Why isn’t there more plant-based seafood?

Illustration for article titled Why isn’t there more plant-based seafood?
Photo: Kypros (Getty Images)
Hot LinksHot LinksWe spend way too much time on the internet

You may have noticed that most of the plant-based meat currently available imitates the meat of land animals: chicken, beef, pork. But where is the plant-based fish? The shrimp? The lobster? An article published by the BBC looks into the reasons for the lack of plant-based seafood.

Advertisement

First of all, there is some plant-based seafood. It’s just not very good. One of the reasons is that it’s difficult to mimic the light, flaky texture of real fish. Another is that faux fish doesn’t contain the same nutrients as the real thing—and health benefits are the reason a lot of people eat fish in the first place. (Think of the “pescatarians,” who will only eat the chicken of the sea.) And finally, there hasn’t been as much consumer demand for fake fish, possibly because animal rights campaigns tend to focus on cows and pigs rather than lobsters and salmon.

However, there is some work being to produce artificial seafood that tastes like the real thing. One lab in Singapore has been experimenting with cell-based crustaceans, that is, meat grown from a single cell in a bioreactor. Another has been testing ways to ferment microalgae to produce a protein substitute.

Advertisement

Many of these experiments are still in the very early stages. The BBC article notes that a single dumpling made from cell-based shrimp costs the equivalent of $107. But still, the work continues. And maybe someday even people who are allergic to shellfish can enjoy grilled scallops or a shrimp cocktail.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

One of the reasons is that it’s difficult to mimic the light, flaky texture of real fish.

this is the big one, IMO. most if not all of the fake meats simulate ground beef, ground pork, or stuff like chopped & formed nuggets. There’s no plant-based steaks or pork chops yet for the same reasons as fish substitutes.

I imagine the first would probably be some sort of plant-based “fish stick” since at least some of the fish sticks in the freezer are chopped/ground and formed.

it might be out of date by now, but I recall reading that cell-based “meats” may have the same problem; they could grow the cells themselves but it’s hard to get them into the same form as strands of muscle cells and connective tissues, and would effectively be a “meat paste.”