Future nutrition: Can lab-grown salmon save the oceans?

Lab-grown salmon could revolutionize nutrition. And it can also play an important role for the environment.

California – Maki and nigiri bites on a plate. Bright red-orange salmon adorns the various sushi specialties. They all have one thing in common: salmon have never swum in the ocean or salmon farm waters before, on the contrary, their gills have never been in contact with water. The reason: It comes from the laboratory.

a startup from California plans to change the world of food and make sushi-quality lab-grown salmon and is banging on the drum. Diminishing demand for wild or farmed salmon could not only benefit wildlife, but also the environment. But how is artificial fish made, and why is conventional salmon harming nature?

Laboratory-grown salmon as the food of the future? Start-up wants to produce sushi-quality salmon

The start-up Wildtype wants to offer an alternative to salmon from the ocean or from aquaculture. To do this, they use living cells from a type of salmon that can be found both in the Pacific and in rivers near the coast. Cells from this fish, also known as coho or coho salmon, are then grown in the laboratory using a nutrient medium. The procedure for in vitro meat is similar.

  1. This is how the start-up’s laboratory salmon is made:
  2. removal of cells
  3. Growth in nutrient solution in cultivator
  4. Shaping and finishing on plant-based “scaffolding”.

The cells grow in cultivators, which are very similar to the steel tanks used to brew beer, the developers explain on their website. Subsequently, these cells must be given a structure. To do this, the cells are “seeded” in molds or scaffolds. These are of plant origin and allow cells to grow in the form of a fish. But not only the shape, but also the texture is imitated with the help of scaffolding. This growth process lasts between four and six weeks.

Other marine animals are now being produced in the laboratory as well. In Singapore, the company Shiok Meats is engaged in the artificial production of shrimp, crab and lobster. Their cells also grow in culturers.

Laboratory fish and meat: is this the diet of the future?

Laboratory-produced fish and other marine animals can not only improve the animal population, which is increasingly threatened by overfishing every year. Aquaculture also leaves its mark on the environment.

According to WWF data, much of the salmon that fills supermarket shelves no longer comes from the wild. Instead, about 90 percent would come from aquaculture. The environmental organization cites overfishing and ocean pollution as the reason for this. But what is so harmful about salmon farming?

Is salmon harmful? The problem of aquaculture for health and the environment

According to the organization, salmon often get sick or infested with lice in factory farms in crowded conditions. As a consequence, the constant administration of drugs can cause them to become increasingly resistant. These in turn are a danger to fish in the wild. Another problem: if salmon escape from captivity, this can endanger natural fish populations.

The environment also suffers from the diet of the fish. According to quarks.de, in addition to other fish, salmon are fed soy in large quantities. Plant feed constitutes about 80 percent. About 500 grams of soybeans are needed to produce a kilogram of salmon. Food production consumes resources. According to the magazine, a large proportion of these beans come from South America, where the rainforest is being cut down to feed animals.

Is lab-grown salmon the fish of the future? A US startup is entering the next round of development. (symbol photo)

© Ramón López/Imago

Environmentalists also repeatedly criticize the use of special agents in salmon farming. To ensure the reddish coloration, chemically produced “carotenoid astaxanthin” is often used in salmon farms, which causes enormous harm to nature around aquaculture. According to Greenpeace, the use of the antioxidant ethoxyquin in salmon feed is also dangerous. It is said to improve shelf life, but is suspected of being carcinogenic.

Nutrition: Artificial Lab Salmon: What’s Next?

Products from companies like Shiok Meats or Wildtype have yet to hit local supermarket shelves. But the latter was able to celebrate another success in February 2022. They collected investments of 100 million dollars. Among the investors were familiar faces like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jeff Bezos.

Justin Kolbeck, co-founder of the company, told CNN that current production capabilities are still “modest.” He estimated that it could be around a decade before the company could produce on an industrial scale and stressed that much broader action against overfishing needed to be taken. (Sofia Lother)

Image of the list of rubrics: © Ramon Lopez/Imago

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