Lentils Find Place in Meat-Based Products

A local food processor has teamed up with beef research specialists at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to develop a market-ready lentil product for use as a meat extender. The project has the potential to increase demand for lentils, as demand grows for convenient meat products in markets around the globe.

The project is working with toasted lentil flour that can be used as a binder and preservative in ready-made hamburgers. The cooking process for the flour kills pathogens, increases availability of phenolic compounds (anti-oxidants) in the lentils, and makes the nutrients in the lentils more digestible. These changes improve food safety, increase shelf stability, and create a nutritious product.

Dr. Phyllis Shand at the Beef Research Centre at the U of S is pleased with the potential for lentil-based binders. Calling lentil binders a multi-functional ingredient, Shand says they not only increases the juiciness and improves texture but that the binders “preserves the quality of the meat and maintains the color and the flavor of the burger for longer periods.”

Initial tests showed an improvement in the appearance of frozen burgers made with a lentil-based binder, compared to burgers made with other binders. A Saskatchewan based meat retailer, Prairie Meats, was quick to see the value in the product, and has since incorporated it into their premium burger offering, proudly displaying, “Made With Lentils” on the package.

With growing demand for meat-based diets in Asia, it pays to find ways to improve quality, extend storage potential, and prevent food waste in ready-made meat products. “Right now we’re exploring markets in countries that already buy burgers and meatballs, and where consumers have experience with lentils,” says Shand.

“Our focus has been south Asia, and we have received interest from Malaysia and Singapore. We are also working with a major meat processor in Sri Lanka who is currently evaluating the lentil-based binder. We are awaiting the outcome of our consumer trial of Sri Lankan consumers.”

There is also untapped potential in Central and South America, which could be the focus of future research, as well as interest closer to home.

Meanwhile at the lab, Dr. Shand and Dr. Janitha Wanusundra with AAFC are testing lentil flour as a binder on other meat species, such as bison and chicken. This high protein meat extender may be starting with pre-made hamburgers—a substantial market in itself—but these researchers are just beginning to explore the potential for lentil-based binders.


Click here for more information on this project.


For questions or further interest in this project and its outcomes, please contact:

Amber Johnson

Manager, Market Promotions

Saskatchewan Pulse Growers/Lentils.org