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Microalgae in food
As the world population grows, so does the need for protein-rich foods. The micro algae Spirulina could be a sustainable alternative to meat. Based on the dry matter, it has a protein content of 63 percent; for soya, for example, it is 35 to 40 percent. So far, spirulina is only available in the form of powders, pills and capsules as a dietary supplement or is used to obtain natural color.
Scientists at the University of Göttingen have now considered whether the alga with the scientific name Arthrospira platensis is also suitable for the production of food. So-called wet extrusion is a common process for producing fibrous and bite-resistant products from soy protein, for example. The vegetable proteins are boiled at high water contents and pressed through a cooled nozzle by rotating two screw shafts. This creates the meat-like texture of soy schnitzel and soy nuggets.
The food technologists checked whether this process can be used to produce soy products with a different proportion of spirulina (10%, 30%, 50%) basic products for meat alternatives and what influence technical parameters have on texture and taste. The conclusion: With low humidity, a high speed of the screw shafts and high temperatures during extrusion, it is possible to partially replace soy protein with spirulina in order to produce bite-resistant and fibrous products with a subtle algae smell. It is not yet clear how the algae products react to further processing such as freezing.
Furthermore, the scientists conducted an online survey on the acceptance of spirulina food, in which over 1,000 consumers in Germany, the Netherlands and France were involved. Respondents were able to choose between photos of spirulina-filled pasta, spirulina sushi and a protein-rich snack (jerky) as a vegan alternative to dried meat. The spirulina noodles were particularly popular. "This is probably because consumers in general are very familiar with pasta," explains Stephanie Grahl from the "Product Quality of Animal Products" department at the University of Göttingen. Heike Kreutz, respectively