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Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?
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Thread: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

  1. #1
    verisimilar
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    Default Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    First of all, I apologize if any of this comes out sounding accusatory. I really am considering becoming a vegan in an effort to switch to a "sustainable" diet (which I consider a diet which could feed 7 billion people). I'm still trying to figure out whether the vegan diet really leads to the least land/water waste.

    Now, I know that you technically can get enough protein from rice/beans, which win hands-down for sustainability. However, all of the daily menus I've seen that have tried to prove how easy it is for a vegan to get enough protein contain plenty of tofu or fake meat. And from the vegan blogs that I've read, it seems like most vegans make/buy some form of vegan meat, or at least drink protein shakes.

    So my question is: Do rice protein isolate/soy-based "meat"/gluten-based "meat" really waste less resources? TVP, vital wheat gluten, and rice protein are all extracted from grains/legumes, and from what I have read it seems like the carbohydrate part of the grain (which makes up the majority of the grain) goes to waste. Isn't that as bad as using 6 calories of grain to make one calorie of meat protein (from a sustainability standpoint - I understand the animal-rights issue)? Furthermore, it takes energy to extract the protein - does anyone know how that compares to the energy required to create ground beef? And lastly - does anyone know a good counter-argument to the claim that it is good to occasionally eat beef, because cows can live off of grass in areas we can't plant grain?

    Once again, I'm sorry if I'm stepping out of line by trying to figure out the environmental implications of veganism while ignoring the animal-rights problem on a vegan forum. I just figured this would be a good place to find people who knew and cared about the issue.

  2. #2
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    Do rice protein isolate/soy-based "meat"/gluten-based "meat" really waste less resources? TVP, vital wheat gluten, and rice protein are all extracted from grains/legumes....
    Hi!
    I don't think many vegans use a such products much for protein. Like the animals meat eaters eat, most of us get the protein from plants.
    We have a subforum called The Protein Myth - maybe you'll find some useful info there! Good luck.

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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    I agree with Korn I don't think vegans really eat many fake meat type products. If I do I usually eat bean burgers, nut cutlets that type of thing. I do eat tofu though and Seitan occasionally. I don't eat them for protein though I eat them because I like them. I don't personally know any vegans who drink protein shakes either, I've heard people talk about them on this forum but usually if they are bodybuilders or want to put on weight. I'm Vegan because of the animal issue though not the environmental one.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    I think if you were to compare factory farmed meats and mock meats, mock meats would still be more sustainable. The reason why I think this is simply because of the amount of resources it takes for the factory farmed animals. A lot of the mock meats I've seem have the environment in mind, which also leads me to believe they would be doing more of an effort to be more eco-friendly.

    I simply can't imagine having to add in the process of feeding plants to animals, taking care of the animals, and then "processing" the animals being more sustainable than creating a mock meat out of soy/wheat gluten and other veggies.

  5. #5
    Asphixa
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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    Hello, varisimilar.

    In short, the answer is yes and here is quick shortlist for you to read about as to why, I'm currently writing a piece on this exact topic myself (not about protein,but about cost efficiency and enviromental effect of animal agriculture versus natural agriculture on a global scale).

    Reasons why:
    Loss of biodiversity promotiong large scale infections, which promotes use of anti-biotics within animals which lowers human health defenses raising the cost of health care for thsoe who eat meat without considering trans fats, choloesterol and everything else.
    Tranport to and from milking and egg production areas to slaughterhouses. [See 28 hour law and look at exclusions if you're from the USA]
    It is proven that you can gain more out of a field used in natural agriculture versus animal agriculture, you can feed more, for less, much simpler.
    Cost of destroying large forested areas [deforestation] reducing habitats and effectively extinction for considerable amounts of animals due to feeding livestock.
    Pollution from manure and from transport of livestock.

    This is just a shortlist, I have a more detailed list I may post in the future, but for more information simply google 'factory farming' and you can read and logically deduce, as anyone can that animal agriculture itself costs more by far and is highly insustainable and will never feed 7 billion people. 65% of all grains globally are feed for animals. 8% of all human water usage is for animals. 65% is a lot.

    As for the latter argument, the only reason we probably can't plant grain in those areas is either due to intensive overfarming which reduces the fertility of the soil (probably the feed livestock) and there is no real reason to counter that argument, because it's logically flawed. How does the fact we can't grow certain crops in certain places lead the the conclusion eating beef is good? How does that irrelevent conclusion[see fallacy] prove in anyway that eating beef is good? It doesn't. It's ridiculous!

