Seafood’s Scientific Solution


Mother Jones illustration; Getty

Companies like Impossible and its competitor Beyond Meat have gotten most of the attention in our pages for plant-based meat-like products, but when it comes to alternative seafood our stories have mainly focused on invasive species, or on farming kelp or on seaweed farming. Thanks to Mother Jones for stretching our attention to the alternatives to fresh caught or even farm-raised seafood that simulates the kinds of fish that have been over-harvested:

We Destroyed the Oceans. Now Scientists Are Growing Seafood in Labs.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Do you love burgers—but not the animal cruelty and environmental degradation that go into making them? I come bearing good news: Someday, you might be able to get your meat fix, without all that bad stuff. Scientists can now grow animal flesh, without raising—or in most cases killing—an animal. This food, called “lab-grown meat,” “cell-based meat,” “cultured meat,” “cultivated meat,” “clean meat,” or as comedian Stephen Colbert jokingly called it in 2009, “shmeat,” has set off a flurry of media attention in recent years. Dozens of lab-grown meat companies have materialized, most aiming to solve the problems associated with large-scale beef, pork, poultry, and seafood production.

Finless Foods, a 12-person food-tech startup founded in 2017 and based in Emeryville, California, claims to be the first company to focus on lab-grown fish, although a handful of other startups have since joined them. In October, 28-year-old Finless Foods co-founder Mike Selden gave me a tour of their facility, and I dished about it on the latest episode of the Mother Jones food politics podcast Bite:


Selden and his co-founder Brian Wyrwas, both products of an agricultural biochemistry program at UMass Amherst, started the company, he says, to “make something good.”

“We started off with zebrafish and goldfish,” which already had a lot of cell biology research behind them, Selden explains. “From there, we did our first prototypes, which were carp.” The company grew tilapia, bass, rainbow trout, salmon, Mahi Mahi, lobster, and Fugu (poisonous pufferfish) meat before settling on Bluefin tuna, whose stocks have dropped sharply in the last few decades.

The idea behind lab-grown fish, Selden says, is multi-pronged. The technology, they hope, will prevent the killing of animals for food, cut down on overfishing, and eliminate mercury and microplastic contamination in seafood. “We see this as creating a clean food supply on land: no mercury, no plastic, no animals involved, and it can still meet people’s needs.”

Selden doesn’t like the term “lab-grown.” Industry insiders argue it makes their products sound artificial and unappetizing. He instead prefers to call it “cell-based.” He argues that the process of growing fish in a lab is actually very similar to how fish grow and develop in the wild…

Read the whole article here.

2 thoughts on “Seafood’s Scientific Solution

  1. Interesting…
    In fact, I also purchase products like “cornatur” “seitan” “tofù” etc… but not necessarily to have a substitute product with the taste of meat or fish.
    Let me explain myself: they are moral and/or ecological choices, what a human can do is a profound analysis of what drives him to change his diet.
    Because of: 1. health? 2. ethics? 3. ecological factor of the environmental footprint?
    and I could add other points of reflection.
    Perhaps in vitro culture of meat or fish cells to avoid (see “point 2. ethics and point 3. ecological factor”) breeding and killing a living creature, could be the solution for those people so terribly accustomed to the consumption of meat/fish.
    However, there are people who have never eaten meat/fish, such as vegetarians.
    Clear, the diet must be controlled, paying close attention and cooking fresh and balanced foods to obtain the right dietary intake. And this takes time!
    I have been vegetarian for many years, from about 5/6 I do not consume eggs and milk, sometimes I allow myself a piece of cheese, but more and more I find that the substitutes for dairy products on the market are of exceptional quality and it also increases the choice… so I am sure that soon I will no longer need to put parmesan on spaghetti!

  2. Dear Claudine, thank you so much for taking the time to share your perspective. And speaking on behalf of several contributors to this platform who are leaning vegetarian, but only slowly making progress, we need all the encouragement we can get. Your thoughts are appreciated for that purpose especially.

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