Underutilized Fish Species: Collaboration and Education Create Balance

Today, consumers across the globe are relying on seafood as a primary source of protein. This has sparked an educational movement to limit overfishing in an effort to promote seafood sustainability. The idea is to use less of an overused species like Salmon, and substitute it with a less familiar and potentially more abundant species, like Pollock.

On this Foodable.io talk, brought to you by Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, our Host Daniela Klimsova, and panelists Warner Lew, Taho Kakutani, Taichi Kitamura - explore how we define an underutilized species. They also discuss the need to not only market to chefs and restaurants but to the consumer, who has a significant role to play in a more sustainable future.

Taho Kakutani, a fishmonger at Pike Place Fish Market, leads by saying discussions about sustainability started to stand out about five years ago, which lead the fish market to prioritize seafood sustainability and advocation of the practice.

“There is a need for story...the seafood industry is particularly compelling,” said Kakutani. “From the sea to the table is this amazing journey that’s happening. So when we have these touch points like sustainability...there’s this opportunity to create this really interesting story that I think consumers are really looking for.”

Taichi Kitamura, executive chef and co-owner of Sushi Kappo Tamura, agrees that as chefs, they are responsible for educating consumers on underutilized species being included on their menus.

“I have to be very careful about what I say to my customers, and actually what I practice in terms of what to put on the menus,” said Kitamura. “You really have to be on top of this issue...it wasn’t the news then, but now it’s the news.”

Bristol Bay’s Fleet Manager, Warner Lew, got his start in the 1970s as a deckhand for local fisheries. He now is known as a crusader for getting Americans to eat canned, smoked Alaskan herring. With a nod to chef Taichi Kitamura’s herring sushi dish from a chef’s seminar, he speaks about how a species could become underutilized.

“The herring, it’s...underutilized in this country because few people know how to handle it… [or] how to enjoy it. That’s the trick [when] utilizing the fish, is how do you make it enjoyable and easy,” said Lew.

Mainstream seafood is often overfished and over marketed. Experts all agree that to create a significant change in reducing overfishing of certain species, industry leaders such as fishermen and chefs need to collaborate, educate and expose the underutilized species market to the masses.

Are Today's Eaters Ready for Lab-Created Meat?

Both Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat, both food-tech companies known for plant-based burgers, have secured millions in funding.

We sat down with Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Burger to discuss the company’s success where we learned why he started the plant-based brand. Listen below.

Although these burgers by companies like Beyond Meat look very much like the rare meat patties (they even bleed,) they aren't a real thing. As Beyond Meat says the burger "looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef." These companies don't pretend to have the beef taste down– at least for now.

That's where "cultured meat" comes in. This is lab-created meat from cell cultures versus being directly from animals.

Even though those looking for eco-friendly proteins, like flexitarians or animal welfare advocates, are likely going to be somewhat enticed by this, not everyone is ready to accept this type of meat.

Cultured Meat

"The concept of cultured meat was only known (unaided) by 13% of the study participants. After receiving basic information about what cultured meat is, participants expressed favorable expectations about the concept. Only 9% rejected the idea of trying cultured meat, while two-thirds hesitated and about quarter indicated to be willing to try it," writes the Journal of Integrative Agriculture about a 2013 study.

Besides getting consumers to get past the idea that the meat was created in a lab, biotech's are struggling to keep the cost down for these burgers. In 2013, there was a live tasting of a lab-grown burger that had the steep cost tag of $330,000.

Then there's the name. What will these burgers be called?

"Cultured meat" sounds like a science experiment. Names like "artificial meat," "alt meat," or "clean meat" are possibilities. But should meat even be in the name at all?

"The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association worries that the term “meat” will confuse consumers since these products will directly compete with traditional farm-raised meat. The industry group prefers what are perhaps less-appetizing terms, like “cultured tissue," writes "The Daily Beast."

Read more about the progress of lab-created meat now.