Finless Foods Is Bringing Lab-Grown Fish to Your Dinner Plate

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©. Finless Foods -- Researchers at work in the Finless Foods lab, growing fish.

This young startup uses cellular agriculture to grow fish out of water -- delicious, nutritious, and cruelty-free.

Have you ever realized that fish is the only food that is hunted on an industrial scale? Other staple meats in the human diet are farmed. Because of this, fish populations are in peril, depleted by overfishing and contaminated by environmental pollutants. The situation is so bad that one could argue there is no such thing as sustainable fish anymore.

That is, unless you talk to Mike Seldon, CEO of Finless Foods. Seldon believes that people can still enjoy the taste, texture, and nutrition of fish without plundering the oceans, if they approach it in a radically different way. Seldon's San Francisco-based company, Finless Foods, is using cellular agriculture to grow fish in a lab, using progenitor cells taken from a small piece of fish meat. As described in WIRED:

"The idea is to trick these cells into thinking they’re still in their owner. So by feeding them nutrients like salts and sugars, Finless can get the cells to turn into muscles or fat or connective tissue. Think of it like sourdough yeast: Once you’ve got a starter strain, you can keep making a distinctive bread. 'Once each of these companies has a cell line going,' says Selden, 'they never have to go back to the initial animal.'"

So far, Finless Foods has made an initial prototype consisting of fish cells bonded together with a food paste enzyme. It was used in carp croquettes served at a taste-testing in September 2017. As INC reports, the company hopes to refine its processes and be able to replicate bluefin tuna by the end of 2019; eventually it plans to grow all manner of fish.

"Looking further out, Finless is concentrating its R&D; efforts on tissue engineering that will allow them to culture not just disconnected cells but 'solid chunks of things that are a facsimile of fish flesh' -- basically fish fillets."

The hardest sell is getting people on board. Many people find the idea of lab-grown fish to be disgusting, while others think it's exciting. What's important to understand is that lab-grown meat is still meat, even though it has taken a different journey to the table. Engadget describes the lab-growing process:

"Scientists start with what are known as satellite cells and provide them with all the nutrients they need to live and develop. Throw some edible material in there that acts as scaffolding on which the cells can grow, make sure there's the optimal amount of movement and the correct temperature, and eventually you have meat that can be cooked and eaten just like any pork, beef or chicken you get from the store today. That's a simplification of a complicated process that scientists are still refining, but that's essentially it. Try to do what happens naturally, but do it outside of an animal."

Put that way, it doesn't seem quite so frightening. Nor is it hard to argue with a process that spares billions of animals from suffering and unnecessary death. As Seldon says in a promo video (shown below), "Success is seeing these animals actually thrive in their own ecosystem." If we're serious about wanting that, then we need to adjust our diets to make it happen. Learn more in the video below: