Calgary

Western Canada could be world leader in processed plant protein, says group

On the same day China announced it would drastically increase inspections on Canadian meat, another group of food producers was gathered in Calgary to celebrate an increased interest in their industry. 

From additives to fake meat, adding value to crops could bring the dough, according to trade group

Beyond Meat's signature burger is made from plant protein and could signal a shift for producers. (Beyond Meat)

On the same day China announced it would drastically increase inspections on Canadian meat, another group of food producers was gathered in Calgary to celebrate an increased interest in their industry. 

According to the industry-led group Protein Industries Canada, Western Canada is in a good position to meet a growing global demand for plant-based proteins.

CEO Bill Greule says those proteins include peas, lentils, canola and hemp, which means Canada could be a world leader in the industry. 

If processed correctly, he says, they can be used as meat and dairy replacements, in pet food, and as additives to convenience foods.

"We know if we get this right we can easily add $19- to $20-billion dollars to the agriculture economy by increasing value-added processing in Western Canada,"  said Greule. 

Burgers and beyond

The enthusiasm stems from interest sparked by new products like the Beyond Burger, which has sold briskly at burger joints across Canada and made headlines when it leapt onto the A&W menu. 

But it's not just burgers that could bring the dough. 

James Szarko is the president of Calgary-based Botaneco. His facility processes safflower and other oilseeds, which then gets added to food, animal feed and personal care items.

"We've seen it grow dramatically the last five years and we think we'll see a lot of growth in the next two or three years as well," he said. 

Protein Industries Canada received a $150-million federal grant to invest over the next four years in companies looking to expand into the plant protein sector.

With files from Colleen Underwood

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