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Not only meat: 'alternative option' also among fish products

McKinsey: 14% increase in global demand could lead to cultured fish by 2030

04, Oct 2023

The world could run out of traditional seafood products, such as shrimp or tuna. The warning comes from a recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company that says a potential seafood shortage is on the horizon. The solution? Simple: also in this case, as for meat, "alternative" fish would be used, i.e. fish products grown in the laboratory.

The McKinesy report that highlights this new scenario is entitled "The next wave: alternative seafood solutions". The report warns that a 14% increase in global demand for seafood could lead to significant adoption of "alternative options" by 2030.

The surge in demand comes at a time when 85% of global fisheries are already operating at or beyond sustainability limits, and restrictions on fish farming further exacerbate pressure on traditional seafood supplies.

The analysis identifies five popular seafood species, namely shrimp, tilapia, tuna, salmonids and lobster: these species would be "particularly vulnerable" to substitution with alternative seafood products. The report highlights, for example, that tuna, third in the global seafood market, is largely based on wild fishing: 99% of tuna is caught in this way due to the difficulty of farming. This makes tuna a prime candidate for alternative production methods.

“Alternative” seafood options also have a significantly lower carbon footprint, as they can be produced locally. The report reveals that, at the retail level, tuna alone has a carbon footprint of just 0.8-0.9 kilograms of CO2 per kilo.

The McKinsey study identifies three primary production alternatives: cultured products, fermented products and plant-based products. According to the study, these are the ones closest to replacing traditional fish products thanks to their similarities, historical investments and availability on the market. Plant-based alternative seafood products face the fewest regulatory hurdles and have the lowest barriers to market entry: among other things, they have already achieved competitive prices, which in the United States range from $12 to $20 per pound, that is, approximately every half kilo.

Furthermore, products grown from fish cells have attracted considerable investment: over 100 million dollars in the United States alone. According to the study, these cultured alternatives would be the closest in taste, texture and nutritional value to traditional seafood products.

"In the past, alternative proteins have focused on chicken, pork and beef but seafood products have a competitive advantage over meat because they are often sold at a higher price - underlines Anders Milde Gjendemsjø, partner at McKinsey -. Premium cuts or super-premium bluefin tuna range from 40 to 200 dollars per hectogram, equal to a range from 38 to 190 Euros per hectogram, a price much easier to reach for alternatives than $4.99 per hectogram, i.e. 4.7 Euros, of minced meat. Alternative fish are also more environmentally friendly to produce: they can include the benefits of omega-3s without the high mercury levels of fish and are not limited by fishing quotas or farming licences."

“Our research indicates how alternative seafood could help sustainably scale the industry and reduce pressure on fisheries, while expanding access to protein,” adds fellow McKinsey partner Tom Brennan. “However, face significant challenges to reduce production costs to levels comparable to those of fish and to reflect the wide variety of taste and texture. Innovating to improve taste, nutrition and costs is critical to achieving wider distribution and reducing pressure on marine and freshwater ecosystems".

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Rome, RM, Italy, 03/10/2023 12:31
EFA News - European Food Agency

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