Plant-Based Seafood, A Solution To Overfishing?
Seafood made from plants is nothing new. Since 1995, the May Wah Vegetarian Market in Chinatown, New York City, has provided Manhattan residents with a nearby source of substitute seafood. There is an increase in vegan seafood. In fact, the first half of 2021 saw four times as much investment in alternative seafood as the entire year of 2020. And that's after the US witnessed a 23% increase in sales in 2020. The annual growth rate of 3.1% exceeded both the rise in meat consumption and the global population.
Unquestionably, overfishing is a global issue. The United Nations estimates that around 90% of the world's marine fish populations are currently fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted, with fisheries subsidies playing a significant role. If current rates of consumption continue, saltwater species are predicted to become extinct by 2048. Other species will overpopulate as populations decline, eliminating biodiversity and altering the overall ecosystem. We also cannot disregard the carbon burden associated with seafood. Increased fuel use by ocean fishing vessels and rising demand have both resulted in higher greenhouse gas emissions.
Seafood isn't the solution for a number of other reasons, including the widespread use of child and slave labor in the business, the usage of plastic packaging, and the existence of microplastics in the ocean, which are themselves toxically contaminated by chemical runoff. The only seafood that permits fish to remain in the ocean undisturbed is one that is truly sustainable because our intake of fish is harming our earth. In addition to functional ingredients including colorants, flavors, minerals, vitamins, and preservatives, alternative seafood products also typically include plant-based proteins, polysaccharides, and lipids. The protein content is provided by plant-based proteins, which are also essential to the final structure of the finished product. Pulses, seaweed and algae, legumes, and some vegetable oils are the main components of these goods. To replicate the texture, appearance, flavor, and mouthfeel of animal-based products using only these components is one of the hardest hurdles. Additionally, the nutrient profile of plant-based goods must be carefully crafted to prevent adverse health impacts from arising from ingestion.
One seafood brand bases its goods on flour made from the Asian root vegetable konjac. Konjac is low in fat and high in fiber, yet it also tastes and feels like fish. It has numerous health advantages, such as decreased blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Peas are additionally utilized to create fish analogs and are thought to be an allergen-free substitute, particularly for higher-quality goods. Oats, chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed are other well-liked plant proteins that are frequently combined. A combination of soy, pea, and chickpea proteins is used to make tuna, and algal oil is added to enhance the flavor. Also included are beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Seaweed, algae, or konjac powder proteins can be used to create shellfish substitutes that have the same texture as real shrimp. These proteins can also be used to create substitutes for lobster, crab, prawn, and calamari. Some of the highlights include vegan alternatives to squid, fish balls made in the Fuzhou manner, red-spot prawns and shrimp, crab steak, scallops, shark fins, abalone, and whole lobsters. In contrast to soy and wheat alternatives, a sashimi line employs tapioca starch since it aids in creating the proper structure for the sashimi and is free of common allergies. Two additional essential components are flax and rapeseed oil.
How is seafood made from plants processed?
To create various optimum textures, some plant-based seafood is produced using a high moisture extrusion method. For the purpose of simulating the texture of actual seafood, the proteins are altered by a high-moisture extrusion technique. Some businesses use 3D printing for food. The idea is the same as with traditional 3D printing: edible ingredients are heated in a food 3D printer before being printed layer by layer on the build plate. In plant-based seafood processing, a different technology known as electrospinning is also used. When ultrafine fibers are charged and ejected via a spinneret under a high-voltage electric field, they come together to form a filament. This process is known as electrospinning.
Salmon that is suitable for sushi is produced through the cell-based industry specialization known as "cultivated seafood." Simply said, cellular agriculture is a process for producing meals that ordinarily originate from animals, but without the use of such animals. It is based on observing and then mimicking the biological processes that take place at the cellular level. Vegetarian or vegan diets and seafood sensitivities may both benefit from plant-based seafood. Microplastics, harmful metals like methylmercury, and other contaminants that are present in conventional fish caught in the ocean are absent from plant-based fish products. Additionally, creating seafood products from plants might be a way to end overfishing. The formulas and nutrient profiles of such items will continue to change and progress as a result of scientific and technological advancements.