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The Danes Create "Meat" From Algae

Scientists in Denmark have engineered a novel protein and meat-like fibres from blue-green algae, opening up completely new opportunities in sustainable food production. Utilising what are known as cyanobacteria, researchers have successfully created fibrous strands mimicking "meat" texture, potentially revolutionising the plant-based food industry with minimal processing required.


According to Poul Erik Jensen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen's Department of Food Science and head of a research group specialising in plant-based food and plant biochemistry says his team is excited by the development. "Cyanobacteria are living organisms that we have managed to harness to produce a protein they don't naturally produce. The protein forms into fibrous strands, resembling meat fibres, which is particularly exciting." The implications of this research, published in the journal ACS Nano, extend beyond just food texture, offering a sustainable ingredient that thrives on sunlight, water, and atmospheric CO2.


PFN - Ai depiction of blocks of fibrous 'meat like' algae

Source: PFN - Ai depiction of blocks of fibrous 'meat like' algae


Globally, the push for protein-rich, plant-based food alternatives has led to substantial processing of peas and soybeans to extract necessary protein concentrations. Jensen's team aims to utilise entire cyanobacteria in foodstuffs, significantly reducing processing and preserving the nutritional value of ingredients while conserving energy. "This endeavor will take time and further research to refine these organisms to produce more protein fibres. However, by 'hijacking' cyanobacteria to work for us, we can avoid ethical concerns related to animal welfare, promising an ultimate way to produce protein," says Professor Jensen.


Denmark, with its robust biotech companies and efficient agricultural sector, is positioning itself to become a leading producer of processed cyanobacteria, potentially incorporating them directly into foods with minimal processing.


As the world explores alternative food sources, cyanobacteria and microalgae present a viable, nutritious option already utilised in health foods and potentially expanding into the mainstream food industry. New Zealand's NEWFISH is also well advanced in its research into obtaining proteins from algae.


This innovative approach not only shows the versatility of algae but also highlights a significant step towards ethical, sustainable food production that could reshape global food systems.


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