Mazzaella Japonica is a type of invasive seaweed that washes up on to Vancouver Island beaches in fall and winter storms.
It has been harvested as a thickening agent for things like dairy products, toothpaste and lipstick, but research being done at North Island College in Courtenay is looking into whether the seaweed is also good for both cows and the final product – beef.
“So we’re hoping to see a distinct change in beef quality that might make it potentially healthier, slightly better for the consumer and maybe it tastes better and be higher in omega 3 fatty acids,” said Dr. Spencer Serin, a faculty member at North Island College.
“That’s what we’re measuring here at the college.”
Research has already proven that if a cow eats seaweed, the amount of methane gas it emits is drastically reduced. So now ten beef cows at Beaver Meadow Farms in Comox are being fed a diet that includes five per cent seaweed.
“And so we have a small research group that we put together here just looking at this one component, the steaks, in this case, comparing them to cattle raised with and without the additives and if we highlight a very interesting effect, what we can start doing is playing with how much seaweed we’re using, maybe the form the seaweed is in,” added Serin.
“It’s very exciting. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada provides funding for all colleges, including NIC, to do research with local companies to solve some kind of innovation challenge or research question,” said Naomi Tabata, Manager of NIC’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation.
The college received a starting grant of $25,000.
“It’s also a really great opportunity because people are so interested in the food that they’re eating these days and where they’re food comes from and how it’s grown. It’s a really great story to tell for the farmers,” Tabata added.
The final results of the study should be known in December.