Salmon has become the guinea pig of the seas when it comes to using technology to supplement falling fish populations. Now it’s moved onto land — and into the laboratory.
The fatty orange fish was the second-most-consumed in the US in 2017, after shrimp, and per capita consumption increased 11%, to 2.41 pounds per person, from the prior year, according to the National Fisheries Institute. Globally, demand for salmon has skyrocketed, along with that for all fish, fueling overfishing and threatening supply.
With rising incomes in developing nations driving demand, fish and seafood now account for almost a fifth of the animal protein people consume. The move toward environmentally conscious salmon farming is already underway.
But the next chapter of fish production, beyond even land-based farming, is already being written — by scientists. San Francisco-based Wild Type is hoping that, as with the rise of meat substitutes (and their arrival on Wall Street), lab-grown fish won’t be far behind. Or, for that matter, lab-grown sushi.
On a recent Sunday evening in Portland, Oregon, a group of Wild Type employees, investors, chefs, local restaurant owners and friends gathered at Olympia Oyster Bar for the first full-scale service of the company’s product, straight from the lab. Chefs served a pair of dishes designed to highlight the novel product.
The chef’s imaginations were constrained by the reality of working with a still-in development food. Wild Type can produce only small pieces of salmon, which become too flaky if heated above 212 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, all the preparations were either raw or cooked in natural acids, such as citrus juice.
The Wild Type product absorbed the cold smoking particularly well, an attribute the company plans to leverage as it launches the product commercially. One of the first items will be “smoked salmon,” since it’s something “people are comfortable with,” explained Wild Type co-founder Justin Kolbeck. “We want to start with something that is familiar. We don’t want people to find it strange.”