    Hope I helped, take care.

  6. #6
    pat sommer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    I have mostly-vegan friends who have rescue-chickens in their garden as pest contol/fertilizing agents: the odd egg that is produced certainly is non-vegan but sustainable. There can always be a few exceptions that underscore the rule -vegan is more sustainable- It just makes my life easy knowing that that one filter, vegan, can make such a big carbon difference in the long run. And ain't we all in it for the long run?

    BTW, really good amino acid complementary is oats and millet. Had an instructor that didn't believe one could live on grains for protein...
    Me, I gotta have beans!

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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    This is an interesting thread for me too, as only yesterday evening some friends were telling me that by being vegan I was having to buy a lot of foods from other countries rather than local food and therefore not benefiting the planet. They grow their own vegetables and herbs but also favour keeping animals. They also talked of palm oil plantations, but I told them I check labels for palm oil and don't use products with it in as far as possible. How could I counter this argument about non-local items? Using seasonal produce from my own country is a good start I expect, but what about the other items that make up the variety of the vegan diet.

    PS. I have been vegan now for 3 weeks and feel great about my decision. Just want to know how to counter such arguments and be able to stand strong in my reasons for my choice. This is why I ask.

  8. #8
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    How could I counter this argument about non-local items?
    For starters, have them back up that claim with some facts.

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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    The palm oil was one of their main arguments, which I managed to counter. I need to read up more on such things so I will be ready for this kind of discussion.

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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    If those friends, Vasilisa, are feeding their chucks on mere table scraps, bugs and slugs, then they may have a leg to stand on; however, if they buy feed, they could well be deforesting the Brazilian rainforest.

    Pond fish also have been shown to be 'carbon neutral' in a closed permaculture ecosystem. It is possible.
    Just don't gloat too much when your friends aren't living up to their professed ideal...

    Even flown-in-fresh salad munchers have less a footprint than most flesh addicts. Start a worm compost and show everyone who's the eco-warrior!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    Lol, I might just do that. They don't have animals at the moment as they can't afford them. It is their medium-term plan for the future. They seem to know all about worm composts, making things from recycled rubbish and such things. I know they have been vegetarian and one even vegan in the past, so they must see the logic of it, but seem to keep changing their minds. They offer their opinions respectfully, and always have vegan items available for me and our other close friend who is vegan. I guess the discussions will continue, and if I learn enough about veganism, perhaps one day I might be able to persuade them to give it a go again!

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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    Do your friends think because they eat meat they are eating local food? They are probably very ignorant about where their food comes from. This article is about animal welfare but it also mentions how much animal produce is imported into the UK

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environmen...fare-standards.

    The question I always seem to get asked is about the rainforests. They are according to many people being destroyed to grow soya for vegans. I think this is a good article and answers most of the questions

    http://gentleworld.org/as-we-soy-so-shall-we-reap/

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    As far as I know they get the meat they do eat from the farmers market, or the Co-op. Thanks for that article, it has answered a lot of questions for me. I look forward to sharing it with my friends

    While researching these questions I also found recently that this lady is a vegan:

    http://www.worldwatch.org/user/49

    For someone who seems to know so much about sustainability, world hunger and agriculture, the fact that she herself choses to be vegan is very telling.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    What about what they wear (I know this isnt directly about food but its still important)? If they wear leather or suede or wool or silk etc, more than likely those things came from far away. The making of leather period is a huge carbon footprint on the earth. Consider the chemicals involved. And these materials more than likely came from factory farmed animal byproducts therefore buying and using them still contributes to factory farming which is a huge cause of water and land pollution, health problems, etc. Even if they wear cotton, unless it is specifically organically and locally grown and fairly traded (I have found one store where I live that sells this kind of cotton and it's not cheap AT ALL) that cotton is being shipped from afar and leaving a footprint. It may be a necessity item to ship from afar in this case because we need clothing to survive and cotton is cheaper and more accessible. Why would it be any different in order to eat fruits, vegetables, beans, and other crops that may not be available locally to meet our nutritional needs?
    I have a hard time with the whole locally grown argument. Although it has some merit, sometimes it is just not feasible. Due to the population of the world expanding at a rapid rate, people have moved into areas that simply do not provide the food sources they would need to thrive (or these sources have been taken away from them by government systems and mono crops that are ironically used to feed cattle in our factory farm system). There are too many of us to concentrate in only certain areas that provide the natural food we need. We have already fished some marine life to extinction as well as other wild animals and plants. In areas like Ethiopia, there are periods of severe draught, and in other places people are starving due to war and greed and limited resources. What has helped these people is food and water sources shipped from afar. Should this be stopped? I would find it economically impossible for "humanely raised" and grass fed beef/poultry etc to be available all around the world to sustain the protein needs of such a huge population of people without making compromises to the "welfare" of the animals and without eventually ending up with the factory farm system which is what happened to begin with (people ate far less meat one hundred years ago than they do today by the way). The expense of raising and feeding and caring for livestock and providing ample space is enormous. Livestock feed (which is what the majority of soy and corn crops are grown for) could be stopped and that land redirected to feed humans without the use of livestock at all and I am guessing we would still need far less space than those livestock require, especially if they were all raised organically. If the demand for meat kept up as it has and there was only organically raised meat and eggs, how would those farmers keep up with that demand without compromising? Alternative protein sources are an inevitable fact we need to look at.

