Doubling the amount of beans we eat could help create a sustainable farming system, help reduce the climate crisis and provide an affordable, nutritious source of protein.
That is the message behind a new campaign called Beans is How, founded by chefs, NGOs and bean suppliers and launched at COP27 as a sustainable food solution.
The group claims that beans can sustainably and affordably reduce malnutrition while helping those struggling during the cost-of-living crisis.
Alongside short-term contexts, a rising population and dietary shifts will mean global demand for protein will increase by almost 10 per cent from 2020 to 2027, the campaign said. Currently, 21g of pulses are eaten per person per day compared to 112g of meat.
“Everyone is worried at the moment – how can we make nutritious meals for our families when money is tight? How can we help tackle the climate crisis? How can we do something about the three billion people on this planet who are malnourished? Beans is How we do it,” said Paul Newnham, executive director of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, which helped launched the campaign at COP27 last week.
“Beans have always been the food we eat when there is nothing else in the cupboard. Our amazing chefs can’t wait to show people how to reimagine beans.”
The campaign, which runs on social media and via a website, was founded by a range of groups including independent bean companies like the Bold Bean Co and Hodmedod’s, to multinationals like Kraft Heinz , as well as the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance and a UK consortium of chefs called the Chef’s Manifesto.
Chef and food writer Tom Hunt said: “Satiating, economical and biologically restorative, I’m a lover of legumes for all the nutrients they provide to us and the soil.
“The ‘legume’ family (which includes beans, lentils and peas) are a vital part of a climate-friendly diet, as they require less fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation than many other conventionally-grown crops. Exploring plant diversity is fun, fascinating and leads to new taste experiences. Look closely and you’ll discover the obscure beauty of different individual pulses, each more alien than the next – from vivid pink borlotti beans to variegated kidney beans and green speckled lentils.”
Beans produce significantly fewer greenhouse gases than animal proteins, and they contain key proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for nutrition. Dried beans only cost on average $1.00 (around 85 pence) per 500 grams.
As well as nutritional and cost benefits, beans are a sustainable crop for farmers as they can help replace fertiliser by releasing nitrogen into the soil. But to make the most of this potential, farmers need a market to sell them, created by increasing consumer awareness and demand, as well as new research into varieties for nutrition and flavour.
Agnes Kalibata, former special envoy to the UN Food Systems Summit, said: “Beans are good for you – every time you eat beans, you’re supporting a family to have a better income and better nutrition and you are helping soils regenerate. This is a super crop in every sense.”