Is fishless fish the next meatless meat?

I wrote yesterday about the latest goings on in the meatless meat revolution.

As we saw, the meatless burger industry is now worth billions, and is showing no sign of slowing.

It ties in with a new wave of environmental, health and fitness consciousness. Meatless meat is better for the environment, better for your health, and better for your image.

But what about fishless fish?

While eating fish doesn’t have the same health issues as eating meat, it is still increasingly bad for the environment.

From Tech Crunch:

But overfishing is hugely problematic – and it’s not sustainable to continue with the way things are. Fish populations are being decimated – including the Pacific bluefin tuna, which is now at four percent of its original size. Industrial fisheries are using large machinery to trawl oceans, which traps and kills many other animals, including whales and dolphins.

In China alone, where demand for seafood dwarfs any other country, demand is rapidly growing. This is partly due to the African Swine Fever outbreak hitting pig farms affecting pork, and causing people to turn to other sources of protein. In addition, the country’s huge long-distance fishing industry continues to expand, depleting fisheries and causing conflicts.

But most of the fish we eat will be farm-raised by 2030. Poorly managed fish farms can cause chemical contamination of water and promote bacteria and diseases that end up in wild ecosystems. Farmed salmon poses a huge risk to the environment when it mixes with wild populations, as this can disturb important ecosystems.

Fish is a hugely important source of protein as we face a growing population and the challenges of food insecurity. But supplying fish sustainably, without depleting natural resources and harming the aquatic environment, is a continuous challenge. Fish is contaminated with plastics, mercury and antibiotics. And fish farming isn’t doing much to tackle food insecurity, as it isn’t reaching the places where it’s most needed.

I remember a few years ago when I heard that you shouldn’t undercook most salmon. Not because you risk food poisoning, but because you risk getting parasites.

The reason for that is most of the salmon we eat in the UK doesn’t come from the wild. It comes from fish farms. And while that may sound like it’s better for the environment, as you can see in the excerpts above and below, it’s still pretty damaging.

From Natural History Museum in 2018:

Salmon farms across the world are suffering from infestations of Lepeophtheirus salmonis, a sea louse that targets salmonids (the family of fish that includes salmon).

Sea lice are copepod crustaceans. They have been around for millions of years and have adapted to live on salmon, feeding on the fishes’ skin and blood to survive. The lice have a short, free-swimming larval phase, when they need to find and attach to a fish host.

‘The infective larvae are less than a millimetre long, so in the wild finding a host is a difficult part of the life cycle,’ says Geoff. ‘But in aquaculture, fish are kept at unnaturally high densities, so the parasites will exploit that, and their lives become easy.

‘Much like with humans, high densities mean it is easier for diseases to be transmitted.’

Although they are small, the lice can cause catastrophic damage commercially. Infected fish can’t be sold due to the lesions the parasites cause. But the health of the fish is also at risk. In extreme cases, an infestation can cause mass mortality.

However, if you’re a sushi fan, you shouldn’t really worry. Freezing fish kills parasites and fish sold for sushi is required to be frozen first to kill any parasites.

Fish has a much better health image than beef

And the fact remains that fish is very good for you. When people eat fish they tend to do so knowing that it’s pretty good for them.

There’s a big difference in how health-conscious people feel about eating a fatty burger compared to a fillet of fish.

Fish also contains some nutrients and oils that are hard to get otherwise, and it’s often marketed by promoting these facts.

Still, that hasn’t stopped a new wave of companies – including the already successful Impossible Foods – starting to develop fishless fish.

Again, from Tech Crunch:

Impossible Foods says plant-based fish alternatives are a ‘high priority’ for the start-up, while other companies are developing a number of fish products that are getting closer to mimicking the real thing. Good Catch offer plant-based tuna, Ocean Hugger Foods have developed a plant-based raw tuna, and New Wave Foods have come up with plant-based shrimp – while restaurants are starting to offer plant-based sushi.

What about lab-grown fish

As I said, fish is good for you.

So it’s going to be an uphill battle convincing people that a processed plant mass is going to be better for them than a fresh fillet of fish. In fact, it may be extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible, to make fishless fish that tastes like fish and is as good for you as the real thing.

So what if you could keep fish part of fish, but grow it in a different way?

That’s what a company called Wild Type is doing. It’s making lab-grown salmon.

From The Spoon this June:

Founded in 2016, Wild Type raised a $3.5 million seed round to expand its cell-based salmon R&D in 2018. The company plans to initially release minced salmon and lox and work its way up to full-size filets.

It still has quite a few hurdles to overcome. As with most cellular agriculture (or aquaculture) companies, it can only produce relatively small pieces of lab-grown meat due to scaffolding challenges and other growth constraints.

Wild Type’s salmon can also only be served raw. If it’s heated above 212°F, it will become too flaky fall apart. According to Bloomberg the company plans to debut a new version of the salmon that can be cooked in the next few months.

Pricing is also an issue. The company hopes to sell their salmon at a competitive price to real farmed Atlantic salmon: $7 to $8 per pound. As of now, they estimate that the spicy salmon roll served at the dinner cost a whopping $200 to produce. However cellular agriculture/aquaculture companies are rapidly reducing the cost it takes to make cultured meat, mostly due to improvements in growth media, so it’s likely pricing will go down soon.

And Wild Type isn’t the only one. Again from The Spoon:

Finless Foods is hoping to bring its cell-based bluefin tuna to market by the end of 2019, though likely in a very limited release. In Singapore, Shiok Meats is developing cell-based shrimp (and racking up serious funding along the way), and Avant Meats is making lab-grown fish maw in Hong Kong.

Lab-grown fish may bring together the best of all worlds: the health benefits of eating fish without the environmental devastation that usually goes along with it.

And that’s before we even get into the debate on how sentient fish are.

I guess that just leaves us with chicken

Last October I reported on lab-grown chicken nuggets, which were cultivated from a single chicken feather.

At the time Just Foods – the maker of the lab-grown nuggets – said it would have its nuggets on the market by the end of the year.

Well, I just had another look its website and it’s now changed its timeline to the end of this year.

I have a feeling that when I check again next year, it will have been changed again. It’s hard to tell if it’s ever going to come out with a market-ready product at this rate. But if it does it will be a game changer.

Okay, that’s enough food for today.

On another tangent, I’ve just seen that bitcoin is once again back over $12,000 and Ethereum is holding strong above $300.

It’s crazy to think that at the beginning of the year most mainstream media and investors had written bitcoin off – when it was languishing at around $3,400 – and now, seven months later, it’s almost quadrupled in price.

Actually, it’s not crazy at all. Bitcoin has been pronounced dead by so-called experts more than 350 times. Every single one of these obituaries has since been proved wrong.

One man who knows all this better than most is my colleague Sam Volkering. He has been heavily involved in bitcoin and other cryptos since the beginning. And he’s one of the few “crypto experts” that actually knows what he’s talking about.

And next week Sam is putting on a special crypto event, where he’s going to reveal two up-and-coming cryptos that he believes could turn £50 into £10,000. Yes, seriously.

Take a look here to find out how he came to that conclusion.

And if you want to watch this event, I have good news. It’s completely free, so long as you get your name down here in time.

Until next time,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

Category: Genetics and Biotechnology

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