and pork alternatives.


So are these Mushrooms like Reishi, Lion’s mane, Chaga, Cordyceps, those types of mushrooms?


Most definitely use some of those, they're not our primary base, we tend to focus on primarily the sort of culinary side of mushrooms, everything from Oyster, Chita, my take and so on, but we actually do use a lot of the more traditional medicinal mushrooms in various ways as well, our goal is really to keep it all natural and to provide whole food alternatives to meet, and essentially to provide this kind of interesting combination between mediates action and super food nutrition.


Right, so…My wife actually started an online tea company, and so I'm pretty familiar with the benefits of those types of mushrooms, the functional Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, those types of things for immune support. But I know in reading about your background a little bit you saw benefits of a lower inflammation diet from mushrooms...


It's interesting. So that's actually how I got here. It was actually an... I spent 24 years in tech and software, doing everything from software engineering to moving into executive roles to consulting, and one day I actually had a really bad car accident, and I had the most amazing amount of trouble healing from the car accident, I couldn't figure out why I had four different doctors, quarters, one shots, steroids, from all the swelling that comes up that most people don't know about when you actually have really, really bad cards and you have many muscle tears and so on. And what I also found out later was that as a funny, not funny, but put in a challenge you away or coincidence that we had black mold in our house, so my husband and I, we're suffering from allergies and just really feeling ill. And essentially, the combination of this car accident and this black mold because it's such a burden on my immune system that I actually developed Hashimoto's disease, which is an autoimmune condition that has a lot of inflammation associated with it, so now I have the inflammation of Hashimoto's. I have the inflammation of the car accident, and all of these doctors with their pain killers and quarters on shots and Prine, etcetera, or frankly of no help over several years, and so essentially was in a massive amount of pain all the time, even had trouble working.


I was a traveling consultant that wasn't working out too well for me, and for near eventually said, You know what, I know this couple, the husband had cancer and they went to this natural path as she heals people with herbs and alkaline plant-based diet. You should give it a shot. And to be totally frank, I wasn't told, but I was willing to try anything. And so we actually ended up going there, staying there for about five days, and over a five-day period by switching to only plants, funny enough, we hadn't gotten into motions at that point, and I'll tell you how the mushroom angle comes in, but we switched to Ed plants primarily raw, a lot of fruit, the whole point was to make the body more alkaline and to flush out acid, there's... I think a lot of talk in our society about inflammation and inflammation being the root of disease, but I don't actually believe that, and our teachers and natural cases believe that it's really about acidity. Acidity causes inflammation, and so acidity is the routes, so if you aconite the body and anything that Alanis, the body, is going to typically draw out these acidic things that are causing disease in the body, including various toxins, toxins that we take in in our food toxins that we bring into our body for our environment and so on, and so what this whole path that I went down was around essentially using herbs, and some of those herbs were mushroom supplements in addition to this alkaline diet in order to be able to reduce the inflammation in about three months, I went off the pain killers that I have been on for several years, I lost more than 30 pounds, and it really just transformed my life, and so I basically stuck to a plant-based diet, I made that transition along with my husband and co-founder, but one of the biggest challenges that I had, I think that was actually unique to some other people going through this sort of detox-based health transformation was the autoimmune condition, people with Hashimoto's and a lot of other autoimmune conditions tend to have a lot of flare-ups, and what can happen is that anything from what you're eating and putting into your body that is inflammatory to just the amount of detoxing that you have going on because you're pulling out all of this...


All of these toxins, they can actually set off your immune system and give you these flare-ups that make you feel very sick, getting that actually make your body well and so on. And what we actually discovered first through taking these herbal supplements that included mushrooms, including turkey tail, and I was starting with, I think primarily Turkey Tail in cortices and RAI, but what they were doing essentially was calming my immune system... What they allowed me to do was to do a lot more detoxing without the flare-ups, and so the more I took these on a regular basis, or I also realized that even these medicinal mushrooms were the only kinds of mushrooms that were highly anti-inflammatory and had all the antioxidants and so on, a lot of the mushrooms that you find in the supermarket that you can eat every day, do some of these things too, and so now I sort of blend the mushroom supplements with really making mushrooms a daily part of my diet, and that's really kind of the foundation of the company, because what we decided to do is to really dive into helping people actually swap out meat, whether that's one day a week or every day of the week, but with mushrooms, so that they get the cases and textures and the kind of common dishes that they are used to and that they desire, but they're also able to eat less meat, Alanis their body, boost their immune system and so on.


Wow, that's fantastic. Thanks for doing that. Is I wanna try some of your foods, when... What types of products are you going to have and when are they going to be ready...


So we are currently in a... What's called an accelerator food accelerator, working towards releasing our first products that we're diligently working on the manufacturing process, I can't even tell you how challenging that is, because it's one thing to go from sort of R and D and proving out concepts on a small scale and it's another thing to figure out how to produce it at large scale and at a price point that makes sense, and so on. So we're hoping to be able to have our first products in pilot at the end of this year, but at this point, we don't have a date, and we're focusing initially on beef and pork alternatives, primarily alternatives for brown beef, shredded pork. And the beat.


Fantastic. Are you going down the path of some of the other alternative meats where you're trying to actually make it bleed, like B for you not going after...


Not going after bleeding, but


I can tell you they're going out... I was waiting to see how you're going to answer that


Why make it bleed? I probably just eat an animal if I wanted it to bleed, to be honest with you, but that we are going after though a meat experience, what we're doing that we believe is fundamentally different is, if you look at most of the products on the market today, there are several issues, and they're the issues that cause us to look at mushrooms instead of the medial Turnagain the market today. The first is that I feel like people are starting to get hip to the impacts of trying to make something so much like me that it ends up requiring a lot of processing, it ends up bringing in a lot of ingredients that, frankly, I don't wanna put in my body, but more than anything, to negate a lot of the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet, and so you end up sort of sacrificing the healthy ness, if you will, for that experience, and so we're trying to do something that we think is sort of in between, where we have a process, a natural process that uses a gut-friendly microbes to make mushrooms media in their texture and their flavor and so on, without sacrificing all the health benefits of mushrooms, and so we're not trying to replicate the chemistry, if you will, of meat, we're trying to leave a whole food, a whole food while giving you the experience that you create.


Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. It sounds good too. Where the other stuff doesn't necessarily sound so good... Right, I don't need to do. I love meat, but I don't like it to bleed, so I don't know why anyone would, but... I digress. So end of the year, you're focusing on bean pork, what types of education are you bringing forward, because a lot of people, as you mentioned, you kind of alluded to people are starting to understand the benefits of mushrooms, but from a health standpoint of low inflammation and immune system support, those types of things. How are you going to educate folks around that or are you leaving that up to others?


I think it's gonna be a combination. And we kind of struggle with this because my co-Grenadier and I, when we started down this path, we actually had considered starting some sort of virtual health coaching type practice, we really wanted to be able to help people understand the importance of alkalinity in the diet and what the impact of that were, how herbs and mushrooms specifically could help to not only Boost immunity, but actually help them fight and deal with a lot of diseases and so on, and again, not making any health claims. But all you have to do is really look at the research that's out there and everything from cancer to autoimmune conditions, to heart conditions, the implications for gut health and so on, and the challenges we felt like the fruit is actually these two sort of competing needs, the one need is around education, but the other need when you're sort of making these sort of dietary transitions is to deal with food cravings, and we went back and forth about, are we going to be about education or are going to be about helping people deal with food cravings, we actually chose to start with food cravings, but believe that there will be an ongoing educational component, and so just...


