Wild Type, a company based in California known for developing cell-based lab salmon, just rolled-out its first tasting of the product in the form of spicy salmon rolls, ceviche, and other delicacies.
Although not yet available for the public mouth, Wild Type intends to navigate a few issues with its product (namely price) and compete with natural salmon markets at eight dollars a pound.
Current Barriers For The Consumer Market
Although cell-based lab meats have enjoyed various industry-lead innovations over the years, pricing remains an issue. The company estimated that the spicy salmon roll served at the tasting cost around $200 to make.
Further, taste is a factor. Will synthetic meats really pass the consumer taste test? So far it doesn’t look so convincing, with one taster at Wild Types recent presentation showing confidence in the texture but reservations about the taste: "The tasting culminated in a sample of the raw product itself. Served in a canning tin, the Wild Type salmon appeared a bit dull, lacking some of the vibrant color of wild coho. While the texture closely approximated wild fish, the taste, however, was lacking. It wasn’t unpleasant, nor unfamiliar. Just faint."
As the consumption of meat has grave consequences for the environment and with those consequences implications for international food security, scientists – for some decades now – have turned towards the horizon of lab meats as a less energy demanding, more ethical solution to our seemingly insatiable appetites for flesh.
As reported by journalist Hanna Tuomisto of The Guardian: "Meat production is one of the major contributors to global environmental degradation, especially deforestation, global warming, fresh water scarcity and loss of biodiversity. Currently, meat production uses almost one-third of the global land area, which amounts to more than 70% of the total agricultural land; and one-fifth of the global greenhouse gas emissions come from meat production."
However, the actual energy efficiency of lab-meats remains debatable. Some, in turn, point towards farm-fishing as an alternative, but studies find that problems also abound in this approach – from the need to use harmful chemicals to prevent infections and parasites in packed quarters, to the issue of farm fish contaminating natural fish populations and causing genetic degeneration.
History of Cell-Based Meat
Mark Post, a scientist at Maastricht University, was the first to introduce in vitro cultivated animal cells as a possible source of meat, back in 2013.
Dr. Post is a co-founder of Mosa Meat, which famously prepared a burger on British TV in 2013 made up of “over 20,000 thin strands of muscle tissue” and costing Dr. Post over $300,000 to prepare.
Dr. Post has since set up the donor-funded research institute New Harvest, which hosts yearly conferences and has also been behind companies such as Perfect Day, which produces cow-less cow milk.
Finally, other directions for food sustainability are being explored in nutrient packed products like Soylent. Although, the idea that nutrient bars would replace spicy salmon rolls sounds like nothing less than a dystopia – such a dystopia may be taken in the future as a blessing. Either way, many will be keeping their eyes to innovative companies like Wild Type to preserve our current taste needs, in however modified form, for the future.