Canadian pulses are some of the most sustainable crops in the world.
Canadian pulses improve our air, water and earth. Find out how these popular plant proteins contribute to building a better planet.
Life Cycle Assessments:
The Gold Standard of Environmental Impact Data
As sustainability becomes a critical driver of food product formulation, there is a clear need to generate in-depth and consistent data for food ingredients across geographical origins and production systems.
Canadian pulses have a role to play in improving the environmental impact of foods and diets. That is why Pulse Canada has undertaken work to develop detailed Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) for Canadian peas, lentils and beans. Life cycle assessment is a widely recognized methodology for quantifying resource inputs and emission outputs throughout a product’s life cycle for the purpose of environmental impact assessment.
The LCA data for Canadian pulses was collected directly from pulse growers and includes regional breakdowns, for clearer insight into the environmental impact of pulses.
See how our data can help support your sustainability story.
A life cycle assessment of Canadian peas and lentils was generated using data directly from 600 growers. View the impact of Canadian pulses on 13 different environmental end points.Download the Report
Low Carbon Footprint
The production and use of nitrogen fertilizers are a significant contributor to the overall carbon footprint of agriculture and food production. Pulses like beans, peas and lentils have a naturally lower carbon footprint than most foods because they require little to no nitrogen fertilizer to grow. Pulses have a special relationship with certain soil bacteria that convert nitrogen from the air into a form that is usable to the growing pulse crop. This process is known as symbiotic nitrogen fixation.
Pulses are a protein source with a very low water footprint. Pulses such as peas, lentils and chickpeas are well-adapted to semi-arid conditions and can tolerate drought stress. Pulse crops like peas and lentils also use water in a different way than other crops grown in rotation, extracting water from a shallower depth, leaving more water deep in the soil for the following year’s cereal or oilseed crop.
Soil Health & Crop Systems
Pulses produce a number of different compounds that feed soil microbes and benefit soil health. A healthy and diverse microbial community is able to decompose and cycle nutrients more efficiently, feeding crops naturally as they grow. In addition, a large, diverse population of soil microorganisms acts to ‘crowd out’ disease-causing bacteria and fungi, making for healthier plants. Growing pulse crops in a rotation with other crops enables the soil environment to support these large, diverse populations of soil microorganisms.
Including peas, lentils or beans in crop rotations also confers sustainability benefits for the crops grown after. Crops like wheat and barley produce higher yields and have higher protein when grown after pulses. This is due to the soil fertility, water and soil microbial benefits of pulse crops which also benefit following crops. These benefits also reduce the carbon emissions of following crops due to a reduced need for fertilizer. One study has estimated that including pulses in a rotation with Canadian wheat contributed 1.3 MT of carbon emission savings, approximately 2% of the entire carbon footprint of Canadian agriculture2.
In addition to boosting the protein, fibre and micro-nutrients of many cereal-based foods, incorporating Canadian pulse ingredients, such as pea or lentil flour, can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the final product3.
Pulses are being used in meat applications in a number of ways, but an emerging trend is blending plant and animal protein in a single product. The environmental footprint of 100% beef burgers (both U.S. and Canadian origin) was compared to a blended burger of 67% beef and 33% Canadian lentils. The blended burger had a significantly improved footprint including lower carbon emissions, water use, land use and improved biodiversity4.
Reducing the Impact of Livestock Production
Feed is a significant contributor to the environmental impact of livestock production.
Including pulses in livestock diets reduces the environmental footprint of pork and egg production, and can help to develop and market livestock products with low environmental footprints. A recent life cycle analysis commissioned by Pulse Canada found incorporating peas into pork rations reduced the carbon impact of the feed by 28%, and the overall emissions of the pork by 18%.
Impact on Feed
Impact of peas on the carbon footprint of feed
Impact on Pork
Impact of peas on the carbon footprint of pork
See how Canadian peas can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 28%.
How can livestock and meat companies meet sustainability targets without major system changes? Learn how small changes in feed blends can have a big impact on the carbon footprint of feed and end products.Download the Report
- Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops.
- MacWilliam, S. et al. 2018. A meta-analysis approach to examining the greenhouse gas implications of including dry peas (Pisum sativum L.) and lentils (Lens culinaris M.) in crop rotations in western Canada. Agricultural Systems, 166:101-110. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy….
- Chaduhary, A. et al. Unpublished data.
- Chaudhary, A. & Tremorin, D. 2020. Nutritional and Environmental Sustainability of Lentil Reformulated Beef Burger. Sustainability, 12:6712. Doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/su1217…