The Next Wave in Plant-Based Alternatives

  • High Carbon Footprint: Even more than the high carbon footprint associated with importing shrimp (which is substantial), shrimp cultivation contributes to the accumulation of atmospheric CO2 via the destruction of key carbon sinks. Shrimp farming is the single largest cause of mangrove forest destruction globally. Mangroves are vital for wildlife and coastal fisheries, provide critical habitat for multitudes of ecologically important species, filter pollutants and trap sediment runoff, and protect coastlines by serving as storm buffers. Pound for pound, mangroves can sequester four times more carbon than rainforests. Mangroves account for approximately 15% of all oceanic carbon sequestration and draw down more greenhouse gasses per hectare than any other type of forest. Approximately 40% of mangrove forests globally have been lost since 1980. Shrimp farming is the greatest single culprit of this devastation.
  • Severe Ecosystem Pollution: Streams of chemicals, antibiotics, and other waste from shrimp farms pollute groundwater and coastal estuaries, damaging the foundation of wetland ecosystems. The health of these wetland ecosystems is not only critical to their local flora and fauna, but to global climate sustainability. All categories of wetland ecosystems, without exception, are carbon sinks.
  • Unsustainable Depletion of Critical Marine Populations: Fish stocks used in the feed for shrimp are important ecosystem constituents as they are near the base of the marine food chain. These stocks are depleted when they are diverted to shrimp farms, harming the health of marine food chains as a whole. Shrimp farmers also catch young wild shrimp to stock their shrimp farms, further eliminating local populations of fish. Additionally, the mangroves typically cleared to make way for shrimp paddocks represents the destruction of critical breeding grounds for much of the world’s fish, shrimp, crabs, and other shellfish. Many fish species, such as barracuda, tarpon, and snook, find shelter among the mangrove roots as juveniles before moving into the open ocean as adults.
  • Material Human Health Risks: The health risks of mass-market shrimp were perhaps one of the more surprising aspects of our research. Most consumers likely consider seafood categorically healthy, and some may know that shrimp has a bit more cholesterol than typical ocean fare. However, that’s not the only nor the most damning risk we uncovered: (1) The use of antibiotics in shrimp farming contributes to unintentional excess consumption of antibiotics. This carries with it associated health impacts, ranging from digestive problems by harming one’s microbiome, to importing or breeding antibiotic-resistant pathogens. (2) Bacteria that live on shrimp such as salmonella and campylobacter contribute to the 400k Americans that get sick every year from these pathogens. Furthermore, In the U.S. these problems are particularly acute. Due to the EU’s more stringent testing protocol for imported shrimp, fish rejected by the EU often ends up repackaged and imported to the U.S. as suppliers know their contaminated product is less likely to be detected. This leads to a disproportionate amount of contaminated shrimp ending up in the U.S.
  • Rampant Fraud and Corruption: While the U.S. FDA rightly prohibits using antibiotics in shrimp farming and forbids the import of antibiotic-containing shrimp, fraud and non-compliance by bad actors in the shrimp supply chain often thwart these efforts to ensure safe seafood imports. The FDA tests on the order of 1% of all imported shrimp for antibiotics, drug residue, pathogens, and other contaminants. Of the stock tested, approximately 15% contain illegal antibiotics and 12% test positive for other unsafe drugs and chemicals. Furthermore, randomized tests at points of purchase (e.g., the grocery store and restaurants) reveal that approximately 50% of shrimp contain harmful substances and do not meet FDA standards.
  • Severe Human Labor Violations: Worker abuse — especially of children and migrants — is prevalent within the global shrimp industry. Child labor and forced labor are often the norms on shrimp farms and shrimp-fishing ocean vessels, according to research from the Solidarity Center. Migrant workers in the shrimp trade are often sold into debt bondage and see their wages stolen.
  • Sustainable: Responsibly sourced with complete traceability
  • Protein-rich: Aiming to reach protein-parity vs. animal shrimp
  • Cholesterol-free: A typical serving of shrimp (100 grams which conveniently also equates to 100 calories) has 189mg of cholesterol, which is ~2/3rd of the daily recommended max cholesterol intake. New Wave Shrimp, by contrast, has none
  • Non-allergenic, Kosher: The 7 million Americans who have shellfish allergies and those who eat kosher can enjoy New Wave shrimp

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Andrew Schoen

Andrew Schoen

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Venture Capital Investor at NEA (New Enterprise Associates). Co-Founder of Flicstart. Schwarzman Scholar.