The macronutrient that has the most impact on climate change and the environment is protein. Because factory farming is impacting climate change more than the entire transportation sector, we have to reframe the protein story.
Clean Proteins are akin to Clean Energy. They are proteins that are produced with low carbon and low eco footprints like vegetables, legumes, soy, nuts, protein alternatives, and a new segment called Clean Meat which is creating meat or seafood using animal DNA. The burger in the header photo is the new Impossible Burger, the plant-based burger that bleeds.
In the world of healthy living, clean proteins are typically viewed as proteins free of antibiotics, pesticides, GMOs, and heavy metals as well as being a whole food versus a highly processed food like an organic pork chop versus SPAM from Hormel. But now because of industrial animal agriculture’s significant impact on climate change and the environment, the context of Clean Proteins has to expand to include sustainability and environmental impact much like Clean Energy sources.
Besides antibiotics, pesticides, GMOs, and heavy metals, Clean Proteins factor in carbon and eco footprint including greenhouse gas emissions, waste, deforestation, ocean depletion, wildlife extinction, and resource usage: water, land, and feed.
It’s an exciting time for food and product innovation in the Clean Proteins space.
Clean Proteins are delicious
Ideally, it’s best to eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, but transitioning away from the meat experience can be a process so the meat alternatives are a great transition food. In my collage, here are examples of some cool and delicious plant-based meat Clean Proteins.
- On the top is a Fusilli tomato sauce pasta using the Field Roast Italian Sausage. Besides great in pasta, this sausage is awesome grilled and smothered with grilled onions and peppers in a bun.
- Going clockwise is a sweet and sour pork made from seitan from one of my favorite Asian vegan restaurants called Loving Hut. I was blown away how close this seitan tasted to real pork.
- On the bottom left are kabobs I made using Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger meat. I let the patties thaw until soft and then I added my kabob ingredients and shaped them into kabobs for cooking. The possibilities are endless with plant-based beef.
- And lastly, I’ve been having fun experimenting making Filipino food. Here is a Filipino adobo I made using Gardein’s Teriyaki Chick’n Strips. The teriyaki sauce comes in a separate packet so you can use the plain chick’n in anything. FUN!
As you can see with these quick examples that you will not be deprived of the pleasures of meat.
In fact, you get to keep the taste and texture of meat knowing that no animal had to die, you’ve shrunk your carbon footprint, no rainforests were destroyed, no GMOs were used to make your meat, and you didn’t eat any cholesterol and got some fiber with your plant-based meat. WIN!
For optimal health, and sticking to the lowest carbon footprints of Clean Proteins, keep your diet primarily focused on whole foods like this meal featuring Rojo Domingo beans, Jimmy Nardello peppers, and ginger, turmeric brown rice, and this delicious Tofu triangles with peanut sauce recipe from Mayo Clinic with a side of brown Jasmine rice and braised mustard greens.
Tofu is a healthy food that is perfectly fine if you stick to organic soy and eat it occasionally like you would have done with steak during the week. Better yet, the fermented soy foods like tempeh and natto have additional nutritional benefits.
If you’re concerned about soy, 99% of broiler chickens are raised in factory farms and their diet is almost entirely GMO soy and corn. U.S. chicken are literally made of GMO feed. To avoid that, be sure to buy organic chicken.
High to Low carbon proteins
I created this handy chart to give you a visual of how big the carbon footprint is for top protein sources, and then I grouped them from Low to High carbon footprint to make it easier for you to make more impactful choices.
One of the tricks that helped me reduce my beef consumption was to treat beef like cheesecake. I only ate it on a rare occassion. In the Plant-based Meat line is the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger, two new plant-based beef products that are now available countrywide in grocery stores (Beyond Burger only) and restaurants.
The good news about Clean Proteins is that they have important health benefits that meat does not. I added some nutritional information to the chart to point out some of those benefits like plant-based proteins have little to no cholesterol, and little to no saturated fat compared to animal sources. The Clean proteins also have fiber which meat has none.
One of the benefits of creating protein alternatives is that the good stuff can be designed in and the bad stuff can be taken out like the example of the Beyond Burger compared to 80/20 ground beef. With the Beyond Burger you get the taste and texture of ground beef with no cholesterol, 3g of fiber, and half the saturated fat plus all the environmental and climate action benefits.
When you prioritize Clean Proteins in your diet, you boost your health and do your part to make the world a better place to live for people, animal, and planet.