Lentils make burgers healthier, more sustainable, and more cost effective to produce, according to a new study. The study, Nutritional and Environmental Sustainability of Lentil Reformulated Beef Burger, appears in the latest issue of the journal Sustainability, an international peer-reviewed open-access journal published by the Multidisciplinary Publishing Institute (MDPI). Researchers found that reformulating a 100 percent lean U.S. beef patty to include one-third cooked lentils results in a blended burger that is more sustainable, nutritious and cost-effective.

“With one-third of Americans identifying as flexitarian, we’re seeing a definite rise in interest in meat products enhanced with plant protein,” says Amber Johnson, director of marketing and communications at Lentils.org. “Lentil blends like the lentil-beef burger provide an exciting opportunity for food manufacturers to develop a host of blended food products—ranging from patties to meatloaf to pasta sauce—that not only answer this demand, but also improve their products’ nutrition, environmental impact and cost.” The blended burger had 12 per cent fewer calories and 32 percent less saturated fat per serving compared to an all-beef patty, as well as a 26 per cent lower production cost. Including lentils also reduced the carbon footprint, water footprint and land-use footprint of the patty by about 33 per cent, a very significant improvement.

“This blended approach gives companies and consumers the option of lowering costs, enhancing nutrition and improving sustainability,” says Denis Trémorin, research contributor and Director of Sustainability at Pulse Canada. “A 33 per cent reduction in environmental impact of the burger is a gamechanger for those looking to mitigate their carbon footprint without sacrificing on nutrition or flavour.”

As a source of plant protein, lentils are unique because they are carbon negative. This means they actually remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than they emit during their production. Numerous studies have shown that adding more plant-based foods such as lentils to daily diets not only help to improve health and nutrition but also have significant environmental impacts.

The study used environmental impact data for U.S. beef based on national averages, whereas data for lentils was specific to a farming region in Canada. “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,” says Tremorin. “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.”

As consumer demand for sustainable products rises and the flexitarian market continues to grow, more consumers will be looking to brands that offer products with plant-animal blends and plant-forward ingredients. The use of pulses (beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils) in new food products grew 14% in 2018, and the global pulse ingredients market is expected to reach over $24 billion by 2025. Brands like Better Blends™, Raised & Rooted™ and Maple Leaf 50/50™ are already leading the way with new, innovative blended meat products.

For more information about the potential of pulse-blended products, please visit Lentils.org and PulseCanada.com. To review the full study, click here



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