With sustainability being the need of the hour, there is a need to curb excessive mining, land disturbance, carbon emissions and environmental damages.
The phrase ‘lab-grown’ is fast catching up with brands. In the process, they are pioneering new ways to produce products like meat, leather, diamonds and, most recently, caviar in the lab. Yes, you read that right. The world’s first lab-grown caviar will be produced by Exmoor Caviar (in Devon, England), which produces sustainable sturgeon caviar and has resonated well with Michelin-star chefs for more than a decade. It is working with leading scientists from universities in the UK to cultivate eggs using cells derived from the fish.
Kenneth Benning, the chief executive of Exmoor Caviar, told UK’s iNews website about his plans, including using biotech to grow cells, using proteins and lipids derived from the fish. He also talked about wanting to take the caviar to the 2023 European Seafood Show in Brussels. If they are successful, a new kind of animal-free caviar would be made possible, as the product is aimed at the ethical and cruelty-free food market. As a farmer himself, Benning realises the importance of this and, in a way, his experimentation will revolutionise the luxurious caviar market.
Touted as the most expensive gastronomical attraction and a favourite of many chefs, caviar is eggs harvested from fish (salmon, sturgeon, trout) that are cured in salt. It has a high production cost and low yield. It originated from Middle Eastern and eastern European diets, and was later harvested by Russian and Persian fishermen in the Caspian Sea.
There are many types of caviar variants available in the market. A vegan variant, which is quite smooth and bubbly in texture, is seaweed caviar—a plant-based food with no animal ingredients. It can easily replace different roe, including lumpfish rose, trout roe, salmon roe and cod roe. Its actual taste and texture come from seaweed, a multicellular large algae and a source of proteins packed with umami flavour.
Not just caviar, there are other products coming out of the lab too. English fashion designer Stella McCartney introduced the world’s first lab-grown Mylo mushroom leather garments this year. Mylo is a soft and sustainable material. Unlike most synthetic leathers, it is made from mycelium, the infinitely renewable underground root system of mushrooms, which grows best in a lab with mulch, air and water. It is designed to have minimal environmental impact.
Lab-grown meat is also quite popular as it intends to reduce the slaughtering of animals for consumption, and hence claims to be ethical with environmental merits. Eat Just, a company based in San Francisco, describes its product as “real, high-quality meat created directly from animal cells for safe human consumption”. Another company California-based Memphis Meats announced last year the building of a new plant to produce cell-based meat.
Then there is OsomeFood, which goes beyond the vegan label to guarantee nutrition with food alternatives using mycoprotein and plant-based ingredients. This Singapore-based food manufacturer has launched the world’s first nutrition-focused and plant-based hard-boiled egg for immunity purpose and without harming animals.
According to a recent report published in The Guardian, dozens of firms are developing cultivated chicken, beef and pork with a view to slashing the impact of industrial livestock production on the climate, as well as providing cleaner, drug-free and cruelty-free meat. Currently, about 130 million chickens and four million pigs are slaughtered every day for meat. By weight, 60% of the mammals on earth are livestock, 36% are humans and only 4% are wild.
The World Economic Forum reports that the environmental cost of the growing appetite for meat is alarming. Agriculture is responsible for 10-12% of greenhouse gas emissions, with meat, poultry and dairy farming producing nearly three quarters of it.
With sustainability being the need of the hour, there is a need to curb excessive mining, land disturbance, carbon emissions and environmental damages. Hence, lab-grown diamonds are also being approved. The process involves creating pieces with zero mining and eco-friendly sourcing. Indian brand Vandals has its first-ever retail outlet for jewellery made of lab-grown diamonds in Mumbai. Other brands like Limelight Diamonds and Anantaa Diamonds promise an alternative in the form of CVD diamonds, also known as Chemical Vapour Deposition diamonds or man-made diamonds. These diamonds are grown in state-of-the-art laboratories and do not involve any human mining.