Lab-made fish sticks may soon reach supermarket shelves as Birds Eye looks at cell-grown seafood. The brand has teamed up with US company BlueNalu to develop seafood products grown from cells in the lab, rather than harvested from the oceans. The parent company of Birds Eye Nomad Foods, which also owns the Findus, Iglo, La Cocinera, and Green Cuisine brands, told Reuters Monday that it aims to commercialize cell-grown seafood to help meet growing demand and support efforts to maintain the long-term sustainability of the planet's fish stocks.
Nomad and BlueNalu will collaborate on market research and consumer insights, assessing what is needed to gain regulatory approval and exploring new business and product opportunities for European markets. Europe is the world's largest importer of seafood with its citizens consuming more than three times what they produce, according to the European Union's Blue Economy Report.
Stefan Deschmeecker, CEO of Nomad Foods said, the importance of sustainability has never been more evident, and the role of technology in meeting these needs is accelerating.
Developed by California-based BlueNalu, the process involves live fish cells, isolated from the fish's muscle, fat and connective tissue, that are fed and given the care they need to reproduce. It is then shaped into portions of seafood using practices commonly used in the food industry. There was no genetic modification. Nomad, which operates and manufactures in 14 markets across Europe, is the world's largest buyer of sustainable wild fish. It said its agreement with BlueNalu is the first in Europe between the consumer packaged goods company and the cell-grown seafood company. BlueNalu develops a variety of seafood products directly from fish cells.
They focus on fish species that are commonly imported, difficult to farm, overfished, unsustainable, or typically contain higher levels of environmental pollutants. BlueNalu's association with Nomad Foods follows the already announced collaborations with Pulmuone Co Ltd in South Korea, Sumitomo Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation in Japan, and the Federation of Thailand in Thailand. BlueNalu's competitors that also work on cell-grown seafood include Bluu Biosciences, Fine Foods, and Wild Type. About 2.7 trillion wild fish are caught for food each year, and billions more are farmed.
About 30 percent of all wild fish stocks are overfished, while 60 percent are exploited to the maximum. However, fish farms on land have drawbacks, notably pollution and parasites that spread to the fish in their pens because they are held close to each other. There are animal welfare considerations, too. In the wild, salmon will swim freely for several hundred miles, but in a fish farm, it's swimming in a confined space.