Why Should I Care About the International Year of Pulses 2016? A Farmer’s Perspective on a United Nations Designated Year (PCN Summer 2014) JUL 9 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Pulse Crop News.
Allison Ammeter, APG Vice President
Some of you read this article title and decided to read one sentence before moving on. Some of you have already moved on. Like many of you, I haven’t personally had a lot of respect for many of the things the UN thinks, endorses, or gets involved in. So, why am I, a self-proclaimed redneck Alberta grain farmer, excited about International Year of Pulses (IYOP) 2016? There are so many reasons!
First, full disclosure. I serve on the board of the Alberta Pulse Growers, so I am obviously a pulse promoter. Second, we grow pulses – in our area, that means yellow or green peas and faba beans, and we appreciate that pulses are our only crop that makes the soil better because they fix their own nitrogen . Third, I like to know what’s in my food and I know how good pulses are for our diet, not to mention our taste buds. So in my mind, anything that promotes pulse consumption, and therefore pulse production, is something I’ll get behind.
But it goes deeper than that. Before you say “nobody pays any attention to the UN Year of designations”, let’s take a look at 2013 – the International Year of Quinoa. How many of you had tasted quinoa before 2013? How many of you had purchased it? Had it in a restaurant side dish? Not many, I would venture. Today, it is a common item in our “small grains” section of the grocery stores and is trendy in our restaurants.
If a UN designation can do that for a grain that was hardly heard of 10 years ago, imagine what UN promotion can do for a food item that is eaten around the world, and has been for millennia.
Now, the key question … why should you try eating more peas, beans, or lentils? First of all, variety is an important part of all healthy diets. Secondly, pulses are very high in fibre, in protein, and are very nutrient dense. They contain complex carbohydrates, which keep blood sugars normal (good for a diabetic diet). They are gluten-free, which is important for celiacs. And, when eaten regularly, they can reduce bad cholesterol.
So why don’t Canadians, who grow so many pulses (35 per cent of the world’s pulse trade), eat more of them? Main reason – we think they give us gas. Most dietitians will tell you that your body needs to eat something regularly in order to adapt to it and not have side effects. This is a basic food rule, whether it is meat, milk, a fruit, a vegetable, or pulses. In other words, if you eat beans more regularly, you’ll actually stop having gas issues. Give them a chance!
Now back to the original question. Why would I, as a farmer, be excited about International Year of Pulses? In my market-oriented mind, if the UN promotes pulses worldwide, and consumers around the world decide to eat more pulses, there will be more demand for them. Large companies such as PepsiCo and Unilever will put even more whole pulses, pulse puree, and fractionated pulses in their prepared foods. More restaurants will prepare meals and side dishes with pulses. Farmers worldwide will be asked to produce more pulses and should see higher prices. That will also generate demand for better varieties, better disease control, better herbicides, etc. That’s all good for farmers, right?
So yes, I’m excited about International Year of Pulses. I’ll be promoting it wherever I find a venue, as are other pulse-producing countries around the world. How about you? Grow more pulses, eat more pulses!