Cell-cultivated chicken, eggs, and beef might be old news, but the cutting-edge food tech has found another animal to dupe: eel.
And that’s a very good thing, considering some eel species have become endangered due to overfishing and pollution.
With dwindling populations driving up prices, eel consumption in Japan has fallen 80% since 2000 as consumers turn to cheaper options.
Now, Forsea Foods is producing lab-grown meat using embryonic cells from freshwater eels, per The Guardian.
- The company is the first to use organoids (i.e., tissue cultures originally developed for medical research) made up of embryonic stem cells of fertilized eel eggs.
- As the cells grow, they copy the structure of real meat without requiring the chemicals or structures that other cultivated meat techniques use.
The company has raised $5.2m in investment so far and aims to have its eel for sale in about two years.
For now, Forsea Foods has collaborated with a Japanese chef to make lab-grown unagi kabayaki and unagi nigiri — two traditional, eel-centric dishes.
Restaurants in Japan already pay ~$250 per kilogram for wild-caught eel. While cultivated meat won’t be cheaper, the company said it will likely match that price.
And there’s likely more to come: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the country’s ongoing support of the cultivated meat industry.
Of course, lab-grown meat is being developed to replace all sorts of animal products, with seafood solutions alone spanning tuna, octopus, salmon, and more as regulatory approval slowly follows. And may we never forget: the mammoth meatball.