Canada – a plant protein superpower?

Pulses beans peas lentils chickpeas

Not long ago, we had an article published in the Vancouver Sun about the importance of Canada’s pulse crops (lentils, chickpeas, dried peas and beans). It may seem odd for a humane society to be enthusiastic about a somewhat obscure agricultural product, but these humble legumes could save millions of animals from factory farm misery.

How? – by helping to meet the growing global demand for protein that would otherwise be met by raising and slaughtering animals.

It’s not just that pulses can be part of a more compassionate, plant-based diet. It’s that they can do so in an environmentally-friendly, sustainable way. And what’s more, they are a highly-nutritional, healthy food.

These benefits give pulses a huge advantage over meat production, which is wasteful, environmentally damaging and unsustainable.  While many studies suggest there are serious health problems associated with meat-heavy diets, there is growing evidence that pulses contribute to good health.

But here’s the problem: Most Canadians (and Americans) don’t make pulses a big part of their diet.  Canada, although it is one of the world’s top producers of pulses, exports most of these crops to other countries. As one food journal put it, Canadian pulses are ignored at home, adored abroad.

Fortunately, Pulse Canada, a national association of pulse growers, is working (along with similar provincial groups) to promote pulses to Canadian consumers and raise awareness of all their benefits.  The federal government, to its credit, has also invested in supporting these efforts.

But the meat industry in Canada gets far more support (including funding for producing beef, pork and poultry and meat processing) despite concerns about its impact on our environment, our health and on animal welfare.

That’s a shame because there is considerable evidence that trying to address the growing global demand for protein with more meat production is unsustainable.

Meanwhile, the market for meat alternatives has been growing and many of these include pulses as an ingredient. For example, Canadian company Gardein uses pea protein in its meatless products, as does Beyond Meat, a U.S. start-up. And demand for some traditional uses of pulses, like chickpeas for hummus, has boomed.

We think Canada should be investing more in cruelty-free, environmentally-friendly, healthy pulses instead of factory farming and unsustainable, unhealthy industrial meat production.

We’re already a world leader in pulse production. Why not aim to be a sustainable protein superpower?

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Unfamiliar with cooking pulses?  Here are some links to great pulse recipes:

Pulse Canada (some recipes contain meat, but vegetarian options can be selected with filter)

Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (some recipes contain meat)

Alberta Pulse Growers (Vegetarian recipes can be selected)

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