Beyond Good chocolate – review and ethical rating

Beyond Good is a chocolate company that aims to benefit cacao farmers in Madagascar and Uganda through direct trade purchasing. Most of their finished chocolate bars are now manufactured in Madagascar, employing local people and paying a decent wage. The company, formerly known as Madécasse, was established in 2006 by two Peace Corps volunteers who served in Madagascar.

We make chocolate at origin in Madagascar, working directly with cocoa farmers to buy premium cocoa and employing local Malagasy people at our chocolate factory. Our supply chain is unique, 100% traceable and fully transparent. We’re currently expanding our mission into Uganda.  – Beyond Good.

I picked up a bar of the Beyond Good chocolate – the Uganda 73% bar with Crispy Rice – at the Grocery Outlet for $1.49 (it’s normally $3-4). I recently posted on the Top 10 Ethical Chocolate Brands on the Green Stars Project site so I’m trying to learn about brands that I was previously not very aware of. It turns out that Beyond Good was a good place to start!

Review of Beyond Good’s Uganda bar with Crispy Rice

The back of the package contains some tips on appreciating chocolate (slow down, let it melt in your mouth, search your back teeth for flavor..!). I actually love this chocolate and rate it highly – it has a great chocolatey taste, creamy texture, and a nice balance between sweet and bitter (73% cacao). Beyond Good chocolate is made from flavorful Criollo cocoa beans, which are much less common, accounting for around 3% of global cocoa production. I would totally buy this Beyond Good chocolate again and look forward to trying more of their bars.

The crispy rice also works really well in the chocolate, providing an experience that would nicely replace conventional bars like Kit Kats. An upgrade rather than a replacement – the quality of the Beyond Good chocolate is, not surprisingly, much better than a Kit Kat, requiring less to satisfy cravings. One of the many problems with mainstream chocolate bars is that they are designed to be scarfed and then craved again soon after. We tend eat a lot of them and this comes with the cost of a high carbon footprint and widespread deforestation in West Africa.

It seems fitting that these Beyond Good bars contain rice as some of the land used to grow the cacao was formerly used to grow rice – now it’s a forest again!

Instead of chopping down forests to pave the way for additional plot land, the farmers have been converting rice lands into new shaded areas where cocoa pods sprout alongside banana, jackfruit and citrus trees. – TriplePundit

Beyond Good – Direct Trade cacao and manufacturing in Africa

I’m currently writing a chapter on population growth for my book on ethical consumerism. It’s really important to know that many of our global problems have a root in population growth. The more people on the planet, the more resources are needed to sustain them. Population growth is directly linked to the standard of living – the human population in the Global South (developing countries) is still growing while it has now stabilized in most developed countries. Around 10% of all women in sub-Sarahan Africa give birth between the ages of 15 and 19.

Improving the standard of living in the Global South is the best way to curb population growth. Obviously we shouldn’t even need this justification! An adequate standard of living, access to education and family planning resources are basic human rights. But it’s not at all easy for a farmer living on the poverty line to be able to send their kids to school – many kids will work on the farm instead, helping to make ends meet. The supply chain for cacao destined for commodity markets, to be eventually purchased by Nestle, Hershey, and the other big chocolate manufacturers looks like this:

An illustration to show how many middlemen exist between cacao farmers and the customer, each taking a cut of profits that could have otherwise gone to farmers. 
Beyond Good chocolate ethical rating.

In West Africa, where most of the commodity cacao is sourced by the major chocolate makers, farmers make between 50 and 70 cents a day. The cocoa farmers that Beyond Good works with earn $3.84 per day, on average. They earn over five times more because the supply chain contains no middlemen – it looks like this:

The image illustrates the direct trade route used by Beyond Good Beyond. 93 farmers sell cocoa directly to Beyond Good, to be processed at their factory in Madagascar and sold to customers. Beyond Good chocolate ethical rating.

