Yemoja developing red microalgae for ‘bloody’ plant-based burgers, steaks

The patented microalgal heme substitute not only provides the initial red pigment to raw plant-based meats, but it also browns nicely and congeals like real meat juices.

Yemoja, Ltd. (Tel Hai, Israel) is developing a red microalgae that gives plant-based burgers and steaks an authentic “bloody” juiciness. The ingredient will be branded Ounje, which means “food” in the Yoruba language. The red algae are grown indoors in high-precision photobioreactors in a way that sharply reduces waste and resources and has a minimal ecologic footprint.

“While working on a new formulation for cosmetic applications, we serendipitously discovered that this specific composition yields a substance that resembles blood in appearance and texture,” said Amikam Bar-Gil, PhD, co-founder and CTO of Yemoja, in a press release. “Encouraged by the first test results, we decided to push the boundaries further and take it to the next level, trying it out in test products. The results were an immediate proof of concept.”

The patented microalgal heme substitute not only provides the initial red pigment to raw plant-based meats, but it also browns nicely and congeals like real meat juices. “We found the polysaccharides within this particular algae species express a viscosity similar to gelatin when cooked. Its natural fiber also awards an appealing crunchiness and emits an appetizing meaty aroma,” Bar-Gil said. Plus, it adds a nutrient boost, including protein, essential fatty acids, polyphenols, minerals, and vitamins.

Yemoja produces its algae-heme substitute via a cold process in its GMP-certified facility without using any organic solvents. “We believe our algae can imbue cultured meat-cells with a nutrient-rich media to feed on,” Bar-Gil said. “We are currently assessing its potential to act as a suitable biomaterial scaffold on which the cells can grow. This structure will allow it to mimic the behavior of meat, especially when it hits the skillet.”