Meat is often derided as one of the most environmentally damaging foods to consume, but new research is leading some farmers to claim that tofu could be worse.
Speaking at the National Farmers Union (NFU) on Monday, Dr Graham McAuliffe of the Rothamsted Institute explained that his unpublished research on tofu has found that the soya-based protein could have a more drastic impact on the planet than beef, pork and chicken.
Dr McAuliffe, who specialises in measuring the environmental impact of foods, pointed out that his findings should be “interpreted with caution” given they were currently just a “proof of concept”, reports The Times.
“Without a doubt, peas and ground nuts always have a lower environmental impact than any livestock products,” he said.
“But if you look at tofu, which is processed so there is more energy going into its production, when you correct for the fact that the protein in it is not as digestible compared to the meat-based products, you can see that it could actually have a higher global warming potential than any of the monogastric animals.
“To get the same amount of protein, tofu is worse.”
It’s not the first time tofu has come under fire for its carbon footprint.
In 2010, a report conducted on behalf of the World Wide Fund (WWF) warned of the dangers of thinking that soya-based products were guaranteed to have low carbon emissions.
It stated: “Our analysis shows that direct substitution of livestock products in the diet with analogue high protein products based on, for example, soya involves increased dependence on imported crop commodities.
“Such a strategy is likely to increase the total soya intake of the UK food chain.”
Instead, the report advised those looking to substitute meat in their diets to do so ”through a general increase in crop products” such as lentils and chickpeas, which it said was a “more effective and sustainable strategy” to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet.