Smoothie time? Pig blood becomes protein powder

"We have tested the powder in a chocolate bar, as well as in meatballs served to people 65-years-old and up, with positive results," says Rene Lametsch. (Credit: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash)

A new method turns pig blood into a neutral tasting protein powder for the food industry.

Using an enzyme from papayas, researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s food science department have developed a method to extract protein from pig blood. The result is a fine, white, neutral tasting powder with a 90% protein content. One that can be used as a supplement in a wide variety of foods. Pig blood protein has a higher nutritional value than any other plant or dairy-based protein on the market.

“We are increasing production sustainability by taking advantage of pig blood as a protein source for human consumption. It is likely that a growing number of people will satisfy their protein needs in the future through alternative food sources, for the sake of CO2 emissions and due to food shortages,” explains associate professor and head researcher Rene Lametsch.

The 60,000 tons of pig blood that flow through Danish slaughterhouses annually primarily sell in the international market for animal feed. By using the researchers’ method to use the blood as a protein source for humans, 5,000 tonnes (about 5,500 tons) of pure protein powder can be extracted from 60,000 tonnes (just over 66,000 tons) of blood.

Protein extracted from this blood can be used for many things. People could blend the protein powder into juices, ice cream, chocolate bars, dairy drinks, and more. It could also be useful in hospitals and for elder care.

“We have tested the powder in a chocolate bar, as well as in meatballs served to people 65-years-old and up, with positive results. Older people can have a tough time getting enough protein in their diets as they begin to eat less at the exact same time that their bodies need additional protein,” explains Lametsch.

The researchers’ method also separates iron from blood, which can be used for dietary supplements or as a natural food colorant.

The ability to use pig blood as a protein source with the potential of reducing meat production and helping the environment now awaits an industrial investor willing to launch a product with pig blood protein in it.

“Our research is done. The next step is in the hands of the industry. We need a partner that can move this to market,” says Lametsch. “A bold industrial investor must be willing to test this with consumers. Protein from pig’s blood faces the same challenge as with insects. People try it, and think of it as exciting, but it takes time to get used to.”

Lametsch points to China as a potential export market.

The research project took place in collaboration with Danish Crown, Toft Care, and Essentia Protein solutions. Findings from the project appear most recently in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Source: University of Copenhagen