Monday, April 28, 2014

Secrets of Soy


When someone mentions they're a vegetarian, most people flash right to the stereotypical vision of that person eating salad and tofu. But as many people know, there's a whole host of meat alternatives that vegetarians enjoy on a daily basis! 



From Boaca Burgers, to Tofurkey sandwiches, and Morningstar Chik'n nuggets, our food industry has done a great job at providing us with great tasting copies of meat products, made from wheat, vegetable protein and large amounts of soy.



But recently in the news, soy has gotten a bad rap. Not only is it beginning to have a negative environmental impact, but eating too much soy has been linked to negative health effects.



Because the soy business has been growing exponentially the past few years, a lot of the crop has been genetically modified and improperly fermented. Scientists found high amounts of natural toxins in the composition of the soy which are not particularly the healthiest for us.



Environmentally, soy is being grown in extreme quantities down in South America to feed to livestock. Increasing meat consumption in China and other Asian countries has led to a higher demand for this animal feed. Soy is therefore being grown in enormous monocultures and causing deforestation in dense biodiverse tropical areas.


So what does that mean to you? Eating soy is not going to kill you. Just as with many other foods, it's ok to enjoy soy in moderation! Especially organic soy products! Soy is packed with protein and a bunch of amino acids, which is why it makes a great substitute for the active vegetarian. Keep a look out for the non-processed versions of soy, which have proven to prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol.

So to avoid all the confusion and hype around eating soy based foods, I've done the research and here's the bottom line. Consuming too much processed soy-based products is not the healthiest, but eating organic or natural sources of soy (whether that's tofu, edamame, or soybeans) can be a great source of protein! ​

- Erika

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Eart Day: #TeamPlantProtein


Things are getting busy in the office as we gear up for Earth Day tomorrow (April 22nd), and our week long celebration of Earth Week! All last week we have been tabling in the dining hall asking students to make commitments to engage in a behavior that will lessen their own impact on the earth in honor of Earth Day! And there were some really great ideas! People committed to many great sustainable steps such as making ethical decisions, supporting public transportation, using less plastic water bottles, recycling/composting and many more! Many of you told us that you already participate in many of these activities, which was awesome to hear! Keep up the great work everyone!



In honor of both Meatless Monday and Earth Week, will will be highlighting all of the meatless options in the dining hall today. Be sure to be on the lookout for one of our signs and logo next to the vegetarian offerings to verify that is meat-free!

All last week, as we were doing the photo contest, I have been wracking my brain trying to think of  a sustainable behavior that I should adapt. As someone who regularly tries to incorporate sustainable behaviors into my lifestyle, I wanted to really think about what I could do to really improve, by looking at what I'm currently doing, but also turning a critical eye to what I can do better, and striving to really improve. I really wanted to make sure that my goal would be both realistic and measurable. I didn't want to make a lofty goal that I wouldn't be able to keep. It also had to be something that I could measure, so I would be able to track my progress. After some careful consideration, I decided upon two iCommit goals. One would be more long term, while the other would be short term. The goal I would make long-term would be to buy less, and reuse more. I like this commitment because it has two parts, it will prevent me from acquiring things that I don't really need, while encouraging me to be more resourceful and creative with the things that I already do have. 


The second, more short term goal, is something that I want to go specifically for Earth Day. I was inspired by one of the students we talked to while tabling. In honor of Earth Day, she decided for the entire month that she would become vegetarian. As someone who is both a self-proclaimed carnivore, and environmentalist, challenging myself to eat less meat is something I always try to push myself to do. Two years ago, I made the decision to cut meat out of my diet 5 out of the 7 days of the week, only allowing myself to indulge twice a week. But, I'm always trying to challenge myself in new ways to try to reduce my environmental impact via the way I chose to eat. (As a foodie, focusing on food as my source of agency works the best for me). So, I decided that in honor of Earth Week I will adapt a vegan diet. I've noticed over the years as I've adjusted my diet, that cutting meat out has become easier and easier the more I planned ahead, and incorporated the change a part of my lifestyle. And even though I have been successfully able to reduce my meat intake, one area that I consistently struggle to reduce my consumption in, is other animals products. I'll be the first to admit it, cheese is my downfall. And after discussing the environmental impacts of animals products in the last blog, it seemed counter-intuitive to me to just reduce my meat consumption, without also considering eating other animal products in moderation as well. So, by going vegan for Earth Week, I'm hoping to not only challenge myself, but also find a way to slowly start to indulge less in animal products, the same way I have done with meat.  

 But, how does this relate to Meatless Monday, aside from my own personal dietary commitments. Let me tell you. As a prepare to do embark on my week-long vegan journey, I have been doing my research and planning meals ahead for the week. I have also been talking to other people their perception of vegan diets, and there is one misconception I want to clear up. As I explained to people why decision to go vegan for the week, many people were fearful that by excluding meat and other animal products from my diet that I would not be getting enough protein. Yes, I agree that protein is an essential nutrient needed for the growth and repair of cells in the body. But..it's not limited to just animal products! There are so many plant based sources of protein available, and they are all versatile as they are delicious! I've heard this misconception be told so many times, and it needs to be stopped! I think we should develop a movement around promoting the power of plant protein! I hereby declare all of those in support of plant protein, use the hashtag, #TeamPlantProtein. Who knows, maybe we can start a revolution.

