Kelp Burgers are a game-changing food, good for you and the ocean
[July 22, 2021: Josh Shavit]
“Harvesting kelp from clean waters as a regenerative carbon-reducing, plant-based superfood is a game-changer.”
New York-based alternative meat company Akua incorporates kelp into all its products, which include kelp pasta, kelp jerky, and kelp burgers. Because of its versatility, kelp is a great vegan alternative for meats and when the founders of Akua were brainstorming on how to make it easily edible, providing meat-free options for popular snacks and foods in the U.S. was the first step.
“We were like, ‘Well, how do we get more Americans eating kelp?" And we thought, ‘Well, nothing’s more American than jerky, burgers, and sausages,’” says Akua co-founder Courtney Boyd Myers.
Akau first launched what it claimed to be the first-ever plant-based burger made from kelp in May this year, though it has only been available to purchase online or at a select number of restaurants in the US. The burger is made of ocean-farmed seaweed, crimini mushrooms, pea protein, black beans, quinoa, and crushed tomatoes. Akua is now launching the Kelp Burgers in select retail locations in New York and LA.
Next in Natural CEO Jeff Lichtenstein added: “Akua is the most transformative and tasty creation I’ve seen since we merged Gourmet Guru with UNFI in 2016. With 2/3 of the world covered by ocean, it is our largest and most untapped resource. Harvesting kelp from clean waters as a regenerative carbon-reducing, plant-based superfood is a game-changer.
Akua offers a delicious and ‘weird-science’ free meat alternative that helps make the world a better place; this is 100% aligned with the mission of Next In Natural. Our team could not be any more amped up to work with Akua and their kindhearted, forward-thinking team and founder Courtney.“
“We decided to launch kelp jerky as our first product. We had the recipes for the burgers and the sausages already underway, but we wanted to start out with a product that was shelf stable and very easy to ship.” said Meyers.
In collaboration with food scientists and chefs, Akua’s team developed the jerky flavors, which come in hibachi teriyaki, rosemary and maple BBQ, sesame and nori sea salt, and spicy chili and lime.
“I think sesame and nori is a really important flavor because we have the nori sheets that are in the grocery stores, and people are familiar with the taste of nori,” Myers says. “Our teriyaki and barbecue kelp jerkys are more meaty if you’re coming over from the beef jerky aisle. Then our spicy chili and lime is quite earthy with a little bit of spice.”
“Akua works hand-in-hand with New England-based regenerative kelp farms, so we not only focus on creating great tasting food but also supporting an emerging blue-green economy that improves our coastal communities and natural ecosystems,” said Boyd Myers.
One of the farms is Salt Sisters, a completely women-owned kelp farm in Maine headed by Colleen Francke. “She works with women who are coming out of alcohol recovery and gets them out on the boats with the Labrador dogs, and gets them into this community that's really supportive,” Myers says.
Though kelp farming has shown a multitude of benefits to not only the environment but also local farmers, Myers is aware that aquaculture is still given the side eye by many.
“I think in the past, fish farming and aquaculture has been done really poorly, and so it gets a really bad reputation. I hope that kelp farming is an example for a lot of the different fish farming practices,” she says. “You don’t need fertilizers, you just need to grow it in the environment that it’s already in. You have this whole new way for local fishermen to make money so that maybe they don’t need to fish as much, and they can become more ocean gardeners than ocean hunters.”
For more green news stories check out our Green Good section at The Brighter Side of News.
Like these kind of feel good stories? Get the Brighter Side of News' newsletter.