Winnipeg, Manitoba—Lentils and beef are a people- and environment-friendly combination, according to a new study funded by Lentils.org and Pulse Canada.
The study performed a life cycle assessment to evaluate the environmental impact of a beef burger made with 33% cooked lentil puree. It found that the blend reduces the carbon footprint, water footprint, and land-use footprint by about 33%, and noted that lentils are carbon negative—they remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than they emit during their production.
“With an estimated one-third of Americans identifying as ‘flexitarian,’ people are looking for ways to incorporate more plant protein into their diets while still enjoying animal products,” said Amber Johnson, Director of Marketing and Communications at Lentils.org. “A lentil blend offers consumers a chance to align preferences with aspirations.”
The blended burger also had an altered nutritional content: It contained 3 extra grams of fiber, 12% fewer calories, 32% less saturated and total fats, and 32% less cholesterol per 4oz serving.
The blended burger was also 26% cheaper to produce.
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“Reformulating foods can not only lower costs while enhancing nutrition, it can make a significant impact on the environment,” said Denis Trémorin, PAg, MSc, Director of Sustainability at Pulse Canada, in the press release. “A 33% reduction in key environmental measures goes a long way toward meeting sustainability goals.”
The study used environmental impact data for U.S. beef based on national averages; data for lentils was drawn from a specific farming region in Canada. Trémorin explained: “We know that greenhouse gas emissions, water, and land use vary dramatically depending on production regions and practices, making it very important to have ingredient data that is ecosystem specific. Ensuring common measurements and accuracy of data will be key as we see more communication and marketing around the environmental impacts of food.”
“We’re seeing a rise in interest in meat products enhanced with plant protein,” says Johnson. “On the manufacturing side, this study is just one example of how formulation changes can have a massive effect on food products. Blends like the lentil-beef burger can provide manufacturers with an opportunity to develop a whole host of blended food products, such as meatballs, meatloaf, pasta sauce and more.”
The full report is available here.