• Signal of Change
  • Researchers patent seaweed that tastes like bacon

    06 Aug 2015
    By Juliette Aplin
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  • Researchers at Oregon State University have been pleasantly surprised to find that dulse, a seaweed they were initially breeding to feed abalone, actually tastes like bacon when fried.


    The scientists have developed and patented a new strain of dulse, a succulent red seaweed that grows quickly and is an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. It also has a high protein content, with twice the levels found within kale.


    Dulse is traditionally found growing wild along the northern Pacific and Atlantic coastlines and has been popular in traditional Irish, Icelandic and Scandinavian cooking due to its high protein content, and umami flavour.


    This particular variety of dulse has now been granted status as speciality crop by the U.S Department of Agriculture, enabling researchers at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center to explore means of growing dulse on a commercial scale. Researchers are also currently testing recipes for dulse veggie burgers, trail mix, and dulse beer.


    Signal spotted by Michael Zahn

    Image credit: Oregon State University/flickr

  • So What?

    This rediscovery of dulse forms part of a wider trend exploring the potential of seaweeds and vegetables for mainstream human consumption.


    Seaweed is particularly interesting as a food crop due to its ability to thrive in waters with greater concentrations of carbon dioxide.  Seaweeds, including dulse, extract nutrients such as CO2 from aquatic ecosystems, and so can sometimes reverse a nutrient imbalance in the water. Once grown on a commercial scale, could this restorative function still be preserved?


    According to researchers, an Israeli company has already expressed an interest in growing dulse using hydroponics, in the aim of producing a pork-free alternative to bacon. Could the smoky taste convince consumers to turn from traditional strips to seaweed?

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What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

Quorn have been selling a bacon version of their mycoprotein for a while - it would be interesting to see how it compares (taste, texture, environmental impact etc.)

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Agree John Kazer. One of the barriers to the consumption and production of new sources of protein ( such as seaweads or other based algal protien sources) is consumer acceptability and perceived or real differnces in taste or texture. ( alongside affordability of course). More resaerch is required here! Something we will also be exploring through the Protein Challenge 2040 initiative at Forum for the Future. We have identified the need to scale up plant based protien consumption as a key priority, from both a sustinability and nuritional persepctive.

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i am curious if they can use it as a food ingredient? 

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Hi Maria, what are your thoughts on the issues affecting whether dulse can be used as a food ingredient? Are you thinking of food safety, consumer acceptance, economic viability, sustainability or other forces at play?

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