Cornell University animal science professor Xingen Lei’s lab is testing marine algae as a new protein-rich source of feed to supplement and replace some of the corn and soybean meal mix traditionally given to food-producing animals.

Lei’s preliminary research found that dried defatted algae derived from biofuel production can replace up to one-third of soybean meal in diets for pigs and chickens. It is an attractive source, say the researchers, because it is high in protein—20-70 percent, compared with about 10 percent in corn and 40 percent in soy.

Lei and his team are now working to determine which algae are best, and the proper ratios of algae, soybean and corn. They are also discerning whether there are risks or additional health benefits for humans in resultant products, such as meat and eggs.

The samples are shipped to his lab from Hawaii, where algae is being cultivated on a few acres near the Kailua Kona Airport as part of a $15 million pilot project by Cellana and a multi-university consortium led by Cornell professors Chuck Greene, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, and Jeff Tester, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

by Stacey Shackford, staff writer at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences