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Are You Ready For Fishless Fish?

Companies are already competing to become the Beyond Meat of fish

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Ahimi fake fish on sushi
Ahimi
Ocean Hugger Foods

Looking down the loaded barrel of a meatless future, the focus seems to be on placating those who can’t imagine living without their beef. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat insist you’ll be able to bite into a meaty, marbled, bleeding patty — complete with everything but the screams of a cow — for the rest of your life and not doom the planet as a result. But if the main thing you’ll miss is sushi, fear not. The innovators are salivating over faux fish, too.

Despite accounting for over a fifth of the world’s animal protein intake, there hasn’t been as much noise around creating a fish substitute, probably because “people in developing countries are much more dependent on fish as part of their daily diets than those living in the developed world,” and tech bros tend to focus on solving the problems of other tech bros. But worldwide fish consumption has reached a record high, and a third of the world’s oceans are overfished, according to the UN. We are rapidly running out of fish.

A report by Bloomberg outlines some of the innovations so far. There’s AquaBounty, whose AquAdvantage salmon is real, genetically modified salmon which supposedly grows twice as fast as the regular animal. There’s also Wild Type, which makes lab-grown salmon. Bloomberg reports that “Wild Type can produce only small pieces of salmon, which become too flaky if heated above 212 degrees Fahrenheit,” but that those bits work well for things like ceviche and sushi for now. There’s also Ahimi, a raw ahi tuna substitute made from tomatoes, which is already available at some Whole Foods, and other brands of vegan fish fillets.

Wild Type makes the point, in a blog post, that meat prices are on the rise, and may soon become out of reach for all but the wealthy. “Even if you’re indifferent to the potential health and environmental benefits of cell-based meat, if you care about affordable meat for us all, then we need a new way to create meat and fish,” they write. Still, none of these, or any other vegan fish substitutes, have produced the fervor of something like the Impossible burger.

That’s partially because none of these have hit the fast food market yet. But it could also be because Americans don’t like fish very much. Dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner told USA Today she hears from clients all the time that they thought they didn’t like fish because they never ate it growing up, whether it’s because it was too expensive for their families, or because they parents didn’t like it either. It’s already taking a lot to get meat eaters curious about a “bleeding” plant burger, so plant-based fish may be even more of a hurdle. We will just have to wait for a McDonalds Fake Fillet.

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