Google Chefs Commit to Serving Employees 'Shrimp' Made From Algae
Starting next year, Google's shrimp dishes won't be made with actual shrimp. After tasting New Wave Foods's realistic faux shrimp, the tech giant's chef pledged to switch to the company's plant- and-algae-based product for the first few months of 2017, Wired reported.
EcoWatch featured the San Francisco sustainable seafood startup in December. The New Wave team consists of three women with a combined professional background in environmentalism to take on this ambitious task: Dominique Barnes is an oceanography graduate and former shark caretaker at Las Vegas's Golden Nugget Hotel, Michelle Wolf is a materials scientist and engineer, and Jennifer Kaehms has a bioengineering degree from the University of California San Diego.
We mentioned then how the company's lab-grown "shrimp" is as tasty and nutritious as the real deal. The shrimp even transitions from grey to pink during cooking.
Barnes told Munchies, "Right now, when we do demos, most people are really surprised that it's not real shrimp." She explained that the company has mostly replicated a real shrimp's exact texture and taste using red algae:
"We looked at the building blocks of real shrimp, what they consumed. They eat many things, but one of the things they eat regularly are micro algae, and a part of that is red algae. Certain compounds from red algae actually impart shrimp's color and flavor. So we looked at that and found it can actually be cultivated and used in a similar way in our shrimp. It's also a powerful anti-oxidant."
Shrimp is America's most popular seafood. The average American peels through roughly 4 pounds of shrimp a year, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. About 6 million tons of shrimp are consumed worldwide per year.
However, the world's fondness for this crustacean has sent global populations plummeting from overfishing. For instance, Maine's Northern shrimp haul dropped from 12 million pounds in 2010 to just 563,313 pounds in 2013.
World Wildlife Fund points out that production has also been known to rip out ecologically sensitive habitats such as mangroves. Shrimp farming also creates a steady stream of organic waste, chemicals and antibiotics that can pollute groundwater and coastal estuaries.
"Looking at land use, water use, transportation of the product—[our shrimp] is much less intensive" compared with shrimp farming, Barnes explained to Wired.
You might also want to avoid certain types of shrimp for
health reasons. A startling Consumer Reports study tested 342 packages of frozen shrimp—284 raw and 58 cooked samples—purchased at Albertsons, Costco, Fry's Marketplace, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market and Walmart in 27 cities across the U.S. The results showed that 60 percent of raw shrimp tested positive for bacteria, including salmonella, E. coli and listeria. In seven raw shrimp samples, scientists detected the antibiotic-resistant superbug MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, that could potentially lead to a dangerous infection.
If that doesn't ruin your taste for shrimp, most varieties you'll find in supermarkets or served in restaurants comes from small shrimp farms in Southeast Asia. Last December, a stunning investigation from the Associated Press revealed that the industry was rife with human trafficking and the shrimp you might be eating was peeled by slave labor.
New Waves's fake shrimp can thus be consumed without any guilt. Barnes, however, admitted to Wired that it will be an uphill climb to switch American taste buds off their favorite seafood for what amounts to "pond scum."
"One hurdle that I do see," Barnes said, "is in our perception of algae. When I talk to people, usually they're like, 'What are you talking about? This is pond scum.'" She also pointed out that you've likely eaten algae without even knowing it. "You probably already consumed something this week that has an algae ingredient," she said.
Besides Google, the fake shrimp has been served at pop-up events in San Francisco and the company is working for a mass-market release.
"We've been able to visit Google twice so far and [had our food] served in their cafeteria," Barnes told Digital Trends. "At the moment we're making everything in small batches because we're kind of an artisanal company. But to meet the kind of quantity they would like to order we need to focus on scaling our production. Right now that's our main focus."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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