We don’t work with middlemen that chip away at farmer profit. Making chocolate at source is a win, win, win situation. Farmers earn more, customers get a high-quality product (since we’re able to test the cocoa before purchasing it) and we’re able to keep our prices lower than other makers of premium chocolate since we don’t have to pay for the multiple levels of middlemen, exporters, and importers. – Beyond Good.

Africa is the leading producer of agricultural raw materials like cocoa, coffee, and vanilla but these items are exported and processed in Europe or North America. By producing at source in Madagascar we’re able to add value to the local economy, create skilled jobs and produce a finished product that creates more economic activity. – Beyond Good

A graph and some additional numbers from Beyond Good showing how many bars are manufactured in Madagascar compared to the EU (most of them, by 2021), how many employees at their Madagascar factory (105), and how many direct trade relationships (93). 
Beyond Good chocolate ethical rating

Beyond Good’s CEO, Tim McCollum, says that the consequences of their farmers earning five to six times more than cocoa farmers in West Africa have been remarkable. Not only are they more likely to be able to send their children to school, but farmers also began practicing regenerative farming because they had the money to invest in it. It’s pretty hard to think about the environment when you’re on the poverty line, but once they escape poverty and are able to look after their families, the farmers often turn to thinking about nature.

You need to deal with poverty before people can care about the environment. Once our farmers were financially secure, they started to think longer-term – Treehugger

Beyond Good – cacao and deforestation

Here are a few quotes from a Yale 360 investigation into the role that the chocolate industry has played in the deforestation of West Africa:

In the past half-century, few countries have lost rainforests as fast as the Ivory Coast. More than 80 percent of its forests are gone.

Around 40 percent of the country’s cocoa crop — more than a tenth of the world’s chocolate bars — is grown illegally in the country’s national parks and 230 supposedly protected government-owned forests.

Most cocoa is grown in monocultures of what is known as the full-sun system, requiring the removal of all surrounding trees.

Very few international companies directly source from protected areas,” says Richard Scobey, president of the World Cocoa Foundation. But they buy from middlemen who do.

Beyond Good’s cacao suppliers are shown on an interactive map, each with a photo and brief bio, including the size of their farm (often just a few acres) and even an estimate of the number of trees. Most of them have had a relationship with Beyond Good for over five years.

The information on the number of trees per farm is really useful because there are separate counts for “cacao trees” and “total trees.” The largest producer (Théodule) has the following stats:  Total Trees: 94404 and Cocoa Trees 73958. So there are around 20,000 non-cocoa trees on this farmer’s land, or around 20% of the total number of trees.

A typical parcel of cocoa forest in our supply chain will have 75% cocoa trees and 25% shade trees – Beyond Good, on Treehugger

According to a 2018 paper in Nature Sustainability, around 30% shade cover seems to represent an ideal compromise between crop yield, climate mitigation, climate adaptability, and biodiversity.

Our results suggest that cocoa agroforests up to 30% cover are far superior to monocultures because they do not strongly compromise production, while at the same time they provide benefits for disease management, climate mitigation and adaptation and biodiversity conservation – Climate-smart sustainable agriculture in low-to-intermediate shade agroforests

So, Beyond Good’s suppliers are close to that ideal level of shade cover, providing much more support for biodiversity and climate change mitigation than sun grown cacao.

Beyond Good chocolate – Ingredients and Nutrition

Beyond Good Crispy Rice, 73% Cocoa

Ingredients: Organic cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, organic crispy rice, organic cocoa butter, organic vanilla extract.

Nutrition Facts: Each 25 gram bar provides 10 g fat, 6 g sugar, 3 g fiber, and 2 g protein. Zero sodium.

The bar is vegan, organic, Kosher, and gluten-free.

An image of the Beyond Good Crispy Rice, 73% Cocoa bar is shown along with Nutrition Facts and some certifications (vegan, gluten-free, organic, Kosher).

Nutrition Facts: Each 25 gram bar provides 10 g fat, 6 g sugar, 3 g fiber, and 2 g protein. Zero sodium.

