In this article we focus on hemp – what kind of plant it is, how to use it and why we chose it as one of our ingredients. And before you ask – yes, it is okay to drive a car after our Power Cookies (but we prefer bicycles), because hemp protein has nothing to do with cannabis a.k.a. Marijuana. These cookies won’t get you high, unless you are looking for a perfect snack for your next hiking trip!
What is hemp?
Just like faba beans, hemp has been around for a long time. Hemp, which belongs to Cannabaceae family, appears to have first been domesticated 12000 years ago in modern day China. Interestingly enough, hemp plants have a gender, there are male and female plants. There are also hermaphrodite plants which are female but can produce pollen. They can pollinate themselves.
The role of the male plant is to pollinate the female plant so that it would produce seeds. Seeds can be utilized by the food industry e.g. to produce hemp protein powder for our protein cookies. These seeds don’t contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the substance that gets you ‘’high’’. In Europe the THC content of hemp must be less than 0.3%. For comparison, the THC content of marijuana can be from 5 to 20%. Furthermore, in hemp, the THC is contained in the leaves and flowers and not in the seeds.
What are the nutritional values of hemp seeds?
Hemp seeds have plenty of energy, which mainly comes from fat and protein. The shell is made of fiber mainly. Hemp protein powder is made from hemp seeds through a mechanical separation process. Based on the data from Fineli (the Finnish institute for health and welfare), 100 grams of hulled hemp seeds have 454 Kcal, 2.7g of carbohydrates, 27.6g of fiber, 24.6g of protein and 32.9g of fat. In comparison dehulled seeds have 625 Kcal per 100g, 53.6g of fat, 33g of protein, 2.4g of carbs, 4g of fiber.
Other benefits of cultivating hemp
Besides obvious nutritional values, cultivating hemp has other benefits too:
- Hemp acts as a carbon storage: one hectare of hemp sequesters 9 to 15 tonnes of CO2, similar to the amount sequestered by a young forest, but it only takes five months to grow.
- Hemp helps to break the cycle of diseases when used in crop rotation. In addition, weeds are not able to grow due to the fast growth and shading capacity of hemp plants.
- Soil erosion prevention: dense leaves of hemp become a natural soil cover, reducing water loss and protecting against soil erosion.
- Hemp covers the ground just three weeks after germination.
- Biodiversity: the flowering cycle usually occurs between July and September, coinciding with a lack of pollen production from other crops. Hemp produces large amounts of pollen. It also provides shelter for birds and hemp seeds are a food for animals.
- Low or no use of pesticides: hemp is susceptible to few pests because of the lack of natural predators, which means that the use of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides can be avoided in most cases.
Where does hemp grow?
Hemp can grow in temperate, tropical and subtropical climates. That is almost the whole world excluding the most northern and southern territories in the world (where there aren’t many people anyhow) and some regions around the equator.
Hemp was banned in many countries in the second half of the 20th century due to the association with marijuana and the war on drugs. It has been legalized in most countries in recent years (Canada in 1998, China in 2010, in the US in 2018) with requirements for THC levels to stay below 0.2 or 0.3%.
Currently, the hemp industry is still quite small – but it grows rapidly. E.g. in China after being legalized in 2010, the hemp market grew to $1.7 billion in 2017 . However, if you compare the market value to the wheat or dairy industry, the value is significantly lower. The whole market value of the hemp industry was $4.7 billion in 2019 vs $150 billion (770 million tons at 200$/ton) for the wheat industry or $720 billion for the dairy industry.
How much does it cost to produce hemp protein?
According to data from the government of Alberta, in 2015, hemp seeds cost $0.34/pound to $0.38/pound to produce. This would mean about 0.6€/kg of hemp seeds.
Since 100g of hemp seeds contain 24.9g of protein, with hemp seeds, it costs 0.24 eurocents to produce one gram of protein. To put that into perspective, in Finland in 2015, producing one liter of milk cost 0.4 Eur/L. Since fresh milk contains 3.3g of protein per 100g, it costs 1.33 eurocents to produce one gram of protein with milk!
Even though milk prices vary, we can say that producing protein through hemp is a lot cheaper than with milk! Moreover, price pressures are so strong that milk producers on average are LOSING money each year (!) and require subsidies to survive. If these same farmers moved to producing Faba and Hemp, and we had delicious mass products made from hemp & faba, we could have CHEAPER protein and farmers could GET PAID MORE AND HAVE TO WORK LESS. Everyone wins.
Why did we chose to use hemp protein?
Hemp protein was chosen as one of our ingredients because of its nutritional values, which include e.g. a lot of protein and different minerals. Hemp protein has all of the essential amino acids. Hemp can be cultivated almost everywhere and that makes localization of agriculture possible in the long run.