The fillets were cooked by chef Eddy Leung, who told reporters with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they looked and smelled like normal fish, but had the consistency of crab cakes.
“Before cooking the fish, it was quite firm, but after cooking it, the texture changed to look like real fish,” Leung said.
The fish, provided by Meat Before, represents a crucial step in meeting the growing demand for seafood and meat that does not compromise global climate goals. The company claims that the growth of fish biomass in the laboratory is faster than conventional aquaculture. While some species of fish can take a year or two to reach slaughter weight, Avant Meat’s offering took two months to produce.
The company produced 10 fillets from a sample of grouper cells that proliferated in a bioreactor. Avant’s Chief Scientific Officer, Mario Chin, said Reuters that reform culture technology can produce a variety of animal protein. Depending on the availability of bioreactors, cell-based seafood can be produced anywhere.
According to Elaine Siu, chief executive of the nonprofit Good Food Institute (GFI) Asia Pacific, “…cultured meat gives consumers the animal protein they want without having to deplete the oceans or slaughter the rainforest to get it”.
If the technology is widely adopted, input costs and greenhouse gas emissions from meat production could drop significantly. A 2011 study from the University of Oxford found that cell-based meat and seafood could reduce the land use of agriculture and aquaculture by 99% and decrease its consumption of 96% water.
While these developments are poised to disrupt the global trillion-dollar meat industry, lab-grown meat and seafood will likely serve a niche market if it succeeds in commercialization. Energy costs mean the technology is difficult to scale. All cell-based products on the market will likely serve consumers who are willing to pay a premium.