Terrific tofu

Study evaluating the environmental impact of tofu brought great news!

With a growing global population, it is essential that we make our food production systems as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. Soya gets a lot of bad press in relation to environmental destruction but most people still don’t know that the vast bulk of soya is fed to livestock. This is an incredibly inefficient system – feeding a protein-rich food to animals who then recycle it to build their own muscle and other tissues, wasting a lot of its energy in the process. Only about six per cent of global soya crop goes directly into food production for human consumption. To put things into perspective, a one-of-a-kind study was conducted to analyse the environmental cost of tofu – from soya beans production to packaged tofu leaving the factory gate.

It included all the steps in the process - energies used and greenhouse gases emitted. The results revealed that tofu production emits significantly less greenhouse gases than meat, dairy and other animal foods and the authors highlighted that this high-protein food could, if widely adopted as a dietary staple, could play an important role in mitigating climate change. Per kilogram of protein, tofu results in 10 kg CO2e (CO2 equivalents – a unit for measuring climate impact), whilst the figure is 45–640 kg CO2e for beef, 20-55 kg CO2e for pork, 10-30 kg CO2e for chicken and 4–540 kg CO2e for seafood. By comparison, vegetarian meat substitutes (containing eggs or milk) result in 17–34 kg CO2e and vegan meat substitutes in 6–17 kg CO2e. A vegan diet is the most environment-friendly one!

Mejia A et al., 2017. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Generated by Tofu Production:  A Case Study. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. DOI: 10.1080/19320248.2017.1315323.