Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Best and Worst Protein Sources

Last month, the USDA debuted their revised food pyramid in a new form: a food plate. Aside from the shape, one of the most notable differences was that a portion called "protein" replaced the meat portion.

Anyone who avoids (factory farmed) meat has likely spent a fair amount of time researching alternative protein sources and their environmental impact respectively. Lucky for us, the Environmental Working Group has put together a list (and handy pocket guide) of the best and worst protein sources. Here they are:

Five Worst Protein Choices for the Environment:
1.) Lamb
2.) Beef
3.) Cheese

4.) Pork
5.) Farmed Salmon

The carbon footprint from lamb and beef cattle comes mostly from the methane produced through digestion, manure, the crops grown to feed them and the shipping during different stages of production. With pigs, the biggest environmental impact is in their poop and processing. The electricity, feed supplement and air shipping for farmed salmon landed it on the list. Cheese landed on the list due to 'bang for your buck.' Too much environmental impact for too little of a serving for the protein benefit.

Five Best  Protein Sources for the Environment:
1.) Milk
2.) Beans
3.) Tofu
4.) Eggs
5.) Chicken

The good protein choices are a bit more complicated. Tofu still has a big footprint because of the carbon footprint from growing soy beans and processing it into tofu, but it is one-third that of beef. Eggs are still carrying the environmental impact of poultry farms but they offer a lot of protein per serving. Milk, if it is local, is great and beans (and lentils too) are a pretty guilt-free protein source. As far as chicken is concerned, let's just say it is better than beef.  

Find more detailed lists and explanations here and here. And as always, the Environmental Working Group website is an incredible resource for this kind of stuff.

4 comments:

Denys Envy said...

to expand your article, you should list some of the great local dairy and poultry farms from which to purchase locally grown protein choices and therefore limit the carbon footprint.

Deborah said...

That's a great idea! Like highlighting local farms and what they do best?

Only trouble is that I haven't even found a local dairy farm... ugh. I do buy milk from Trickling Springs Creamery, which is in Chambersburg, PA and foudn at David's Natural Market in AA County... but not sure where else or if that is considered local enough for some. And just in general... people (understandably) prefer one-stop-shopping so suggesting this poultry farm and that tomato grower can get a little complex... plus I know so many farmers now it would be hard to highlight one over another. Hmmm... maybe best bet is to highlight the CSA and farmers market finder again.

Thanks for the ideas, feedback and visits :-)

Joe Miller said...

Hello, I'm Joe Miller from Trickling Springs Creamery! Thanks for buying our milk!
As far as local goes I thought you might be interested in the fact that our creamery is 80 miles from David's Natural Market (this via actual roads and not air mileage as most food miles are calculated). We buy all of our milk from farmers local to us verses the conventional milk processor that will purchase milk from around the country to play the milk money game. It is typical for a processor in Virginia to purchase milk from Wisconsin and a processor in Wisconsin to purchase milk from NY etc...
Hope this encourages you with your local purchases and thanks again!

Deborah said...

Hi Joe! Love your milk (and chocolate milk). Can tell you go the extra mile... or don't rather ;-) Tee hee.

Do you know what else I love about your creamery? The bottles. Bringing them back to David's and knowing they will be used again and again (reducing the need/energy use for virgin materials) is something every business should do in every state, not just CA, ME, etc.