Will hemp burgers be on menus in the near future? Photo credit: Hempfoods.com.
Consumers are hungry for protein alternatives. In fact, studies show that demand for plant-based meat is one the rise, in part due to shifting consumer behavior, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on meat sales.
One company is well on its way to creating alternative forms of protein from hemp.
Promoted as a “lifestyle” brand geared towards enhancing healthy living through the use of industrial hemp, ECS Brands has cemented itself as one of the “game changers” in the industry.
Chief Innovation Officer and award-winning product formulator for ECS Brands, Dan Schulz, told Emerald by email that it was a lecture in Australia that catalyzed his interest in hemp.
“In the late 90’s I was attending a lecture in Australia called Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill. We learned how some fats don’t “make you fat” because they’re not burned or stored for energy. Instead the body uses them as building materials to build cell membranes,” he says.
“The statement was made that “hemp seed oil is nature’s most perfect oil for health” and was the best source of those ‘building materials.’ That set me on a journey of discovery to learn everything I could about hemp to optimize my health and then share what I have learned with others.”
What is Hemp Protein?
“There is protein in most parts of the hemp plant. The seeds are a rich source of protein, but the most protein is actually found in […] the biomass — the leaves, stems and stalks,” Schulz said.
In 2019, the company started researching biomass as a protein source, “and [we] found it is over 20% protein,” Schulz continued. “The seeds are over 30% protein but the biomass outweighs the seeds.”
In addition to high-quality protein, fiber and essential fatty acids; hemp seeds also contain a handful of micronutrients that are beneficial to one’s health.
A Complete Protein Source
Schulz said that hemp protein can replace meat as an alternative source to protein.
“You get protein from meat, but that’s about it. When you get protein from hemp you are also getting essential fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, plant sterols and cannabinoids with none of the downsides you get with meat — the pathogenic bacteria, blood, purines and antibiotics,” he explained.
“To my knowledge, hemp is the most diverse and concentrated source of healing compounds in existence,” he stated.
For instance, a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry highlighted that the protein from hemp consists of all the amino acids that humans require. This is more than what exists in some grain, nuts or even meats. This makes it beneficial in repairing muscles and tissues in the body.
In addition to its nutritional content, hemp protein may also provide suitable alternatives for those with dietary restrictions, like allergies or intolerance to soy.
According to Forbes, while popular, soy is controversial. “Soy-based foods can be a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, especially for vegetarian and vegan consumers. […] But there are other, real drawbacks of soy,” the publication writes. It’s one of the most common allergens. In addition, soy products, which can be expensive, contain high amounts of estrogen and sodium.
“Cut out the Middleman”
Schulz also went on to elaborate that hemp protein positively impacts our natural surroundings.
“Cut out the middleman! All meat ultimately comes from plants. Either the animal eats plants and turns that into muscle, or the animal eats another animal that got its muscle from plants,” he said.
“Hemp protein has a lot going for it. Firstly, it’s eco-friendly; it improves the environment where it grows, pulling CO2 out of the air and replacing it with fresh oxygen as well as deeply recycling soil nutrients to make the land more fertile, all without requiring pesticides and with only moderate water requirements.”
In fact, a study shows that hemp plays an important role in maintaining a greener society through carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is the process of rapidly capturing carbon dioxide from the environment.
In fact, hemp is a more effective CO2 sequester than trees, according to a study in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. As one of the fastest natural CO2 biomass conversion tools, it may be as efficient as a tropical rainforest.
Another study, this one by Savills Research, highlighted that hemp’s environmental benefits also extend its ability to preserve soil health. “Having a large taproot, it can not only reduce soil compaction but also recover nutrients ordinarily outside of the root zone that may otherwise leach into the groundwater and be lost,” the study’s authors wrote.
The Extraction Process
ECS Brands is developing a patented, new eco-friendly method of protein extraction from hemp seeds and the plant’s biomass.
Arthur Jaffe, founder of ECS Brands, explained to PRWeb that ECS Brands’ breakthrough Quantum Molecular Partitioning (QMP) technology is revolutionizing the water-based extraction process.
The company gears the QMP process “towards the purification of desirable elements from plants that can be used in food, medicine, and industrial applications – allowing us to achieve near 100% utilization of the hemp plant,” he said.
He adds that no other organization has yet to achieve this feat so far.
Schulz elaborated on Jaffe’s statement about the effectiveness of this extraction process.
“Our method is a water-based, low temperature clean extraction process that uses some extraordinary proteins extracted from algae to cause the hemp seed to separate into its different components,” he added. “It means we can isolate the protein to very high purity without the industrial solvents, acids and intensive processing currently utilised to produce other plant proteins.”
He emphasized that their current tests reveal high purity levels. “In current tests we are exceeding 90% protein purity. It’s beautiful white, soft, fluffy, water soluble and with negligible [or slight] taste.”
As for whether consumers might be able to order a hemp burger at McDonalds or other fast foods restaurant in the future — Schultz said it’s highly possible.
“Imagine that; the Big Mac becomes a Hemp Mac,” he said. “I really see that being a reality in the next couple years and how cool; it really lifts the eco and health profile of any company choosing to support it at a time when people couldn’t be more concerned about their health.”
He adds that with modern extraction technologies, companies will soon be able to produce hemp meat.
“Companies are finding that they can take plant proteins and texturize them to resemble, cook like and taste like meat,” he added. “[…] It’s only a matter of time before hemp meat makes it to market.”