Even though we are no longer tabling, if you would still like to commit to something sustainable, tell us on twitter using the hashtag #icommit and #sendurmessage. 

Happy Earth Day!
Your Plant Protein Advocate, 
Kat
 
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Ask a farmer! aka "How to Locavore"

Ok, let's talk meat. Yes, I know, a little change of pace considering this is a blog usually devoted to Meatless Monday, but hear me out first. We've always encourage others to consider consuming meat in moderation. But, that doesn't mean that it isn't important to carefully consider the impact of meat consumption during the rest of the week. It's just as important to choose the right types of meat during the week, as it is to refrain from eating it on Monday.

Now, there's no denying the environmental impact that meat has on the environment.  Traditionally sourced, or what is referred to as "factory farmed meat" is the mass production of meat processing which is how the majority of consumers get their meat. The current way we produce meat is very inefficient. It takes many resources, just to grow food, to then feed to the animals that will become our future meaty meals. It takes 16 pounds of grain (to be fed to livestock) to produce one pound of meat. In addition, when analyzing the other resources needed to sustain this type of food system, the numbers are staggering. Nearly half of all the water in the United States goes towards raising animals for food. It also takes much more water to produce meat, than it does other plant-based agriculture. For example, it takes 2400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, compared to the 25 gallons of water it takes to produce one pound of wheat.

And with a steady increase in meat eating, one has to ask, is there a more efficient way to produce meat, if we should continue to keep consuming it? As we continue to become more educated consumers, more options have become available for meat-eaters who want to lessen their environmental impact. Looking for labels such as organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and free range, all communicate that these types of animals have been raised in a more ethical and sustainable manner. And while this is certainly a better option, because these terms are loosely defined and reinforced by the USDA, sometimes these labels can be misleading, or not properly executed. In addition, it still creates a disconnect between the source of the food, and the consumer, making it difficult to really know where and how your meat is processed.

So, is there truly a better solution? Is there a way to really consume meat in a sustainable way? Like most complicated questions, it also involves a complicated answer. While no answer is absolutely perfect, one of the most effective ways to ensure that your meat is being produced in the most sustainable is to do your research! The more you know about where your meats comes, and how many resources go into producing your food, the more educated and informed decision you can make. And therefore, you can more easily lessen the extent of your impact.

One of the best things you can do when choosing to eat meat is to continually ask questions. How was this animal raised, like was it raised in a cage? Does the farmer use hormones or antibiotics? What kind of food is fed to this animal? How much emissions is this specific type of animal responsible for? And most importantly, can I find supporting evidence to verify this? For example, are some meats, or other animal products more sustainable than others? The answer is yes, depending on how you measure. If you calculating sustainability according to co2 emissions, there are definitely better choices than others. Topping the list with the greatest co2 contributor is lamb and beef. So, when you go to select a type of meat, having this information might persuade you to turkey or chicken over beef.

What's tricky about trying to be mindful and conscientious about your meat choices is, its hard to answer some, or even all of the questions. Searching for transparency in a complicated system, such as food system is both time consuming on the behalf of the consumer, but also relies on the producer being forthcoming and honest as well. Fortunately, we can play an active roll in making this quest for information easier. The more we demand information, and more sustainable practices when it comes to meat production, the more producers will be encouraged to abide by these demands.

The movement around what is known as the "farm to fork" method encourages others to get to know the farmers that produces their meat. What better why to know where your meat is coming from, then to ask the source itself? The best way to do this is by supporting local farmers. Because they live and work in the same community as you, you have the ability to ask questions about the type of products they produce in a way that wouldn't be possible with "traditionally manufactured" products.

But, how do you find and support local farmers and locally sourced meat? Look for resources! Besides attending local farmer's markets there are other great resources available that makes supporting local farmers. One resource developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension is a site called Meat Suite. It is a resource site that compiles all of the local farmers and farmer's of a particular reason. The site is organized by the type of animals that are raised, and the type of raising technique they utilize. It's a great a resource  because it takes all of the hard work involved in the research process, and compiles it into one convenient location! Check it out here: http://meatsuite.com/

Want to find out more about local ranchers and the farm to fork process without leaving campus! You're luck! In honor of Earth Week, on April 22nd we will be holding an event called Meet Your Meat! Come hear Purdy and Sons, one of our local vendors, talk about their farm to fork process, and how their product gets to your local dining hall! A presentation and Q&A session followed by an opportunity to sample one of our signature dishes, the porchetta sandwich made from their local pork!

So remember next time you choose to eat meat, do your research, and if possible ask your local farmer! It's possible we can lessen your impact,. if we are conscientious about our choices.

-Kat


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