Eat Smart

Nutrition and preservation in good food

Adam's Weekly Blog

Eat Smart

Eat Smart

We started filming long before the tourists had got up and filled the alley...
We started filming long before the tourists had got up and filled the alley ways around Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

We were worried we wouldn’t be able to find a quiet spot to record an interview and so wanted to get an early start. As it turned out – we were far too early and it looked like a deserted backlot of a film studio. So in the end we had to wait for the crowds to gather and then cope with the noise.

Filming problems aside – the day was to prove very interesting.

Although we were at the heart of the fresh fish market we were talking to a young business woman who was developing a product to replace fresh fish.

She and her partner had created a prawn made from a synthetic product that she felt would help relieve the pressure on fishing stocks and create a new environmentally friendly industry.

The company they established is called New Wave Foods and has been started by Dominique Barnes and Michelle Wolf. Dominique studied Marine biology, eventually working in Las Vegas – the last place you might expect to find a marine biologist given that it is in the middle of the desert.

But she moved on and started her company. Standing at the fish market, Dominique told me “We’re doing this because the global demand for fish protein is growing and we can’t reach that demand with the oceans alone. Our oceans are maxed out. Shrimp’s the number one consumed seafood in the U.S. and beyond.”

Pound for pound, shrimp farming in some cases has a carbon footprint many times that of beef. Shrimps can contain toxins and antibiotics. While farms can be catastrophic for the environment. A shrimp alternative could solve this.

The alternative they are making shrimp out of is the rather unappetising sounding algae. She tells me “Algae was a natural choice for us because it’s the bottom of the food web in the ocean. And so a lot of animals get their colour or flavour from the algae that they eat. So, for example the red colour in salmon or in shrimp come from a red algae. And it’s really good for you. So that red algae is one of the most potent antioxidants known.”

It didn’t sound appetising but I held back on my judgement until we tasted it – so we went to a kitchen and had some cooked for us.

The shrimp are made in little moulds and certainly look the part – I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them and the real thing. A chef transformed them into a dish of Popcorn Shrimp with a batter and dipping sauce.

It tasted great – although in retrospect I feel I should have eaten one without all the extras to get a taste of the product and not just the crispy coating so I didn’t. I am not sure I was tasting the product rather than the taste of the way it was prepared.

Her partner Michelle tells me it has the same nutritional value as a real shrimp.

They say it could on our shelves towards the end of 2016, at a price that’s competitive with real shrimp. If it takes off there could be a lasting benefit to our vulnerable marine ecosystems.
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