Food technology has come to a point where protein sources are now more concentrated than ever. Be it meat, dairy or eggs, these sources have a sort of fidelity to them that can’t seem to have an alternative. That said, the rise and inclination towards the vegan moment has made us look towards more ethical sources of nutrients, and this has paved the way for soy-based protein: a cheaper alternative to animal-based protein and with almost the same concentration of health.
However, ethics aside, the conventional methods of producing conventional sources of protein has painted a dire picture of the environment, for they have become responsible for an escalation in greenhouse emissions.
It has now placed a question before us – Can we make soy an ideal substitute rather than just an alternative?
The impact of conventional protein source
Conventional meat production has been one of the major contributors to the degradation of the environment, according to scientific sources. It takes a lot of resources and land to rear livestock for meat, producing a lot of greenhouse gases in the process. Another report has brought forth the following points regarding the main sources of emissions using the Life Cycle Analysis approach:
- Change in land utilisation for livestock
- Feed production
- Animal production
- Manure management
- Processing and international transport
The aforementioned report was published 13 years ago. During this time, our population has increased by 1.1 billion and so have our needs. Protein production is a large contributor to earth’s pollution and the subsequent climate change, and it is important that we recognize that fact and take steps to prevent it. The Wiley Report states that:
“In view of the still growing world population towards 10 billion in 2050, it has been calculated that the world will need to produce about 70% more food calories than in 2006”.
This statement is not merely about the rising need for food, it can also be construed as the massive environmental impact that the escalation of meat/dairy/egg production is going to have.
Dr Marco Springman has stated that:
“The food system is responsible [currently] for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore a major driver of climate change.”
Keeping this quote in mind, it is high time that a reliable alternative is sought, and soy has come up as the most reliable answer. Due to its high protein content and reliability as an efficient animal protein substitute, it is quickly become a staple of a number of vegan-friendly and vegetarian-friendly diets, as well as a great substitute in terms of environmental impact.
The Environmental Impact of Soy
Soy has surely become the flagship of veganism. If you look into the vegan moment a bit more deeply, you will notice a trend. Environmental concern is one of the many finer points because of which soy is considered to be an alternative source of protein. The reasons for its low carbon footprint can be attributed to:
- Efficient Production: Soy is a globally important crop. It is easy and profitable to produce, and has a very positive impact on the environment. It grows in a lot of places and can be cultivated in a wide variety of climates. This makes it a very efficient, important, convenient, and useful crop to grow in a lot of areas.
- The low requirement of water: Per year, Soybean requires 15 to 25 inches of water per acre. Comparatively, the amount of water livestock needs is subjective to the number of animals being farmed, and it generally tends to be exponentially more. This means that soy protein is more efficient than animal protein in terms of water consumption as well.
- The low requirement of land: Soybean has a very high yield per land area. It is one of the most efficient crops, requiring a low amount of resources and producing a high amount of yield in comparison to a lot of other plants. The contrast is even more pronounced when it comes to actual animal protein.
- A low requirement of energy: According to the research report published in Extension based on the energy life-cycle analysis of soybean, soybean’s seed production requires very little energy compared to its output, especially when compared to other crops. Again, this differentiates it from a lot of other protein sources, including and especially animal protein. It is a very high statistic among other plants also.
- No emission of Certain Gases: Gases like methane and nitrous oxide that are typically associated with meat production are not emitted during soy production. Being a plant product, it helps maintain the environmental balance and contributes to correcting global warming and climate change. This is one of the reasons soy protein is so highly prized while being an important source of food.
We have talked about the low carbon footprint and the factors that contribute to it. However, let us now talk about the low carbon footprint and environmental impact of soy production.
Soy produces much lesser – about 8 to 80 times secondary carbon footprint compared to conventional sources of protein. It has a much lower greenhouse gas production, especially when compared to other protein sources such as animals. Due to its seasonal nature as a plant and the special properties of soybean, it has a very low output of harmful gases and helps to maintain the oxygen balance in the air.
It is time to choose more than just the alternative
Finding genuine care for the environment is not easy. However, that does not mean that we can’t try. As for you, if you still want to have that meat-eating experience, there are alternatives like organic tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt, tempeh, edamame and much more.
These alternatives won’t just give you a new way of life, and they will give a second change to the planet as well, a chance that it desperately needs. This is why soy protein is so significant – it represents a change towards the salvation of the world, as well as a healthier alternative to your personal life and diet.