Friday, June 26, 2020

"The Faux Fish Coming to a Restaurant Near You"

That is assuming these things you call 'restaurants' will exist in the future.
From Hakai Magazine, June 23:

Alternative fish has arrived on the market. Can it help save marine life and feed a hungry world?
In a soaring room beneath the seats of Memorial Stadium at the University of California, Berkeley, students are up on their feet. Half the class is poised like gesturing statues while the others wander among their frozen peers to the strains of New Age music. The instructor tells everyone to imagine themselves in a garden of Rodin sculptures. They soon switch roles. The 30 or so students are taking part in a relaxation and focus exercise before delivering their research—research they hope will lead to a radical shift in our food choices, habits, and culture.

Today’s five-hour session is part of UC Berkeley’s Alt. Meat Lab, a one-of-a-kind program aimed at helping participants design, create, and bring to market “the next generation of foods.” It brings together entrepreneurs and researchers from various faculties that share a vital sense of mission. Established in 2017 as a part of the university’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, the Alt. Meat Lab offers a course and a competition to serve as incubators for generating fresh ideas for reducing food’s impact on the environment and improving human health through plant-based meat and dairy substitutes. In short, it asks participants to challenge the status quo and ultimately change the world.

Two by two, the students stand below the words Innovation Collider stenciled high on the wall. They present their findings into why people choose to eat meat and fish and how that might be altered. They are urged to look past the obvious, to think deeper about how people relate their food choices to taste, schedules, lifestyle, health, memories, and feelings. Beyond a small percentage of people who avoid meat or fish for religious or ethical reasons, most of us eat it when given the chance. These foods have been a part of the human diet for millennia, but the modern, medicated animal-agriculture industry—where the vast majority of us get our meat and dairy—only came of age within living memory. A growing number of researchers, entrepreneurs, and angel investors see a paradigm ripe for disruption—and an opportunity to eclipse the goals of many environmental campaigns.

By now you’ve noticed that plant-based burgers are a thing. We’re not talking an upgrade to the veggie burger, which has been around since 1982. Today’s plant-based burgers are designed to cook, taste, and “bleed” like real beef. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are just the largest and most visible brands of this emergent food phenomenon.

After having first tackled perhaps the most iconic, quintessentially American food, Impossible Foods—and others—have vowed to take on other varieties of meat, including seafood. This is an even bigger challenge on two fronts: price and replicating the nutritional profile and subtle flavor of fish. Should they succeed, could alt (alternative) fish help make the world more food secure and save marine environments?

Low carb. Keto. Macrobiotic. There’s far more at stake than dreaming up and then capitalizing on the next culinary fad. The market for alt-meat and -fish products, estimated at less than US $14-billion in 2019, is predicted to grow as high as $140-billion by 2029. But for many Alt. Meat Lab participants and food-tech start-ups, it’s about more than money—they want a new food system.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), raising animals for meat, eggs, and milk generates 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—roughly on par with the global transportation sector. And while meat, farmed seafood, eggs, and dairy provide just 18 percent of calories and only 37 percent of the protein we eat, producing it consumes a whopping 83 percent of farmland. These are the findings of the most comprehensive study done on the subject, published in the journal Science in 2018. Take out meat and dairy production, the authors say, and the global need for farmland could be reduced by an area equivalent to the United States, China, the European Union, and Australia combined—and still feed the world. When this is added to the industry’s record of deforestation, overuse of pharmaceuticals, and the unnecessary suffering of animals, there’s a strong case for cutting out the cow, pig, or chicken between us and the plants. The study’s lead author, Joseph Poore, declares that avoiding meat and dairy products is “the single biggest way” individuals can reduce their overall environmental impact on the planet.

Some consumers are listening; others are simply open to trying something new. Either way, the uptake of alt burgers has been swift—the Impossible Burger, for example, debuted in 2016 and is now carried by over two-dozen restaurant chains and over 2,000 grocery stores across North America.

But the case for alt fish is less obvious. Industrial fishing of wild marine stocks is different. Depending on species, it’s less carbon intensive than producing lamb, pork, or beef. Wild fish are nutritious, don’t take up land, and don’t have to be fed. Why not just eat more wild fish? Because there are fewer fish in the sea....