How do you avoid buying shrimp that has been in some way touched by slave labor? You could follow our six tips, give up buying the crustaceans at all — or you can check out a plant- and algae-based lab-grown shrimp alternative created by a startup that’s in the news.
Last year, the Associated Press reported that much of Thailand’s shrimping industry has been using slaves to peel the seafood. According to The Atlantic, New Wave Foods was founded on the grounds of concern for the “environmental and human-rights costs of fresh seafood.” New Wave founder Dominique Barnes and her partner, Michelle Wolf, will be releasing the first of their not-from-the-sea “popcorn shrimp” by the end of the year.
Barnes tells The Atlantic that the fake shrimp tastes and looks like the real deal and is a “faster way to reform” the industry. The “shrimp” is made of red algae, the stuff that’s consumed by shrimp and gives them their pink color, and a plant-based protein powder. She also says the shrimp isn’t the product of stem cells, like lab-grown beef.
“We’re not reproducing shrimp cells,” Barnes says. “We use a process that’s similar to baking a loaf of bread.”
While the goal for New Wave is to create other sea creatures and to sell their crust-fakeceans as “naked” shrimp that could be served with a cocktail sauce, they’re currently working on launching breaded popcorn shrimp, because when something’s out of sight, it’s out of mind and could be more palatable to the public.
Before everyone starts freaking out about the faux shrimp, do put things into perspective. Unless you’re being smart about where you’re buying your shrimp, you could foreseeably end up with the slave-peeled stuff. Who wants that on their conscience?