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Sorry Farmers, but Tofu Is Not Worse for the Environment than Meat

You may have seen the headlines, promoted all over social media, proclaiming Tofu 'could' in fact be a big old planet buster. The truth about this meat-free alternative is a little more complex (as is often the case). The controversy begins with a yet unpublished report by Dr Graham McAuliffe of the Rothamsted Institute. Invited to speak at the National Farmers Union last week, Dr Graham, pretty much began with the phrase please take what I am about to say with a pinch of salt.

That wasn’t good enough for the NFU. No sooner had he delivered his speech, PR agencies across the UK had Tofu in the stocks, encouraging the public to pelt it with tomatoes.

The pinch of salt element of the tale, or as Dr Graham puts it, is treat this report with caution. It stems from some misleading facts. As the scientist is keen to point out tofu is made from soya, which is harvested from soybeans. The problem is, the rise in soy bean farming accounts for a hunk chunk of the planet’s deforestation. What Dr Graham doesn’t make clear is that 75% of all soybeans farmed are produced to feed cattle.

So, pot kettle, kettle black?

One thing Dr Graham and his vast farmer fan-base are not saying, which is far more relevant, is that tofu tastes like feet. These days there are far better meat free alternatives and here are 5 of the best:

1 QUORN:

You’d need to have been in a twenty-five-year coma to be unaware of the rise of Quorn. This mushroom based meat substitute has made the leap beyond vegetarians and now millions of people the world over eat it. 

Pros: it’s high in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates.
Cons: it doesn’t count in Scrabble

2. JACK FRUIT:

Jack fruit is a newish kid on the vegan/veggie block, but it's low fat, high fibre properties are elevating up the aisles.  As the name suggests Jack fruit is a fruit, although like its brethren Breadfruit and figs, it was initially discounted as a tad tasteless. As the world shrunk it was discovered that Jack fruit is easy to flavour. Combined with its chicken-like texture and high nutrient content meant it wasn’t long before it made its way onto Western Menu.

it was soon discovered that Jack fruit is easy to flavour and combined with its chicken like texture and high nutrient content it wasn’t long before it made its way onto Western Menu.

Pros: Cholesterol-free and rich in fibre
Cons: NON-VEGAN (some of us are still struggling to go the whole hog and give up cheese) and it can be hard to shake that barbeque after taste.

3. HALLOUMI:

Our wild card is the tough Greek/Turkish cheese Halloumi. Originally from Cyprus Halloumi is an underripened mixture of sheep, goat and cow cheese. Unlike the two listed above halloumi is best served as a fish alternative, although its uses are many and varied and it also makes a great burger. It is the cheese’s unique texture which makes it suitable as meat alternative as you can fry or grill it, like meat.

Pros: High in protein
Cons: Also high in fat and salt.

4. TVP:

The delicious sounding TVP stands for textured vegetable protein. Like Tofu, TVP is soy based, but unlike tofu it doesn’t taste like gelatine.

Pros: High in protein
Cons: Made from Soy beans.

5. LENTILS:

Yep, you heard me, lentils are actually a pretty good substitute for any recipe requiring ground meat. Please note there are many forms of lentil and some make better fake meat than others, in my experience brown lentils are the most reliable.

Pros: protein rich and low in calories.
Cons: limited in their usage.

So, there you have it. Five ways to save the planet and dinner at the same time and not an ounce of tofu in sight.  Take that Farmers Union.

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