A new study published in PNAS confirms that foods made from animals are far more contaminated than those made from plants or microbes. Maybe not, but the scope of research is so vast that it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the ecological impact of our current food system.
It estimates the environmental impact of different types of food. This includes greenhouse gases emitted by the production of each type of food. But also how land use, water use, and by-products can contaminate rivers and lakes with nitrogen. After analyzing the numbers, the scientists found many alternatives to meat have less than one-fifth, and in some cases one-tenth, the environmental impact of meat-based alternatives.
Lead author and postdoctoral researcher Michael Clarke said in a statement, “We have taken an important first step towards providing information that enables informed decision-making. In many ways, lab-grown or artificial seafood isn’t as sophisticated (or common) as other meat substitutes, and researchers are working to fix this.
Future Foodtech Alternative Protein Summit
The issue of alternative seafood was the basis for a workshop at the Future Foodtech Alternative Protein Summit in New York this summer. Over $175m was invested into alternatives seafood in 2021. That’s a 92% increase from 2020, according to a Good Food Institute report.
It may be supported by the plant based food market. The bulk of this market consisted of alternative meats and dairy products. Seafood alternatives, at least for now, have not enjoyed the same popularity among consumers. Some believe it’s because meat isn’t considered a healthy option. “Traditional seafood really has a health ring,” Mallika Azoff, a corporate engagement specialist at the Good Food Institute, told CNBC.
For those switching to plant-based foods for health rather than environmental reasons, this makes switching to alternative seafood less urgent.
Questionable fishing practices
The environmental issue of reducing fish consumption is compelling: recent research reveals unsustainable fishing practices around the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, up to 35% of all seafood caught in the world’s waters never makes it to consumers’ plates.
Waste is a major problem throughout the supply chain, from fishing nets to supermarket shelves. In the European Union alone, fishermen dumped at least 230,000 tons of fresh fish into the sea in 2019. His over 90% of this waste is the result of bottom trawling. Bottom trawling involves raking the seabed and dredging everything in its path.
It takes years of research for manufacturers to create a plant-based alternative that truly replicates the taste and texture of an animal, but there is nothing about seafood that inherently complicates the process.
The influx of investment capital into innovative food tech companies means that we won’t have to wait long for alternative seafood to become culinary mainstream.
Related article: Did you know that half of all seafood consumed is from Aquaculture?
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Source: Discover Magazine