Not totally digress, but from a flu cravings perspective, the reason that we chose that first is because what we felt like were... As we made this transition, we had me creating... And actually, we dove in and looked into some research and found out that it's actually very common that if you cut off meat kind of cold turkey, so to speak, that what actually tends to happen is that your body actually starts to have these withdrawal symptoms that are very similar to being in withdrawal from drugs, and we wanted to understand why, but more importantly, we wanted to understand how to help people overcome that, and so we actually dove into the research and found that there was actually a really good research going on at Johns Hopkins and that they had done this research around Scion with mushrooms, and so they had taken a bunch of people that were in this program to sort of help them fight obesity, and they'd taken the first through... This is four-day program where they were swapping out ground beef for mushrooms, and these were regular old button and hijack-type mushrooms, and what happened was something that they didn't expect, the first thing was that the people who did it or accepted these mushrooms as the reasonable culinary substitute for me, but more importantly, what also happened was that even though the mushroom meals were at least 400 calories less for meal, they seem satisfied, they seated and they didn't actually go and snack later in the day and make up for those calories elsewhere.


And so they actually did follow on studies with people over a year time period, all the same types of benefits, but what they also found was all of the health benefits that came along with it, all of the changes to their gut lining, the impacts on their weight and their weight loss, and then all of these other health benefits as well. So what I basically said to us was, Wow, we actually... The reason that our cravings went away when we really basically matched mushrooms of pound for pound, swapped that out for me. Now we understood why, but what we saw that was a block or a barrier, if you will, was the fact that, Well, mushrooms don't taste like me, and if you can get somebody to swap out their hamburger for a port of Bellaire at the intervening it... They're probably gonna be just as satisfied and they don't have all of that fat, etcetera, but the question is, can you get them to do it? And that's really what drove us down the path of focusing on the food cravings, is being able to provide something that naturally satiated like me without the fat and without all the salt that's typically added and other health implications of eating meat or at least too much meat.


And so that's where we started, but we also understood that for people to really understand the benefits of what we're bringing in, there's a certain amount of education we have to do, and that can start simply, and we're working from a branding perspective right now on bringing that to our website, in terms of some of that education also will probably focus on a content-based approach as well, but then other ways of doing it are reaching out to other groups who have some shared mission, and some of these other groups bring a major educational component in, when you look at groups like Forks Over nights and so on, that are focused on a whole food plant-based diets, they're heavily in the education space, and they are also a great vehicle of advertising for us, they also are starting to work in through meals and creating meal kits and things like that. So there are a bunch of ways that we can bring in our story and our Y and the benefits of our products while educating people, in addition to, like I said, building our own content and so on around it. We believe that it's really going to need to be about partnership


A good... Well, said, going back to something you talked about earlier, where you're talking about alkaline equals health, in my words, to summarize, obviously, I'm assuming the mushrooms are alkaline nature, what other...


I don't think any mushrooms are AI... I think the most specific mushrooms are probably like a pH about 6.5, but most mushrooms are on the seven... They're very much similar to the pH of our bodies, actually. But I think the other thing about alkalinity that people misunderstand is a lot of times they look at alkalinity as the acidity level of the food that you put into your body, but it's actually not about that, it's about the... What I like to call net alkalinity, it's about the impact of once your body actually processes the food, it goes through its various chemical reactions of digestion, what is the sort of net results in terms of the state, the alkalinity that it leaves your body in a good example of that would be something like lemon juice, lemon juice, if you were to test it would test very acidic, but when you actually put it into your body at alkaloids and you can... In fact, all citrus fruits are very, very acquiring for that reason, and the primary reason is because they actually pull out toxins from the body, and those bodies, those toxins are various city and make the body more city.


