Saturday, June 6, 2009

Soy Scorecard

The Cornucopia Institute very recently published a Soy Report & Scorecard that goes into great detail about organic soy food brands. I just finished reading most of the entire PDF (I skimmed some sections), but found it to be extremely informative and also very eye-opening.

Some things I was already aware of, such as that many soy products are created using an industrial solvent called hexane. As somebody who sometimes works with dangerous solvents in a clean room, using gloves, face shields, safety goggles and ALWAYS a fume hood, it amazes me to think that solvents can make their way into my food! I would never drink (or touch, or inhale) acetone in a lab, why do I want to eat soy lecithin that was created using acetone or hexane?

Apparently there is an organic alternative to hexane production as far as soy lecithin goes. This is pretty interesting news, as I was previously unaware of such a thing. I tend to skip over products that contain soy lecithin, but if it's labeled as "organic soy lecithin" (which I have not yet seen on any labels) that means that industrial solvents were not used.

Industrial solvents are also used in the production of many food products such as energy bars and veggie burgers. The report has a listing of which brands use hexane and which don't, which is good information to have when you're out grocery shopping. I tend to skip the energy bars, which I used to eat a lot before going on my runs. I need to figure out a recipe to make my own, because they're a great, quick option if I don't have time for breakfast before a run. I used to eat Power Bars, which are not vegan, but they admit to using genetically modified food in their product. And Clif Bars, which are vegan, use hexane processed soybeans to get their isolated soy protein. I also have to wonder about how "green" a product can be when it always comes in individually wrapped plastic-foil packets.

I also found the section on Silk to be very informative. After reading Organic, Inc.: Natural Foods and How They Grew, I was made aware of a lot of the politics of the company, and what happened after the original company was bought out by Dean Foods. Dean Foods is also the owner of Horizon Organics, so some vegans may be wary of supporting a company that also profits off of the cow milk industry. However, they also have recently stopped purchasing as many organic soybeans, and many of their products have lost their organic label while maintaining their high price tag.

I stopped buying Silk when I started dating Jeff, because he didn't like how the company does business. I agree, I think that large businesses in general care too much about profits to be totally invested in making sustainable, vegan, healthy products. The last time I bought Silk I was aware that all of their products were organic, which at least made me feel a bit better about the company. But now I am even more steadfast in my boycott of their products, and will discourage my mom from buying me any Silk soymilk when I come home. (It's the only brand of soymilk that she knows about.)

I also won't buy 8th Continent soymilk, which was previously owned by DuPont and now by Stremicks Heritage Foods. Stremicks also makes Rice Dream and Soy Dream, which are owned by the Hain Celestial Group. I can't tell if 8th Continent now falls under the Hain Celestial umbrella, but I have no interest in purchasing a product with such a shady history. (It was originally sold with vitamin D3, which is animal derived.)

There wasn't much about Whole Foods private label products, because they refused to participate in the Scorecard product, so I am left in the dark as to where they would fall into the spectrum of companies. When I buy soymilk, I generally buy 365 brand because it's the least expensive and also tastes good. It's also organic.

I have made my own soymilk, and once Jeff and I find a good nut grinder we will start making a lot more of our own soymilk and tofu. We have about 15 pounds of soybeans waiting for us to eat. There is also the option of buying a soymilk maker. However, I find that these are very expensive and I don't like the idea of relying on an electric gadget to make my food. In the future I hope to post about making soymilk without the use of a soymilk maker, once Jeff and I get the procedure down to a science.

I guess the takeaway from this post is to stay vigilant about the food you buy. Look into the company who produces your food, find out who they are owned by (or if they are a private company). Ask questions about the ingredients, and do a Google or Wikipedia search if you don't know what they are. Find out if you can make the food yourself instead of buying from a store. Always have an inquisitive mind, and ask questions. If we have the resources, time and money to buy good food, or to make food ourselves, we should.

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