For one month this autumn, 24 lambs at Ås farm had part of their traditional diet replaced with sugar kelp, a common type of brown seaweed found along the Norwegian coast. On October 13 people were invited to be guinea pigs, by tasting meatballs from our seaweed-trials and filling out a questionnaire at SmakÅs – a food and technology festival in Ås.
– We are looking forward to hear their opinions. What do they think about the taste of the meat and do they approve of the general idea of feeding our farm animals with seaweed? said Per Berg, director of R&D and innovation in Nortura, an industrial partner in Foods of Norway.
Adapting to climate change
The seaweed-fed lambs are a part of Foods of Norway’s research on novel feed ingredients from renewable, Norwegian bioresources. Recent studies from the centre confirm that seaweed, when pretreated by means of novel biotechnology, can serve as a protein source for salmon and monogastric animals like pigs.
The lambs, however, were given natural seaweed, dried and chopped but without any bioprocessing. The idea is to see if seaweed can replace some of the roughage in the diets of ruminants. Why?
This summer’s drought made it evident that Norway’s self-sufficiency in meat and milk is heavily dependent on thriving grass crops. But the grass is a vulnerable feed resource in times of climate change.
To improve food security, we need to search for new, sustainable ways to feed our cattle, sheep and other ruminants. The ocean might be a good place to look.
Norway is blessed with 101,000 kilometers of coastline. This coastline is home to almost 500 species of macroalgae – one of our largest unexploited biomass resources that do not compete directly with human food.
– Although seaweeds have a long history of use in livestock feed, there is still limited knowledge about their nutritive value and their health effect on animals,” says Liv Torunn Mydland, who is in charge of Foods of Norway’s research on the impact of the novel feed ingredients on nutritional value and feed efficiency.
Foods of Norway researchers, in collaboration with Nortura, will now conduct scientific studies on how the seaweed affects the taste of the meat and the animals’ growth.
– This abundant resource has the potential to contribute to the protein and energy requirements of livestock, as well as to improve the health, product quality and sustainability of meat and milk production,” says Mydland.