Crawfish might make for more than just a good meal.

Tail meat is the main reason farmers raise crawfish, but LSU AgCenter researcher Subramaniam Sathivel sees benefits in the entire crustacean.

He and other researchers are working on ways to add value to the Louisiana crawfish crop: potentially as minced meat; a source of chemicals for anti-aging products; and omega-3 oil for its potential health benefits or as a red food coloring.

There's lots of crawfish to work with and build upon: 110 million pounds of crawfish are harvested each year, with an annual economic impact of $120 million, according to the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. Louisiana has more than 1,000 crawfish farmers, plus more than 800 commercial fishermen who catch wild crawfish.

Sathivel, an AgCenter food processing and engineering professor, is working on a minced meat made from undersized crawfish, which have low economic value. Sathivel also is helping a local crawfish farmer start a crawfish minced meat company.

Sathivel is putting whole undersized crawfish through a deboning machine, which removes the shells and minces the meat in the process.

“You can use the minced meat to add crawfish flavoring to products or produce crawfish patties,” Sathivel said.

Takunrat Taksima, a doctoral student from Kasetsart University in Thailand, is using the shells from the process to study the anti-aging effects of a chemical derived from the shells.

Taksima is extracting and developing a delivery system containing astaxanthin, an antioxidant, to study its use in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

She is spending a year in Sathivel’s lab working on the project. Midway through her study, she has explored ways to get the proper dosage of astaxanthin into a capsule form. Her next step will be testing its anti-aging effects on laboratory rats.

“I will divide the rats into five groups to study them,” Taksima said. “I will study their behavior, body weight and oxidation levels on their organs.”

Sathivel said he also plans to study astaxanthin’s effects on oxidative stress-related diabetes and obesity.

Alexander Chouljenko, a doctoral student in the LSU College of Agriculture School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, is studying the oil removed from the minced meat.

“I am looking at the oil’s nutritional profile, the lipid oxidation properties, and how the oil flows,” Chouljenko said.

Chouljenko also is studying the potential uses of the oil, which he suspects is high in omega-3 fatty acids. The oil is expected to provide health benefits, and he said it could be used to fortify foods. Because of its bright red color, the oil also could be used as a food coloring.