By Mitchell Lench//October 31, 2023//
By: Mitchell Lench//October 31, 2023//
In recent years, pet owners have become much more concerned about the health and well- being of their pets and are increasingly seeking natural and holistic solutions. A remarkable contender has emerged from the depths of the ocean – seaweed. Seaweed harbors a treasure trove of benefits for pets, standing out as a nutritional powerhouse, packed with essential vitamins such as A and C; , minerals including calcium, magnesium and zinc; and amino acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6. From boosting immune systems to promoting glossy coats, the advantages are both diverse and impressive.
Regenerative seaweed is also arguably the most climate and ecologically friendly ingredient that both humans and pets should be eating more of. It takes no fresh water, fertilizer, pesticides nor additional food to grow and it actually absorbs carbon at 7 times the rate of trees so it moves it beyond a sustainable ingredient. In fact, some pet food manufacturers are reducing their overall carbon footprint that consumers and shareholders are asking for.
Based in Biddeford, Maine, Ocean’s Balance is a vertically integrated seaweed company that farms and sustainably harvests seven popular species of organic sea vegetables from the clean and cold waters of the Gulf of Maine. Ocean Balance sells seaweed as an ingredient to human food and supplement manufacturers as well as pet food and treat companies. We typically recommend a blend of seaweed as each species has unique nutrients, flavor profiles, vitamins, anti-oxidants and amino acids. Just as a carrot is very different from broccoli in nutrients, taste, and appearance the same holds true for sea vegetables.
Red seaweeds such as dulse, nori, and Irish moss have high protein content and some reds have gelling, thickening, and binding properties on their own or when interacting with dairy proteins. Brown seaweeds such as sugar kelp, Alaria, and bladderwrack sometimes referred to as kelp and are high in antioxidant polyphenols and are high in fiber, iodine, with a variety of vitamins, and is particularly good for digestion. Green seaweeds such as Sea lettuce is a great source of iron and a host of other vitamins and minerals.
There are multiple health benefits for pets eating seaweed including: digestive health (by providing an abundance of fiber which enhances digestion, prevents constipation and promotes a healthy gut microbiome that are essential for overall well-being and immune system support); weight management (seaweed is rich in iodine, vital for maintaining a healthy thyroid function in pets as well as the fiber content creates a sense of fullness); healthy skin and coat (rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which promote skin hydration and a glossy, resilient coat); joint health and mobility (by way of compounds found in seaweed like fucoidan that have been shown to reduce inflammation and alleviate joint discomfort and promote better mobility and an active lifestyle); immune system boost (resulting from seaweed’s antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals which work together to strengthen the immune system): and dental health (kelp contains natural compounds that can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup, contributing to better oral health and fresher breath). In addition to the high levels of protein, certain seaweeds have favorable palatability characteristics so even fussy cats will not turn their noses up at food that contains some seaweed.
Seaweed has long been a key ingredient in wet pet food to create texture for gravies, gels, meat chunks and loafs. These texturizing products known as hydrocolloids include chemically extracted carrageenan and agar. Carrageenan in particular has fallen out of favor with many consumers in light of recent results from research questioning its food safety. Consumers want more health focused brands that are looking for clean, natural labels. Ocean’s Balance has recently launched an all-natural seaweed thickener that has the same functional benefits of carrageenan, but without the chemical extraction process. We’re now working with pet food manufacturers on customized products and solutions with our colleague, Colin Hepburn, who has 30 + years’ experience in customer applications and product development within the seaweed industry.
Maine is at the epicenter of the U.S. seaweed movement with its vast coastline (3,500 miles of coastline when you include all of its islands) and clean and cold waters that make it an ideal place for seaweed to grow. Ocean’s Balance recently invested in the first commercial scale farmed kelp dryer in North America. They also have a very advanced milling operation so they’re able to mill from flakes This infrastructure allows Ocean’s Balance to produce large quantities of quality seaweed for manufacturers.
The oceans cover 71 percent of the earth’s surface yet produce only 2 percent of the world’s food. Seaweed is regenerative and its part of what’s been recently described as the “blue revolution.” Incorporating seaweed into a pet’s diet is a holistic and natural approach to enhance their overall well-being while also helping our planet.
Mitchell Lench is the CEO of Ocean’s Balance, a vertically integrated Maine based company that farms and harvests 7 popular seaweed species from the clean and cold waters of the Gulf of Maine. They also offer an all natural seaweed texturizer that is used in wet pet foods as a substitute for carrageenan.