Protein-rich mussels are increasingly becoming a part of our daily diet. In collaboration with RISE, Musselfeed, a company based on the west coast of Sweden, has developed a climate-smart mussel sausage.
Mussels have a unique ability to produce proteins without significantly impacting on the environment; a trait only bettered by plant-based protein sources such as beans and nuts. As an animal-based protein source, mussels also contain important amino acids. How can we benefit from the untapped potential of mussels in addition to eating them fresh from the sea? This question was the springboard for a research project in which RISE was tasked with studying the strengths and weaknesses of mussels as a raw material.
Food made of mussel flour
Musselfeed already owns a patent on a technique for producing protein from mussel flesh, in which the meat is separated from the shell and then dried to produce mussel flour. This flour can then be used in other products in the food and feed sectors to benefit from its sustainable protein. The mussels are purchased from mussel farmers along the Swedish coast.
“When Vinnova announced a competition to find the climate-smart food of the future, our first thought was a delicatessen product. We engaged the services of a chef and, in collaboration with RISE, we developed a mussel sausage,” explains Sofia Kocher, CEO of Musselfeed.
Production facility on Orust
Although the project didn’t win the competition, it did contribute to putting the company on the road to upscaling its operation, with a new production facility being constructed on the island of Orust, just of the Swedish west coast.
“Producing a food product that includes our ingredient and that we can demonstrate has been very useful. RISE’s role was to develop the prototype together with chef Pelle Johansson. The raw mussel material was evaluated with regard to water retention, its ability to achieve various consistencies and its interaction with other ingredients. With this information, we were able to assess the suitability of the mussel product for various charcuterie products. RISE also helped us to ascertain a number of things about our product’s sustainability, such as the fact that its climate impact is only one fifth of a traditional frankfurter. They also assisted us in examining the special amino acids in mussels,” says Sofia Kocher.
May improve the quality of coastal waters
As well as producing lower CO2 emissions per gram of protein, mussels also have the ability to improve the quality of coastal waters; as mussels grow, they bind nitrogen and phosphorous. These are nutrients that cause eutrophication in sea water when present in excessive amounts. Once harvested, the nutrients in mussels can be returned to the land and recycled.
“One important component of the blue bioeconomy is the development of existing and new sustainable produce from the oceans, primarily for food. Using crushed mussels as an ingredient in a sausage is an example of a somewhat unexpected use for an exciting, underutilised raw material,” says Kristina Bergman, a marine biologist and researcher specialising in sustainable seafood at RISE.