Soybean production has proven to be a more favorable and environmentally sustainable source of protein because of the high protein quality and nutritional value of soybeans and the efficient use of land, water, and energy of soybean production.
Soy-based foods deliver the highest protein density for human consumption per amount of fossil energy inputs. And among sources of high-quality protein, soybeans use water more efficiently.
Soy uses far less water than other animal-derived proteins such as milk, meat and eggs. This has the effect of saving over more than four million gallons of water for each ton of soybeans produced.
Virtual water trade to Japan and in the world, T. Oki, M. Sato, A. Kawamura, M. Miyake, S. Kanae, and K. Musiake
A fundamental way to examine the environmental cost of food production methods is to evaluate the total energy use involved in production. Soy is an efficient source of protein based on return of energy use compared with proteins from other sources.
“Diet, Energy and Global Warming”; Gidon Eshel and Pamela A. Martin; Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (December 2005)
Soybeans produce more pounds of usable protein per acre of farmland than all other forms of complete protein. When comparing land impacted by production and end product, soy protein offers a protein solution that is 17 times more effective.
USDA; FAO/WHO/UNICEF Protein Advisory Group (2004)
Veggie foods help feed the world while reducing the drain on the land in remarkable ways — especially compared to meat-based products. A few surprising facts:
- Beef is the single food with the greatest potential impact on the environment.1
- The enormous volume of meat, pork and poultry farm waste can’t be re-processed, and potentially end up into our waterways.2
- Less than half the harvested acreage in the US is used to grow food for people. For every 16 pounds of grain and soybeans fed to beef cattle, we get back only one pound of meat.3
- Nearly half of rain forests have already vanished. While they cover only 7% of the Earth’s land, these forests contain nearly two-thirds of all animal and plant species.4 Scientists say such plants may hold untold answers to future pharmaceutical cures and more.5
- On average, land requirements for meat-protein production are 10 times greater than for plant-protein production.6
- Producing 1kg of animal protein requires approximately 100 times more water than producing 1kg of grain protein.7
While the environmental facts may seem daunting, the truth about veggie goodness is equally delicious. In our view, it’s a two-way street — while your first bite may shout “delicious” to one side of your brain, it also needs to feed the take-care-of-the-world, common sense on the other side.
Consumers can help conserve energy, land and water by consuming soybeans through an array of soyfoods.
1Baroni L, Berati M, Cenci L, Tettamanti M (2006). Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Eur J Clin Nutr. 61(2):283
2Conrow R, Cox C, Disla L, Lanou A, Neulist S (2005). The Promise of Plant-based Nutrition. Nutrition Advocate. 3(9):6-7
3Gussow JD (1994). Ecoloogy and vegetarian considerations: does environmental responsibility demand the elimination of livestock? AM J Clin Nutr 59 (Suppl), 1111S
4Conrow R, Cox C, Disla L, Lanou A, Neulist S (2005). The Promise of Plant-based Nutrition. Nutrition Advocate. 3(9):6
6Leitzmann C (2003). Nutrition ecology: the contribution of vegetarian diets. AM J Clin Nutr 78 (Suppl), 658S
7Pimentel D, Piementel M (2003). Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. AM J Clin Nutr 78 (Suppl), 662S