They also tend to help break up mucus and other things that are very acidic in the body, and so they end up having this net Allan-zing effect. There are other things like mushrooms that come in alkaline and then are also Athlon and the processing meat, however, is something that is clearly highly acidic because it's made of amino acids, so if the base of it is primarily acid, when your body process... Is it not only is it bringing in more assets, but the processing of it reduces acid byproducts, these acid by-products or things that now your organs, your... Your liver, your kidneys, etcetera, have to work over time to get rid of, and so the less of it that you eat, the more and the more that you etude, that don't require as much heavy processing and have as many acid by-products, the more alkaline your body is so fruit is going to be the easiest on your body to process and is going to require not a lot of insulin, for example, to process it, not a lot of things that your liver and kidneys and so on have to end up doing, and so by their very nature, they're going to leave your body in a more alkaline state, but they also tend to be alkaline themselves and pull out toxins, and so make the body more open over time, whereas vegetables, for example, are a little bit more of a neutral in the process and just basically, don't add as much acid in as say, meat does, whereas mushrooms are also very similar to fruit, probably not as Allen, that they do Alanis the body even more than vegetables do, and that's kind of how we keep our body and balances by saying, Look, there are necessary things that we eat to have acids in them, we tend to focus more on nuts and seeds, we actually started with a Paleo diet and then went black base, so we were probably more strict than most people in the realm of really not eating a lot of other acidic foods that are not met like soy and gluten, but I think the bottom line is, it's really all about balance, it's all about eating more alkaline-forming foods than acid-forming foods over time.


Yeah, I'm glad you landed there, that's kind of what I was going suggest is maybe what the conclusion might be, so if I'm going enjoy a steak could probably be good to have the mushrooms with it, where it makes sense that that's... Those two go together in that regard.


It does. I would say if you're going to enjoy a steak, have mushrooms with it and the next day a whole heck of a lot of fruit, right. And don't mix the fruit with Anything acidic because then you sort of negate the benefits


And balance it out, and then the next day I have a much... Romberg? Absolutely, yes. Awesome. How's your Hashimoto? How did that... How is it under control or does that go away or how are you...


I don't know that it goes away, I will say that where I am today is I don't take any medications. And I really believe that it actually was the mushrooms and the diet together that enabled me to manage my condition without medication and to move from having regular flare-ups to very few to now... The most I get is, Okay, I'm really having a bad allergy day, there's a lot of pollen, but no more medications, no more of the pain that results from all of the swelling, etcetera. Honestly, I won't say that I'm 100%, I'll say that I'm probably 95%, but completely transformed from where I was...


Yeah, that's awesome. What? Congratulations, I'm happy for you in that regard. You mentioned something leading to that, I guess as part of the outcome, earlier you said that the Cordyceps, Chaga, Lion’s Main and Reishe mushrooms were good for calming the immune system,...


I do believe that in some way, all mushrooms are good for calming the immune system, I think... You probably know just as well as I do, that different Mushrooms tend to have an affinity for different... These are parts of the human body or different things that happen in our body. Right, and so, for example, pretty much all mushrooms have a fairly high amount of antioxidants, which are all going to sort of calm the body called the immune system. One reason that antioxidants help calm the immune system is because when you have something like Hashimoto's or another autoimmune condition, odd things can set off your immune system and cause alarm bells that may not happen in people who don't have those types of conditions. So for example, if you have food sensitivities like I do, and you eat soy, and general says pretty acidic and pretty inflammatory food, but if somebody like me, my immune system says, Oh, there's invaders it same thing with a lot of people who have celiac disease, which is another type of LIU condition, and their body freaks out when gluten comes in, and so what tends to happen is that these sort of things that the body sees as invaders cause a bunch of inflammation, and so now you have these mushrooms, whether there'd be supplements or mushrooms, that you're eating and so on, that do two things, they bring in sort of like I think kind of a two-prong attack to help you with the situation, the first as they bring in these anti-inflammatory compounds...


