Published: Feb. 13, 2023
Justin Whiteley headshot

Justin Whiteley (MMechEngr’14, PhD’16) is a materials scientist, industrial mycologist, and CTO and co-founder of Meati, which makes mushroom-based versions of chicken and steak. He grew up in Santa Cruz, California, developing his scientific view of the world with the help of a family full of people with doctorates. He has committed his career to developing environmentally sound, affordable, and varied foods. He is passionate about Meati’s role in a diversified, robust and sustainable food system tasked with feeding a quickly growing global population. 

Whiteley earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical and nuclear engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010. He went on to complete master's and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering at CU Boulder, has authored more than a dozen peer-reviewed publications and secured multiple patents. 

Whiteley and his Meati co-founder, Tyler Huggins (PhDCivEngr’16) began studying novel uses for fungi as graduate students. They started by experimenting with fungi as an infinitely renewable material source for fabricating electrodes for energy storage. While their initial proof of concept was successful, they struggled to find a market and pivoted to using fungi as the key ingredient in a highly sustainable, high-protein meat substitute. 

Whiteley has participated in the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps and the Chain Reactions Innovations Program at Argonne National Laboratory. Since its founding in 2017, Meati has obtained an impressive $278.6 million in funding. They are currently based in Boulder and are in the process of constructing an 80,000-square-foot production facility in Thornton, Colorado. Whiteley was selected as one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” for his contributions to the energy sector.

While the growth of Meati has taken much of his time in recent years, Whiteley has stayed engaged with CU Boulder and the College of Engineering and Applied Science. His work has been featured in campus publications, including the Coloradan alumni magazine and CU Boulder Today. He has also presented as part of the Tales from the Startup Trenches series and received an Alumni Campus Sustainability Award from the CU Environmental Center in 2018. Meati Foods employs more than 150 people in Colorado, with a LinkedIn search showing 22 employees who studied at CU Boulder.