Beyond Good chocolate ethical rating.

Ethical rating for Beyond Good chocolate

I think that Beyond Good chocolate deserve 5/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:

  • Beyond Good chocolate is a vegan product.
  • All of the ingredients (in my Uganda bar) are certified organic.
  • All bars are free of palm oil.
  • Beyond Good has a direct trade relationship with cacao farmers, who earn at least 5 times the average income for West African cacao farmers. This has a huge impact, on the quality of life, especially since Madagascans are generally poorer than West Africans.
  • Beyond Good’s chocolate is predominantly made in Madagascar and will soon also be made in Uganda. Most other chocolate makers just source the ingredients from commodity markets and then process it elsewhere.
  • Farmers report on both cacao and non-cacao trees on their property and it appears that the farms average at around 20-25% shade cover. These other trees enhance biodiversity and help mitigate climate change.
A Beyond Good chocolate bar (Uganda 73% cocoa with crispy rice) is pictured over a graphic of 5 green stars, representing a score for social and environmental impact. Beyond Good chocolate ethical rating.

Summary scores (out of 5) for Beyond Good chocolate:

  • 4.5 gold stars for quality and value
  • 5 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating!

Simulate Nuggs – review & ethical rating

Simulate Nuggs (v2.0) are on sale at the Grocery Outlet at $10 for a large 2 lb box of vegan chicken nuggets. That’s about 20% lower than the regular price – not bad, but not as good a deal as other meat substitutes available at the Grocery Outlet. But it looked like an interesting company so I bought a box for research purposes 😉

Simulate is a plant-based food company that’s initially focused on vegan chicken nuggets, aka Nuggs. The founder, Ben Pasternak, was 15 years old when he received venture capital funding for his first company, a social networking app that has since shut down. Now the Australian entrepreneur is 23 years old and running Simulate in New York.

Simulate Nuggs – review

My first batch of Nuggs was dry and made a pretty poor impression, but that’s probably my own fault so I’ll strike it from the record. But, in my defense, the nuggets are thin a bit unforgiving on cooking temperature deviations. The Nuggs were redeemed in my second batch and my needle moved into the “might buy again” category. I say “might,” because there’s some stiff competition in the vegan nuggets world.

I don’t like Simulate Nuggs as much as Beyond Chicken tenders or Quorn nuggets in terms of either flavor or texture but others seem to love them. Bon Appétit magazine ran a taste test of several brands of vegan chicken nuggets and placed Simulate Nuggs in about second place on account of the nice breading. They labeled Nuggs as “the fast-food replica,” on account of a crust that resembled a McDonald’s nugget. Unfortunately, they didn’t include the Beyond Chicken tenders, which I covered in a recent post – perhaps it’s too big to be considered a nugget?! Here’s a nice, in-depth video review that includes (mostly positive) ratings by people who normally eat meat-based nuggets:

Because several companies make pretty good vegan nuggets, it may be easier to choose between them after considering their social and environmental impact. But all of them (at least, any of the brands that I’ve examined so far) are better than nuggets made from chicken meat (for example from McDonald’s) in terms of impact. So find one that you like, whether it’s Nuggs, Quorn, Beyond Meat, Impossible, or others (I’ll be reviewing nuggets from Impossible Foods and others soon.)

Simulate Nuggs – Ingredients and Nutrition

There’s some similarity between Simulate Nuggs and Beyond Chicken tenders in terms of ingredients, except for the main source of protein and fat. Simulate uses wheat protein and soybean oil while Beyond Meat uses fava bean protein and sunflower oil.

Simulate Nuggs – Ingredients: Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Soybean Oil, Breadcrumbs (Enriched Wheat Flour [Enriched with Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Sugar, Rice Flour, Yeast, Salt, Extractives of Paprika), Enriched Wheat Flour, Soy Protein Isolate, Corn Flour, Modified Food Starch, Wheat Protein Isolate. Contains 2% or less of: Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, Methylcellulose, Tapioca Dextrin, Corn Starch, Yeast Extract, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Salt, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Black Pepper, Paprika, Dextrose, Red Pepper.

