Algae company Solazyme was looking for biodiesel, but instead found a product that may be a sustainable food source. According to a new article in Scientific American magazine, the oily, yellow, flour-like residue of wrung out algae—dubbed “algalin” by its marketers—can easily replace the butter and eggs in baked goods. Brioche made with algalin retains the oily, satisfying texture of baked goods but without the trans fats consumers have been taught to fear.

The company produces algalin by fermenting Prototheca and Chlorella, though the company refuses to identify which specific strains produce what. The oil is produced by growing algae in the dark and feeding them sugar, which makes then swell up into a milky tan broth full of cells that are more than 80 percent full of triglyceride oils, which can be used in everything from food to clothing.

Ken Plasse, vice president for business development at Solazyme tells Scientific American that algalin has “magical properties,” which allow it to replace butter and eggs in bread, craft healthy chocolate milk that tastes just a little bit salty or keep gluten-free breads from tasting dried out. Vegan bakers rejoice! Because Solazyme is reportedly testing the product with an undisclosed set of companies and sales of “whole algal flour” are expected soon.

In addition to dairy and eggs, algalin also has the potential of displacing palm oil, another unsustainable agricultural product, which is found in everything from cookies to soaps. Solazyme’s algae can be geared to produce the exact same molecules found in palm oil, only lower in unhealthy saturated fats and higher in protein. In fact, Solazyme already has an agreement to produce similar oils for consumer goods giant Unilever, one of the world’s largest users of palm oil and a company that once oversaw vast oil palm plantations from the Congo to Indonesia!

Is this the sustainable future of food? What do you think?

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