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New Wave Foods

Plant-Based ‘Shrimp’ Is Vegan, Kosher, and Surprisingly Convincing

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New Wave Foods

Pull over, shrimp: It’s algae’s turn in the breading lane. A new shrimp substitute, made of red algae, offers a delicious alternative for foodies concerned about the ethical implications of buying the real stuff.

And those “ethical implications” aren't just about eating animals. They are also concerns about environmental destruction, shocking amounts of bycatch (we lose up to 20 pounds of other sea creatures to catch one pound of shrimp), human trafficking, and slave labor.

Enter New Wave Foods, a start-up co-founded by marine conservationist Dominique Barnes and materials scientist Michelle Wolf. Recognizing that our love for popcorn shrimp is not going to go away any time soon, the two decided to find a way to make it more sustainable.

Engineered animal products are currently having a moment. Between lab-grown meat and the myriad plant-based substitutions appearing in supermarket freezers, consumers seem more open than ever to the idea of eating meat that’s never been anywhere near an animal, and food scientists have gotten pretty good at replicating the real thing.

Also having a moment? Algae. Researchers have really begun to recognize the diverse potential of these aquatic plants, which are already being considered as alternatives to jet fuel and plastic bottles. In the wild, algae also serves as the base of many food chains. In fact, algae is the reason flamingos are pink—they feed on shrimp, which feed on red algae.

So when it came time for Barnes and Wolf to find raw materials for their planet-friendly shrimp, algae seemed like, ahem, a natural choice. They developed a recipe that combines red algae’s rosy hue and briny flavor with plant protein powders, which give the shrimp its chewy snap.

Image Credit: New Wave Foods

“We’re not reproducing shrimp cells,” Barnes told The Atlantic. “We use a process that's similar to baking a loaf of bread.”

The company has found enthusiastic support from both investors and potential customers. Google’s employee cafeteria has already sampled the product and intends to start serving it as soon as it’s available, which could be as soon as fall 2016.

Barnes and Wolf expected their product to catch on among ethically conscious eaters. They didn’t consider that it might also be a huge hit on the kosher market. Kosher law prohibits eating any sea creature without fins and scales, which means that people who have kept kosher all their lives have never eaten shrimp. However, some rabbis argue that eating something that looks like shrimp is still a bad idea.

With buy-in from backers, consumers, and, presumably, shrimp themselves*, New Wave Foods may have just found a tartar-sauce-worthy solution.

*No shrimp were available for comment on this article.

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Josh Cassidy/KQED
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Animals
Watch Decorator Crabs Collect and Carry Costumes
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Josh Cassidy/KQED

Decorator crabs live off the California coast, among other places. They create their own camouflage by grabbing little bits of seaweed and shells, then hooking that stuff to their shell using Velcro-like hooks called setae. On occasion, these crabs even hook living anemones onto their shells, creating a tiny moving habitat.

In this video from Deep Look, we get to see decorator crabs up close (indeed, in 4K resolution). The best part is the "moss crab," which is delightfully hairy. Have a look:

If video isn't your thing, read this writeup from KQED Science.

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Dr. Alan Jamieson, Newcastle University
Our Pollution Has Now Reached Deep-Sea Animals
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Dr. Alan Jamieson, Newcastle University

It seems nowhere on Earth is safe from the creeping, deadly fingers of pollution. Scientists analyzing deep-sea crustaceans found traces of manmade chemicals in the animals’ bodies. The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Amphipods, like the one shown above, are small, eyeless crustaceans that make their homes in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean. The key to the deepwater amphipod’s survival is its stomach; it is both notoriously unfussy about what it eats, and gifted with special enzymes that help it digest just about anything, including plastic, animal carcasses, and even sunken ships.

But the oceans are a risky place to dine these days. Scientists have found dangerous chemicals, fibers, and pieces of plastic in the bodies of seabirds, mammals, mollusks, and fish alike.

The question for oceanographer Alan Jamieson and his colleagues was simple: How far down do these pollutants go?

To find out, they used deep-sea landers to collect three species of amphipods from the Mariana and Kermadec Trenches in the Pacific Ocean. They brought the animals back to the lab and tested their fatty tissue, looking for traces of 14 different pollutants.

And there they were. High levels of pollutants, including flame retardant chemicals, were found in every sample from every species, regardless of the depth at which the sample was collected. The contamination was so bad, it was comparable to that found in Japan's Suruga Bay, long known for its high level of industrial pollution.

The authors say the chemicals most likely reached the trenches while clinging to pieces of plastic garbage or the bodies of dead animals from closer to the surface.

Biologist Katherine Dafforn of the University of New South Wales weighed in on the research in an accompanying editorial. She concludes that “Jamieson et al. have provided clear evidence that the deep ocean, rather than being remote, is highly connected to surface waters and has been exposed to significant concentrations of human-made pollutants.”

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