Hemp has traditionally been grown as a source of fibre, from which everything from fabric and textiles to paper and rope can be manufactured.
In recent times, however, more and more interest has turned to the use of hemp as a commercial food source. Hemp seeds are protein and nutrient rich, and can be processed into products such as flour, oil, dairy-free milk substitute and protein powder.
A lot of the excitement about hemp as a food source stems from the fact that it is an extremely hardy, fast-growing plant. Yet just as importantly, hemp is also a crop that can be grown on a commercial scale without the negative environmental side-effects associated with many other crops.
In short, scientists and agriculturalists are increasingly in agreement that hemp represents a sustainable, healthy food source that has the potential to simultaneously help tackle food insecurity and address challenging climate change targets.
As a crop, hemp has a number of qualities that help to make it extremely ecologically friendly. Compared to notoriously thirsty mass produced crops like rice, soy and wheat, hemp requires only moderate amounts of water to thrive. With agriculture using as much as 70% of the world’s freshwater supply, increasing use of crops that require less intensive irrigation methods is viewed as critical to avoiding water stress.
In addition, hemp’s hardy nature means it is notably pest and disease-tolerant and does not require highly enriched solids to produce good yields. Not only does this allow it to thrive in many different environments and climates, it also means it can be grown without heavy reliance on pesticides and fertilizers, reducing chemical pollution.
As well as its impressive eco-friendly credentials as a commercial crop, hemp has one other major characteristic that recommends it as a green food source - the high protein content of its seeds. In fact, hemp seeds are one of the few ‘complete’ protein sources found in any plant or vegetable, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids (i.e. those the human body cannot make and has to obtain through diet).
This puts hemp seeds at the top of the list of so-called ‘alternative’ protein sources, i.e. plant-based alternatives to meat. A recent report highlighted that while animal agriculture accounts for 14.5% of global carbon emissions, plant-based alternative protein sources like hemp produce up to 93% fewer greenhouse gases.
With increasing recognition of the need to reduce reliance on meat as a protein source if global carbon targets are going to be met, hemp represents a resilient, high yield option that matches high nutritional value with low environmental impact.
Hemp seeds also contain high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. The ideal ratio according to studies is 3 to 1 and when this is the case, these fatty acids help to support healthy cholesterol levels, immune system function, and may help regulate your metabolism.
Norkem supplies hemp protein and other hemp derived products including hemp flour, whole hemp seeds, hulled hemp seeds and cold pressed hemp seeds. We source all of our hemp from a cooperative of UK farms whose produce is certified according to the Red Tractor assurance standard. Get in touch with us here to find out more about our food and drink product range.