The following sentence is from a scientific content which talks about producing artificial food and how similar they are to the real ones.
"This salmon fillet didn't come from the sea. It was grown in a lab to look just like the real thing."
When I think about the part of the sentence "...like the real thing.", I wondered if -instead of it- I could say "....the real one". And they seem to have same meaning, don't they?
So, my question is: Is there any difference between "...the real thing" and "....the real one." in the above sentence?