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Plant-based diets have been the craze even long before the pandemic. The shift from actual meat to plant-based meats has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, and there’s no signs of stopping this industry any time soon.

There are many different ingredients that go into making plant-based meat, such as whey protein, binding ingredients, and spices. But have you ever heard of hemp-based meat?

You heard it right. You CAN make delicious foo

In New Zealand, a company called Sustainable Foods is working on launching a hemp-based burger under its Craft Meat Co. brand, reports Food Navigator-Asia. Though they already have a line of plant-based sausages, burgers, and mince among other things, they’ll be adding some hemp soon too.

According to Kyran Rei, co-founder, the hemp-based product will have a total consumable protein that is “higher than even that of animal-based protein sources” because hemp is already naturally rich in protein. “Hemp-based meat will also contain very high levels of dietary fiber, up to 19 percent of the recommended dietary intake, a benefit that is not available from traditional animal meat or in any plant-based meats,” Rei explained to Food Navigator-Asia.

Sustainable Foods will be working with Greenfern Industries, a local MMJ producer to supply their hemp exclusively. “Hemp is a very viable crop for New Zealand growing conditions, and we are partnering with medical cannabis producer Greenfern Industries as our exclusive grower to make our hemp-based meat analogues from 100% locally-grown hemp,” Rei told Food Navigator-Asia.

They plan to launch next year, and when it comes to price, they say it is a “well-priced range” while avoiding super premium prices since they intend to target the average consumer.

Closer to our shores, a Colorado company has also figured out how to make hemp burgers. Hemp Way Foods makes a hemp burger with hemp protein and hemp hearts, as well as other ingredients such as brown rice, lentils, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Carla Boyd, Hemp Way Foods founder, said that she came up with the recipe when she was suffering from food allergies and digestive problems.

“Hemp is a superfood, it’s a pure plant protein. So I just started giving out hemp burgers to tons of friends and those friends were giving it to other friends and people started calling me,” Boyd tells the Denver Channel. “There’s tons of veggie burgers on the market, there’s very few products on the market specifically in the frozen food world, containing the hemp hearts,” she says.

Uses For Hemp In Food

Unfortunately, while hemp has an impressive range of health benefits and there is every reason in the world to try them, it won’t get you high.

Once processed into a food ingredient, hemp is loaded with amino acids, minerals, healthy fats, and omega-3 ALA fatty acids. It can even be eaten raw, roasted, cooked, and made into many food products such as flour, oil, milk, protein powder, granola, cereals, and much more. The hemp seeds in itself are recognized for being extremely nutrient dense, already providing a significant amount of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and insoluble fiber. It also contains micronutrients including phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and iron.

Challenges For Working With Hemp In Food

If it was easy to add hemp into foods, then we’d surely be seeing much more of it. But there are still some challenges that the industry needs to work through.

For one, its shelf life. Since hemp seed and its byproducts contain high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids, they can get rancid pretty fast. Though these are the healthy types of fat, hemp seed and hemp oil products need to be stabilized or even use preservatives to do so.

There’s also the issue of being “tainted” with THC, which some farmers as well as businesses are still wary of. Hemp seeds need to be thoroughly cleaned to ensure complete removal of THC, even in trace amounts. THC is usually stored in the seed kernel shell. But regardless of whether it’s been cleaned thoroughly or not, eating hemp seeds or other byproducts of hemp will not get you high nor cause you to test positive on a drug test.

Then there’s also the fact that there is simply a lack of education and awareness surrounding the use of hemp in food. “There hasn’t been enough education and experience on the consumer side to understand that hemp is also a food and these products exist and taste great,” says hemp farmer, Rye Matthews, to Food Print.

“There are people who believe that there are traces of THC in hemp hearts and hemp seeds that might get them high or make them fail a drug test; it’s still scary to them,” says Anna Chanthavongseng, the National Hemp Association’s executive director. “We also have people in what I call the ‘CBD closet’ who are afraid to admit they use CBD-infused foods…We need a lot of education to steer away from that stigma and to reel in the public with the idea that it’s not a scary ingredient, it’s a beneficial, nutritious ingredient.”

However, the biggest challenge of all is the legality. How can a company use CBD in food legally, and how can they be 100% sure that it’s under the legal limit for THC? For companies to have the best outcomes possible, they need to work on having hard, clinical data to prove that it’s safe to consume in order to overcome the obstacles that the FDA can throw at them. The big name brands do have the ability to get hemp on board though, and they can catapult it into becoming a mainstream food ingredient.

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