Given the complexity of the U.S. food supply chain, Jillian Semaan, VP sustainability, Ketchum explained brands are applying inclusive and sustainable frameworks into their strategies. There is no one-size-fits-all approach as each company offers a service that’s unique to them.
“Every company has a different definition of sustainability. We need metrics. In terms of ESG it’s really about working with brands around their goals but pushing them to a place where we can actually measure what it is they are doing,” Semaan explained.
Brands have a significant opportunity to identify white spaces in their supply chain—are they located in a food desert? What are the partnerships available with surrounding organizations and businesses to improve accessibility for communities experiencing food inequity? Ultimately, brands cannot tackle these issues alone, which is why they need to partner with other organizations, and even other industries, that share a similar vision to minimize impact and improve quality of life for people and the environment.
Can alternative seafood help diversify seafood supply?
In the case of seafood, Shannon Costentino-Roush, chief strategy office, with plant- and cell-based seafood company Finless Foods, explained how her previous experience in seafood policy and legislation informed the brand’s plant-based seafood partnership strategies and ocean conservation efforts. Taking nods from the fishing industry, which is challenged with traceability due to higher seafood consumption, the question Cosentino-Roush asks is: how will the two industries “provide a plant-based alternative and also diversify the seafood supply of a constrained species…while meeting the consumer demand where it is?”
While “the seafood industry hasn’t been as successful at seafood education or promotion,” alternative seafood presents an opportunity “to expand people’s interaction points” with both categories. Whether consumers are concerned over mercury content, allergens or over-fishing within the seafood space, Cosentino-Roush adds that while alternative seafood may not be a replacement, it can shine a light on meeting protein needs in a sustainable way.
“We have to get creative and look at solutions [surrounding sustainable aquaculture]…that doesn’t put undue pressure on the ocean. And that’s what we often say is a diversified approach, where sustainable wild capture [will] definitely play a role at the same time as aquaculture at the same time as our alternatives,” she added.
Currently, Finless Foods’ cell cultured blue tuna products are under regulatory review; but its plant-based poke products are still an opportunity to bridge the gap between vegan and seafood consumers.
Ultimately, diversifying how U.S. consumers think about seafood, including sourcing/overfishing, allergens and contamination presents alternative seafood a seat at the table and “expand the way people think of seafood maybe bring new folks into the fold who are maybe not eating seafood dishes,” she explained.
Cell-based meat may still benefit farmers
While removing farmers is a common misconception of cellular agriculture, farmers will actually play a critical role in the evolution of this technology, Jess Krieger, PhD, founder and CEO, cultivated meat company Ohayo Valley explained.
“We will still need animals for the cultivated meat industry,” she explained. “But we will need [roughly] 1% of the animals that we currently have in the global herd today.”
What this looks like is a partnership between cultivated meat companies and farmers, particularly family-owned farms, where companies pay farms for access to their livestock and take tissue biopsies. Krieger, who currently operates in this model, added that farmers make more money working this way than sending their livestock to slaughter under a subsidized structure.
“You can take more than one tissue biopsy over time. Let’s say we take a tissue biopsy from a six-month-old cow, we could take another one a couple months later after the cow has healed. So, if we pay $1,000 to a farmer for access to a cow and four tissue biopsies over the young years of that cow, that’s $4,000 versus a net negative of what they would be making by working with the meat industry,” Krieger opined.
“I think that the industry is going to change. I don’t think farmers should go out of business and I don’t think they will. We’re still going to need the animals and the farmers, and they’ll be making more money,” she concluded.