As consumer demand grows for plant-based protein, we are becoming increasingly dependant on alternatives such as soy and pea protein.
Soy has a bad reputation from an environmental perspective and has been linked with deforestation in South America and given that a majority of the world's soy comes from just three countries) there are also questions regarding its carbon footprint.
Ignoring the environmental arguments against (some of which are complicated and flawed) soy, from a food security perspective we are heavily reliant on the US, Brazil and Argentina and so it is interesting to read that Danish researchers have found a way to make protein powder from fava beans (the smaller cousin of the broad bean).
Using a process called "wet fractionation", researchers have been able to produce a protein powder which can compete with soy and other plant-based protein as to taste, texture, nutritional quality and protein content.
Fava beans have been grown in the UK since the Iron Age. Although they fell out of favour with consumers during the agricultural revolution, they are still grown by farmers as they "fix" nitrogen and are good for the soil. The current fava bean market in the UK is worth around £100M, with most beans being either exported or sold as animal feed. However, if they could be grown as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to soy the market would be worth significantly more.
"Many consumers are crying out for alternatives to soy, a crop that places great strain on the environment"