A group of researchers have proposed to relax the consumption of wild fish and promote laboratory-grown seafood. They believe this approach could successfully ease the pressure on global fisheries..
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The continued increase in the world’s population has dramatically increased the demand for food. Over the past two years, the world has seen the emergence of lab-grown chicken breasts and cultured beef burgers.
Typically, seafood such as fish, shrimp, and crab that is sold in the market is either farm-raised or wild-caught. At present, several companies are in the process of developing cell-based shrimp, salmon, yellowtail, carp, crab and lobster. However, most of these products are at the taste testing stage and have not yet been marketed.
Development of cell-based seafood
Cell-based seafood production involves the isolation of muscle cells from fish, molluscs or crustaceans and thus their propagation under ideal conditions inside a bioreactor. The cells are grown on an edible scaffold; their structure and texture are designed in the same way as those of wild fish. The main goal of scientists was to develop farmed seafood that could not be distinguished from wild caught fish, shrimp or crab.
In the recent past, researchers have reported the presence of mercury, toxins, pathogens and plastic microparticles in seafood caught in the wild. Products developed using this technology are said to be safe for consumption with high nutritional values. As lab seafood was developed from cells of fish / shrimp / crab, it contains all of the allergens found in seafood caught in the wild.
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According to Sebastian Rakers, co-founder of Bluu Biosciences, cell-based fish consists of ingredients similar to those found in conventionally produced fish. However, this technology does not require the slaughter of the fish; instead, real fish meat can be produced from fish cell lines.
These cell lines are obtained by biopsy of a live fish and the target fish is not killed in the process. At present, Bluu Biosciences has developed many cell lines from adult tissue biopsies and adopted new proprietary technologies and immortalized non-GMO cell lines for the production of fish meat.
Seafood industry and cell culture seafood technology
Seafood industries such as Nomad Foods (Europe’s largest frozen food company) and BlueNalu, a California-based sustainable food company, have set themselves the goal of being the global leader in technology. cell culture seafood. The two companies have collaborated to identify product opportunities and determine consumer information for laboratory seafood in Europe.
From a global point of view, the partnership between these two companies is important because the implementation of this technology could reduce the problems of overfishing. This new technology would help promote one of the United Nations’ goals for global sustainable development, namely the protection of life underwater.
For any innovation, it is mandatory to assess its safety. For example, in agriculture (eg genetically modified organisms) scientists, regulators and industries have developed many regulations to ensure product safety. Likewise, in the development of seafood using culture-based technology, a group of experts work together to develop newly developed food safety standards.
Difficulties associated with laboratory-grown seafood
One of the difficulties faced by manufacturers is related to the uncertainty of consumers to readily accept fish grown in the laboratory rather than seafood produced by conventional methods. A group of scientists believe the change could reduce fishing for endangered species and thus protect them from extinction. Therefore, cell-based seafood is extremely beneficial for fishing.
Another difficulty that manufacturers face is to make the newly developed food product competitive. The high cost of cell-based seafood, i.e. much more than wild or farmed fish, would play a central role in product selection.
By analyzing the consumer’s perspective on lab-grown meat replacing traditional meat, the researchers observed that resemblance to real food plays an important role in consumer acceptance of a product.
Another group of scientists pointed out that forage species like anchovies are more threatened by overfishing; However, these species are currently not intended to be designed via cellular laboratory methods as the financial returns are not significant.
Would you eat lab-grown fish?
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They further noted that although the tuna and salmon fisheries are relatively well managed; these species are more likely to be developed in laboratories due to greater financial returns.
Additionally, thousands of species of fish are consumed by humans, and the availability of diverse choices makes seafood appealing. Cell-based seafood cannot replace all of them and would not meet consumer expectations.
Can laboratory seafood become the future of the food industry?
Several seafood companies, that is, those associated with the development of cell-based seafood, believe that this product could become one of the most sustainable and alternative sources of protein. As consumers are increasingly aware of and support environmentally friendly approaches, this technology supports the mindset of using renewable energy and protecting wildlife.
At present, more than eighty startups are associated with the development of cultured meat and seafood. Scientists predict that cell-based seafood and meat will become competitive in the future, and the cost of development will decrease with technological advancements and optimization of the production process. When the cost of the product becomes lower than the cost of seafood produced by the conventional method, consumer preferences could change significantly.
References and future reading
Anderson, E. and Li, J. (2021) Cultured Meat and Seafood – Background. [Online] Available at: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/cultivated-meat-seafood-background
Urdapilleta, L. (2021) Laboratory-grown fish: the next revolution in sustainable seafood? [Online] Available at: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2021/cell-cultured-seafood/729016
Halpern, SB et al. (2021) The long and narrow road for new cell-based seafood to reduce fishing pressure for marine ecosystem recovery. Fish and fisheries. 22 (3). pages 652-664
Howell, M. (2021) Alt-seafood: Cell-based seafood in the European Union. Online]Available at: https://thefishsite.com/articles/alternative-seafood-cell-based-seafood-in-the-european-union-bluu-biosciences-sebastian-rakers