Feeding lambs seaweed gives us better health

It is a win-win story when feeding seaweed to lambs, research from Foods of Norway shows. The research centre at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Ås has completed a trial evaluating the effect of adding seaweed from the Norwegian coastline to lambs’ feed, proving that meat from seaweed-fed lambs is more tender, has better colour and longer shelf life.

Studies also revealed a positive impact on the taste of the meat, and even some unique health benefits for the consumer.

Per Berg is director of research at Nortura, Norway’s leading manufacturer of meat and eggs. He has followed the project closely and highlights the positive effects seaweed has on iodine levels in the meat we eat.

Per Berg is director of research at Nortura, and has followed the project closely.

Per Berg is director of research at Nortura, and has followed the project closely.

- This meat’s iodine content is high enough to qualify for labelling, and it is seldom we can use claims like this for our products. There is too little iodine in the food we eat, and iodine is necessary for our production of thyroid hormones which are important for our energy levels as well as developing the brain and nervous system, he says.

Quality and health

The meat was tested by a professional tasting panel as well as by people visiting the food and tech festival SmakÅs, where the meat was made into meatballs and served next to meatballs from lambs that have not been fed seaweed. The feedback was clear: the seaweed appears to give the meat a more herbal, unique flavour – appreciated by the testers.

The project is part of Foods of Norway’s research on novel feed ingredients from renewable, Norwegian bioresources. Previous studies from the centre confirm that seaweed can be used as a feedstock to produce yeast as a protein source in diets of salmon and monogastric animals like pigs.

The lambs in this trial, however, were given natural seaweed, dried and chopped but without any bioprocessing. They also seemed to take to the flavour of the new feed.

From tasting to table

The main goal for Foods of Norway is to develop sustainable local feeds for fish and animal farming from natural bioresources. Seaweed is a resource there is plenty of in Norway, thanks to the country’s extensive coastline. Sustainability is important for consumers - and for Nortura, Per Berg says.

- Local commodities are in demand, and especially when it comes to innovative products where there are health benefits for the consumer - even if the price is higher, he states.

However, successful lab results still have a way to go before making it to the dinner table, Berg points out. The results need to be verified and upscaled.

- Still, the findings so far are more than promising, and I would be surprised if further research would lead to any other conclusions. And where there are marketing opportunities, there is always a way to make it happen, says Per Berg.

The lambs were quite content with their new feed.

The lambs were quite content with their new feed.

Foods of Norway

Published 16. November 2020 - 11:53 - Updated 16. November 2020 - 11:56