With world shark populations falling to new lows, the introduction of a shark fin substitute looks pretty good to environmentalists. Japanese food-processing company Nikko Yuba Seizo uses pork gelatin to make a fin stand-in in hopes of luring Chinese consumers looking for a price break on this expensive delicacy. The Discovery Channel’s news site spoke with an exec at the Japanese firm, who exclaimed over the fake shark fins’ wondrous cheapness:
The price of the gelatin-made fin costs only one-tenth of the real one, or about 1,500 yen ($15) per kilogram when sold wholesale, he said.
So, let’s do the math. Considering that there are about 2.2 pounds in a kilogram, that means that fake shark fins cost about $6.82 per pound. The real deal, costing 10 times as much, would sell for a whopping $68 per pound. That’s a lotta dough for a bowl of shark fin soup, which looks something like this and reportedly doesn’t taste like much. According to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle’s archives:
It’s cooked for a very long time until the shark fin separates into needles of cartilage that look like clear noodles. The fin itself has no taste, but it’s served with a broth of chicken, ham and shiitake that it absorbs. The final texture is supposed to be interesting.
After harvesting shark fins, fishermen throw the finless sharks back into the water. And no, that doesn’t mean that there’s a new race of undercover sharks out there, swimming up to unsuspecting victims without the warning of their telltale fin. The Greenpeace website explains:
This practice, known as shark finning, is barbaric and wasteful. Often the shark is still alive, while its fins are hacked off with a sharp knife, leaving it in agony. The shark’s finless body is then dumped overboard and, being unable to swim, it drowns or dies of starvation.
Last year, NBA star Yao Ming, one of China’s most famous athletes, pledged to give up shark fin soup to promote the protection of sharks. Perhaps those who weren’t convinced by him will be willing to substitute the gelatin shark fins for this dangerous delicacy.