This Company Has Developed Vegan Oysters — With Biodegradable ‘Shells’ to Come

vegan oysters
Pearlita Foods
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A round of oysters, anyone?

Pearlita Foods, a cell-cultured seafood startup, has revealed its vegan prototype for oysters made from ingredients like mushrooms and seaweed. The plant-based oysters will even come served in a no-shucking-necessary shell that is biodegradable.

Pearlita Foods’ oysters will be made using a hybrid approach of cell cultures and plant-based ingredients to make a low-impact alternative to this popular seafood. For the cell cultures, the company can use one live oyster sample to extract enough tissue to cultivate thousands of cell-based oysters. But until it is able to scale up the cell-based technologies, Pearlita Foods will be debuting the vegan oyster prototype.

Also in the works? Biodegradable oyster “shells” that are easy to serve the oysters in and require no shucking, making them appealing to carnivores, herbivores, and everyone in between. The biodegradable oyster shell prototype is not ready yet, though, so the vegan oyster prototypes will be served in recycled oyster shells.

Pearlita Foods

The National Park Service reported that an estimated 85% of oyster reefs globally have been lost. Threats include oyster harvesting, boat wakes, pollution, disease and warming oceans.

“It made so much sense to me,” Nikita Michelsen, founder and CEO of Pearlita Foods, said of creating more sustainable oysters for consumption, as reported by Vevolution. “We have acidification and rising temperatures in the ocean.” 

Oysters and other bivalve shellfish can pass norovirus, sometimes referred to as food poisoning, to humans that consume them raw or undercooked. But according to Veg News, cell-based seafood, like the oysters Pearlita Foods is developing, is made in a sterile lab environment, preventing viral or bacterial contamination.

Pearlita Foods, based in North Carolina and launched early 2022, secured investments from CULT Food Science, an investment firm.

“We are impressed by and proud of Pearlita’s successful production of its first cultivated oyster prototype. Pearlita’s commitment to making the world a better place and doing its part to increasing the world’s food security is encouraging as we possess the same goals,” Lejjy Gafour, CEO of CULT Food Science, said in a statement. “Pearlita is taking great steps to advance the production of cultured seafood on a mass scale. We are energized by the positive contributions that their team is making to the cellular agriculture industry.”

In addition to scaling up its alternative oyster production, Pearlita Foods also plans to develop other types of sustainable seafood, including squid and scallops.

Other companies are working toward similar goals. Revo Foods plans to launch 3D-printed, plant-based salmon products in grocery stores next year, and Good Catch already sells its “fish-free” tuna at major retailers, like Whole Foods and Thrive Market.

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