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Lab Grown Shrimp Is Silicon Valley’s Latest, and Most Ambitious, Frankenfood


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Might we one day soon have kosher shrimp?

While lab-grown shark fins are on their list of proposed products, right now the team is focusing on shrimp due to its unrivaled popularity in the US. New Wave is experimenting with different ways of extracting protein from algae and mashing it together to get the same texture and nutritional value as real shrimp, Kaehms explained. Because they’re using the same algaes that shrimp eat, the nutritional component is fairly straightforward—shrimp bioaccumulate a lot of their nutritional value by eating algae. But nailing the texture is tricky.

“I like to use the analogy of kneading bread,” Kaehms said. “If you knead bread too long it becomes really firm and if you don’t knead it long enough, it can be too soft. So the way we mix it and align the protein gels gives it its texture.”

The team says it has managed to replicate the flavor of shrimp, but Kaehms wouldn’t reveal any specifics about how they’ve achieved that feat. “That’s our secret sauce,” she said.

What makes shrimp unkosher?

No fins!

Bottom feeding!

So no fins + No bottom feeding = Kosher? So + No = Ko!

Wow, does that mean lab grown bacon is kosher too?

A little background on New Wave and its founder/CEO:

The US eats more shrimp than any other type of seafood, with the average American consuming about 4 pounds of the little crustaceans each year, according to the National Fisheries Institute. But as with anything delicious, there’s a catch. New evidence continues to reveal the already pretty well-known dark side of commercial shrimp fishing and farming, including slave labor and environmental destruction. And while this is true for many kinds of seafood, the shrimp industry is particularly bad.

“If you look at seafood, you have to look at the food miles, how it’s being caught, and there’s a lot of mislabeling,” said Jennifer Kaehms, CEO of New Wave. “We’re really focusing on sustainable seafood, that’s our core motivation.”

Kaehms recently graduated with a bioengineering degree from the University of California San Diego. She came up with the idea for her lab-grown seafood startup after co-founder Dominique Barnes, an oceanography grad at her alma mater, told Kaehms about the perils of shark finning.

“I thought, ‘we can do something about this,’” Kaehms said. “If we can print ears and noses, why can’t we print shark fins?”

The pair, along with the company’s lead engineer, Michelle Wolf, applied to participate in IndieBio, a science-focused startup incubator that gives successful applicants $250,000 and lab space to launch their business. The team was accepted into the most recent class of startups and began work in early October.

How cool... all women!

Yes! I like the concept of 3D printing shrimp, too.

Well it is basically... extruded anyway, right? There's no muscle grains in shrimp.

True. And I'd imagine lab grown shrimp can be developed into many pleasing shapes, too.

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