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Berkeley Food Institute and Alt.Meat Lab Join Forces to Research Legumes

By Alyssa Plese | June 18, 2019

Illustration by Alyssa Plese

The Berkeley Food Institute and the Berkeley Alternative Meats Lab recently announced their research partnership to study how legumes might be used to create new and innovative plant-based products. Through the combined work of these organizations, researchers hope to explore new meat alternatives to investigate more sustainable, ethical, and healthy food options.

“In terms of nutrition, sustainability, and cost, legumes are one of the best alternatives to meat,” says Nina F. Ichikawa, interim executive director of the Berkeley Food Institute, “However, legumes aren’t as trendy as some of the new meat alternatives on the market, so we are interested in understanding how people grow, process, and consume legumes today, and what it might take for them to be consumed on a larger scale.”

Lucy Bennet, lead student researcher studying legumes

Through this partnership, student researchers Lucy Bennet (Environmental Science ‘20) and Luiza Dantas Villela (Statistics and Integrative Biology ‘20) will perform a comparative analysis of different bean varieties, attempting to determine which one holds the most promise as a source of mainstream plant-based protein in the United States. The research will assess the varieties based upon a number of considerations, including the ease of growing and processing, nutritional benefits, and taste and palatability.

The Berkeley Food Institute (BFI), located at the University of California, Berkeley, “strives to transform food systems to expand access to healthy, affordable food and promote sustainable and equitable food production.” Through interdisciplinary programs in education, research, policy, communications, and community engagement, the Berkeley Food Institute empowers new leaders with the capacities to cultivate diverse, just, resilient, and healthy food systems.

The Alternative Meats (alt.meat) Lab at UC Berkeley helps entrepreneurs and researchers investigate the next generation of foods such as plant-based meats,  dairy substitutes, and alternative sources of fat and protein. Operating out of the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, the Alt.Meat lab seeks to foster an open and collaborative space, where aspiring entrepreneurs are developing novel solutions to address food’s current impact on the environment, health, and animal welfare.

Together, the Alt.Meat Lab and the Berkeley Food Institute share a common goal to better understand the environmental, ethical, and health related tolls associated with meat production, and help create a future food system with good food available for all.