Right, and so what they do is they... It's okay, kinda calm down to relax immune system a little bit, but then the other thing that they do is they bring in anti-oxidants, and one of the things that tends to happen with the body when you are having an auto-immune flare up, is that anything that is a free radical that's floating around in your system, whether that be from something you ate or something that you breathed in in the air, etcetera, can also cause an automate us. And so if you have something that goes and helps deal with the free radicals and you have something that's coming in and helping deal with the inflammation at the same time, it can kinda calm things down and help your body get to back to this... Equal are


Awesome. Homeostasis, right?. Yeah, it's been great talking to you. A lot of your story resonates with me, I had went through an accident as well, and had many years of recovering and ended up discovering the combination of THC with CBD ended up being the magic that helped with me and the inflammation that I was dealing with from my injuries and kind of dedicated my life to the cannabis industry, which led me into natural foods and organic foods, And which has now led me to mushrooms, and our family has been on this journey as well.


It is really a journey.


It is, and it's one of... I encourage our listeners to be open to the diet is... It's something that I think a lot of us take for granted. I don't anymore, but I know I did, and I can really get you into a lot of trouble. And my wife has always been a positive influence, saying, you're going to pay now or pay later, if you pay now for better foods, then you're going to avoid the trouble down the line, and that's really the way it is. And if you find yourself in any situation where medical treatment is frustrating and or being difficult in terms of showing progress, I encourage everybody to really take a hard look at natural plant medicines and diets and getting back to nature in that regard, because there's an amazing opportunity for folks to really take charge of their own health, if enough people become aware of this...


Yeah, I completely agree. I think that there is such little education out there in the mainstream media, in our school systems, etcetera, about the connection between diet or food and health, and it's sad because you've got people like myself who kind of took my health for granted for so many years, and it actually took having an accident and an exposure to mold these kind of extreme circumstances for me to say, You know what, what am I putting in my body and how is that actually making my body feel


Right? And it's everything. It really is, I don't know. I'd really get frustrated sometimes when folks, especially loved ones that I'm trying to help begin their own journey, they don't necessarily want to make the trade-offs, they don't want to spend a little bit more for better food, they don't want to go away from the instant reward, the sugar gratification. They want to have all of these things and they don't want to change it. And wonder why. How come I'm not getting better?


Yeah, it's a challenging thing. I spent a little while actually printing with the natural path that helped me through my transition and working with many of her patients and seeing that same pattern over and over and over, and even working with several family members through their transitions and people who also had autoimmune conditions or diabetes and so on, and even cancers, and really watching people with cancer, this life-threatening thing, have such an addiction to the food that they were eating, that even though they've started to understand that connection and even knew it was killing them or having a hard time letting go. And that's kind of why we were like, You know what, this food craving thing is real, so I completely agree that the education is important, but what we found was that we believe that that dealing with that craving that is so difficult for people to get over, giving them foods that have all of the flavor and to push the buttons, frankly, that they need to have, push, but in disguise, healthy foods as foods, it may be less healthy, give them a pulled pork sandwich that is made of mushrooms, but they can't tell the difference.


And have them enjoy that, right. And educate them at the same time, that's kind of the path that we're going down.


Yeah, well, Kesha, it's been great talking to you. I'm really hungry right now at Poplar analogy, so it's that time of day here for me. Thanks, I has been great meeting you, thanks so much for taking time and let's please stay in touch. I want to follow how your company develops and would love to just continue on learning how your journey unfolds.


Absolutely, thanks for having me on. And be happy to come back.


Awesome, have a great day and thank you so much.


Thank you too. Bye.


As always, today's show is brought to you by my favorite tea manufacturer, Packed with Life. Packed with Life adaptogen and mushroom is available at their online tea store and on Amazon. If you're like me, many of you are looking for health hacks and ways to improve your diet. A while back, I discovered Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, and Cordyceps mushrooms were great for all day decaf energy and for keeping my immune system strong. But I didn't want to take another capsule and the mushroom beverages available typically taste awful. That's where Packed with Life comes in, Packed with Life has 12 organic adaptogenic herbs and spices to hide the mushroom tastes behind a delicious light and zesty flavor. I prefer Packed with Life on ice with no sweetener, but it's also a great hot or with a bit of honey if you like, use the code at the PackedwithLife.com online tea store today for 20% off and free shipping. Thank you.


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