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Food does more than nourish. Food is how we celebrate, how we commemorate – and how we live our values. When those values change, so can our diets.

Maybe that explains the growing popularity of peas.

“We see a huge shift in the way food is produced – from eating more meat to eating less meat and more protein from vegetables,” says Jean-Philippe Azoulay, Roquette’s Vice President of Pea and New Proteins Business Line.

The shift, he says, is driven by more than one consumer value. But a major factor is sustainability.

Consumers love knowing their food choices are supporting more sustainable environmental practices. Here are 5 ways growing and eating peas can help the planet.

  1. Peas require less water. Not all protein sources can be cultivated with the same efficiency. Take bovine meat: It takes about 4 times the water to produce protein from cows as from producing peas.
  2. Peas require less commercial nitrogen fertilizer. Plants need nitrogen – it’s one of the fundamental ingredients in the formation of plant protein and other molecules. But over time, nitrogen in farm soil is depleted.

    Legumes like yellow peas have a secret weapon: They live in symbiotic relationship with a family of bacteria called rhizobia. These bacteria can grow in pea root and form nodules, where they gather inert nitrogen gas from the air within the soil pores and convert it to a form the plants can use.

    Effectively, this means peas come with a built-in fertilizer. That’s good for farmers and for conservation.
  3. Growing peas increases other crop yields, too. The yellow pea’s ability to add nitrogen to the soil doesn’t just benefit the yellow pea: It leaves soil healthier for next year’s crop, as well.

    Farmers grow peas as a rotation crop, alternating with other crops like wheat or canola. The specific benefit of rotation varies by region: In Europe, a well-nodulated pea crop can help the following wheat crop increase by 600 pounds per acre. Results are more conservative in Canada, where the following wheat crop, when fertilized normally, often gets a protein benefit from the preceding pea crop.
  4. Peas use less land. To produce the same amount of protein, bovine meat has more than 5 times the impact on land use that growing peas has. Peas simply yield more protein per acre.
  5. The shift to peas reduced carbon emissions. Producing 100g of protein from peas emits just 0.4 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents. Producing the same amount of protein from beef produces nearly 90 times that, 35 kgCO2eq. (For more comparisons, see this article at Our World in Data. 
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