CARLSBAD — A potluck lunch this week for staff at Carlsbad's Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management included barbecued steak, pork sausage, hamburgers and roast meat with the all the trimmings. Nothing special about that, some would say. But the staff will be quick to tell you it was.

It was actually a taste test of the meats that came from cattle fed a mixture of cattle feed and algae produced by CEHMM, resulting in meat high in Omega 3.

"Our algae has so much more Omega 3. The algae blend fed to the cattle marbled their meat with Omega 3, not saturated fats," explained Doug Lynn, CEHMM executive director. "To simplify the concept: You can have a bacon double cheeseburger with more Omega 3s than fish."

So did the meat taste different? The answer is no. This reporter tasted it and found it to be lean and tender and no, it did not taste fishy.

"We have known all along that our algae is high in Omega 3 - a fatty acid extract that is beneficial to humans," Lynn said. "The meat has more Omega 3 than you would find in salmon."

He said a Kansas cattle company approached CEHMM after learning about its research aimed at developing renewable fuels and high-value co-products from the propagation, harvesting and extraction of oil from algae.

CEHMM has developed breakthrough technology for growing algae and producing oil from it, and now, with it being successfully tested for use in feedstock, Lynn said it opens a whole new market for the nonprofit agency.

"It simply adds one more new dimension to our market," Lynn added.

Algae oil is considered by many to be the most promising renewable source of oil that can be used to produce large quantities of biofuels without impacting the production of traditional food crops. 
The new technology delivers large amounts of concentrated algae that gets more than half of its dry weight from oil. Until now, the amount of oil that could be extracted from algae had been much lower.

The algae is grown in Eddy County in outdoor, oval-shaped, "raceway" type ponds and the first demonstration was conducted on 2,000 gallons of concentrate. That test has since been repeated in order to validate the original results. The raw oils extracted from CEHMM's algae show incredible purity and viability for fuel production.

Industry specialists have long speculated that in order for algae biofuels to become commercially viable, a strain would have to be developed that yielded at least 25 percent oil. CEHMM is consistently growing algae with twice that oil content, according to Lynn.