The only things sugar kelp needs to grow are seawater and sunlight, which we have in great abundance along the Norwegian coast. The centre for research-based innovation Foods of Norway, with centre partners Nortura and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in the lead, is now in the last phase of a pioneering research project using kelp in feed for beef cattle.
Previous experiments with lambs have shown that kelp in the feed trough makes the meat more tender and gives it a longer shelf life, in addition to giving it an exciting flavour. The meat also has a higher content of iodine, which we as consumers need more of in our food. This field trial with beef cattle shows the same tendencies for the tenderness of the meat and iodine content.
Increasing the use of Norwegian resources in animal feed is part of Nortura’s mission.
“Even in the old days, using kelp was part of farming as it was used as a feed resource when there was a shortage of other resources. Even then we were aware of the positive properties of kelp,” says Asgeir Svendsen, chief adviser at Nortura.
Feed from the sea
The field trial was performed in the county of Vestfold, at Arnt Inge Flood Johannesen’s cattle farm. Arnt thinks this has been a very exciting project to take part in, and he explains how the new feed was very popular with his bulls. The kelp, harvested at Frøya in Trøndelag, was blanched and chopped before it was transported in frozen blocks to the farm. The seaweed was then thawed and mixed in with the rest of the feed ration.
“It is exciting to see how the sea can contribute to Norwegian agriculture. Seaweed has an interesting nutrient content, including for instance iodine, which we know is important for us humans,” Flood Johannesen says.
Foods of Norway aims to develop alternative feed resources for fish and animals from natural and local resources. Using kelp in animal feed provides an important perspective on the potential value chains we have in Norway, says professor Margareth Øverland, who heads the centre.
“Kelp is a natural resource, which we have a lot of along the Norwegian coast - and in this experiment the seaweed has only been harvested, blanched and frozen without any other form of processing. This sustainable way of working with local resources for animal feed is becoming increasingly important in Norway today,” says Øverland.