    Also, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, high protein grains such as wild rice, buckwheat groats, oats, bulgur, and quinoa are good sources of protein as are leafy greens and they are not expensive to grow. Where I live Native Americans harvest wild rice by hand and canoe. These protein sources would be far more economical for helping to feed the poor in nations that are not as fortunate as some of us, and even in England or the U.S., where food is becoming increasingly expensive. I can still buy a lb of dry beans to get me through a whole week for a heck of a lot cheaper than a lb of meat, especially if that meat were organic and grass fed. There is a reason that grass fed meat is more expensive.

    Personally I do not consume fake meats or cheeses. In the thirteen months I have been vegan, I have not had seitan or TVP at all or fake meat or cheese other than nutritional yeast "cheese" sauce. I consume tofu (non gmo and organically made) maybe once a month and tempeh once or twice a week. I rarely use the soy margarines like Earth Balance except for occasional baking and even then I tend to use oils more than the margarines. The protein sources I mentioned above (grains, beans, nuts and seeds) are what I rely on for my protein needs, and I am guessing I am not in the minority here as far as the vegan diet goes. I can grow or buy a pumpkin, clean out the seeds and store them and get four or five servings of protein right there and countless servings of pumpkin. Yum roasted pumpkin seeds. Even the protein powders I have tried (I used protein powders as a tool for weight gain for a short time), including hemp, rice, and pea, do not require the use of soy. On the otherhand, as an omnivore I might have consumed bread, crackers, mayonaise, salad dressings and more that were made using soy protein isolate (and used to use whey protein powder that is sold in abundance on the shelves of grocery stores and loaded with horrific ingredients). And certainly much of the meat and fish and poultry I would have consumed might have been fed using soy and corn. Even animals and eggs organically raised for food require a heck of a lot of preparation and/or cooking (therefore energy) to make them edible and safe to eat (lest you want to risk all the food borne illnesses generated from undercooked meat or eggs...some people eat raw eggs and milk but they are the minority and the risks of this are great). BTW, some grains and beans can be eaten raw if soaked and sprouted but even cooking them takes less energy than the work to debone, deskin, remove blood etc and clean animals.
    I don't have any statistics or research studies offhand but I just read a huge article in VegNews about this very subject and statistics are provided there as well as examples of athletes that fuel themselves on real plant food. I simply cant fathom how raising meat even organically and locally raised (never mind the ethical issues of "ownership" of an animal for food or period) can possibly generate less energy than growing plants.

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    Default Re: Are vegan protein sources really more sustainable?

    verisimilar et al.,

    I was currently looking into this topic and I found these two articles to be interesting:

    https://www.fraunhofer.de/en/press/r...-of-waste.html

    Rice protein was considered a waste product of the rice starch industry, and reasearchers were coming up with a solution to put the left-over protein to good use.


    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marke...ein-henry-linn

    In fact, there's a big market for rice starch (extimated global production is ~400,000 tons/year).
    Apparently this guy has a project for a facility that will extract both starch and protein from the same rice so perhaps it is already possible to extract both starch and protein from the same rice.

    It's very difficult to find reliable information about this topic. I would say that if current technologies do not allow us to extract both products from the same raw material, then it will in the near future, soon enough to accomodate the rising demand for rice protein that will result from our world conquering success.

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