Lab-Grown Vegan Shrimp: Preserving Oceans and Changing How We Eat

New Wave Foods is Changing the Way We Eat with Lab-Grown Vegan Shrimp

Animal-free, cruelty-free, kosher, suitable for people with shellfish allergies, andbetter for the environment? Vegan shrimp from New Wave Foods sounds like a dream come true.

Shrimp cocktail, shrimp scampi, coconut shrimp, and all sorts of other formerly off-limits dishes may now be in your very near future. Leaders in sustainable seafood, New Wave Foods is revolutionizing the way we eat through the use of artificial crustaceans. The emergence of lab-grown proteins, like vegan shrimp, are quickly gaining momentum in the food industry, especially among those who abstain from eating animals. But why the need?

Aside from the obvious food allergies, lifestyle choices, and religious views, all proteins, including seafood and fish, have a detrimental impact on the environment when farmed or caught for consumption (or wear). From wastewater runoff and resource consumption, the meat industry is already responsible for around 18 percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions, which, as Gizmodo so aptly points out, is is a deceptively low number due to large contributions of other emissions, such as methane and nitrous oxide. To most conscientious individuals, even those who don’t fall somewhere on the spectrum of vegetarianism, these environmental statistics really aren’t news.

However, the lesser-known, and oftentimes lesser cared for, impact of the fishing industry is equally as important for maintaining harmony in aquatic environments. So long as people still refuse to believe that fish, including invertebrates, are sentient beings, prefer to maintain an out of sight, out of mind sort of attitude, or ignore the inhumane treatment and capture of the target, and nontarget animals, this will remain an issue (with a viable solution on the horizon) worth discussing.

Environmental Science argues that the new technologies of recent years have allowed us to remove tremendous amounts of fish from the ocean, resulting in negative environmental drawbacks. The four major issues contributing to aquatic ecosystem collapse are briefly outlined below.


It is said that one of industrial fishing’s major consequences is that some species have been overfished to the point of extinction. When one species is exceedingly removed, this leads to overpopulation of prey, upsetting the equilibrium in the surrounding environment.

Habitat Destruction

Industrial fishing is also responsible for destroying habitats by using techniques like trawling for shrimp. The nets are dragged along the ocean floor, “decreasing biomass and production of benthic species.” Corals, oysters, and sponges are also destroyed, and when things like oyster reefs are eliminated, the reduction of filter feeders means that coastal waters can suffer from having too many nutrients in the water. The resulting harmful algal blooms can cause widespread marine life die-off.

Derelict Fishing Gear

When fishing gear is left behind, or forgotten, a circumstance known as “ghost fishing” occurs. Not only is the practice wasteful, but it continues to trap lots of animals that aren’t attended to or used in any way.


Trawling, the technique used to collect shrimp, is a major contributor to the bycatch problem. It can drown turtles that get entangled in the nets, contributing to the estimated 85,000 sea turtles that have died over the last 20 years as a result of bycatch.

Less destructive fishing is one solution to these problems, like the inclusion of turtle excluder devices (TED) in shrimp trawlers, as is selecting more sustainable fish and seafood, but there could be a more permanent solution. When “scientists agree that three quarters of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted,” according to New Wave Foods’ website statistics, “and we could see fishless oceans by 2048,” the time to make changes is now. Through the use of lab-grown proteins, like vegan shrimp, the need for fishing could be eradicated, as could the need for any animal used for consumption.

Founded by two women who combined their backgrounds in biodiversity, materials science, and biomedical engineering, Dominique Barnes and Michelle Wolf are the masterminds behind New Wave Foods and this revolutionary “seafood.” The product looks almost identical to the real thing, and according to a few double-blind taste tests performed by New Wave Foods, Barnes told The Guardian that the participants could not tell the difference until told that one was made from plants and algae.

Down to the “bouncy texture,” and “fishy undertones” of an actual shrimp, these pretend prawns may be legitimate contenders. The real test, however, begins when trying to change die-hard seafood lovers into vegan shrimp converts. In addition to the repercussions from trawling, I could name several reasons why you could convince me in an instant, aside from being a vegetarian and the poop (ick!), that include convenience, ease of preparation, greater nutrition and so much more.

Would you try vegan shrimp? Or consider becoming a permanent convert? Let us know your thoughts on the Organic Authority Facebook page!

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Image of Shrimp Stir-Fry via New Wave Foods

After starting out in public relations, Jamie finished college with a BFA in sustainable interior design. This combination of... More about Jamie Duncan