Simulate Nuggs – Nutrition Facts: The nutritional content is also quite similar between Simulate Nuggs and Beyond Chicken tenders – the fat, fiber, sugar, and protein content are all pretty good while sodium is a little on the high side. But even though a serving of Nuggs provides 17% of our sodium daily allowance, I found that they tasted even better with a sprinkling of salt. I guess I’m a salt fiend, but the reviewer in the video above said the same thing – they taste underseasoned.

Simulate Nuggs - Nutrition Facts are shown. Per serving of 5 pieces, Simulate Nuggs (v2.0) provides 17% sodium (daily value), 2 g fiber, 13 g protein, 10 g total fat, and 1.5 g saturated fat.

Simulate Nuggs – product development inspired by tech

Simulate’s founder, Ben Pasternak, is more of a tech entrepreneur than a food science expert, and this shows when you look at the model for improvement of Nuggs. Similar to software development, the recipe for Nuggs is tweaked from time to time, partly based on customer feedback. As each new version is rolled out, Simulate will list the changes that have been made, as you can see in the image below. For example, Nuggs v1.5 involved elimination of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and a 65% reduction in sodium content (wow – salt content used to more than twice as high!). The current version, Nuggs v2.0, involved some pretty big ingredient changes – the elimination of konjac, pea protein, seaweed, and wheat gluten.

Simulate Nuggs - the company ethos is explained in a few symbols with statements like "Pro GMO."  Beneath that is a description of changes to the product that have taken place as new versions are rolled out.

Ethical rating for Simulate Nuggs

The other thing to note in the image above is Simulate’s statements about their ethos:

  • Highly processed
  • Pro GMO
  • Lab to Table

It’s an amusing way to describe their principles and I appreciate the transparency, but unfortunately that’s the only information provided.

As a research scientist who has worked in the genetic engineering field, I know many people who will support the pro-GMO stance. My opinion is that I support using genetically-modified microbes to make ingredients that would normally come from animal products. An example of that would be the milk protein produced in a fungus by Perfect Day, found in some products that I’ve reviewed here – Modern Kitchen cream cheese and Brave Robot ice cream. I’m not a fan of GMO crops, however – not exactly because of the genetic engineering part, but rather because the GM part is tightly bound to industrial agriculture practices that wage war on nature. When you buy GM seeds from Bayer/Monsanto you are almost always also buying into the heavy use of herbicides like glyphosate and pesticides such as neonics.

I would therefore appreciate if Simulate would take their transparency to a meaningful level by discussing which ingredients are genetically-modified and why. The terms “highly processed” and “lab to table” are also quite glib and not very informative in the absence of more information. I know that some critics of plant-based meat substitutes claim that they are highly-processed compared to meat. I discussed this in a Green Stars Project post on Quorn and came to the conclusion that fermenting a fungus (similar to making beer) and preparing protein from it does not really equate to highly-processed. Yes, there is processing involved, but when you compare it to the artifice of raising animals intensively (horribly cramped conditions, bizarre roughage feedstocks, antibiotics, growth hormones, high-throughput slaughtering, etc.) the product is a lot less adulterated. 

So, while I appreciate Simulate’s transparency in making these statements, I think that in the absence of further information they are unhelpful. Here’s my ethical score for Simulate Nuggs:

I think that Simulate Nuggs deserve 3/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:

  • Simulate Nuggs is a vegan product. Adopting a plant-based diet is the top thing you can do to mitigate deforestation & climate change and to end animal cruelty and the insidious negative impact that the meat industry has on society.
  • The main ingredients, wheat and soy are generally far more sustainable than meat.
  • Simulate is not transparent about ingredient sourcing. Considering their pro-GMO stance, ingredients such as soybean oil may pose issues such as the use of neonics or displacement of rainforest.
  • If you would rather not support industrial agriculture then perhaps pass on this product, but it is still preferable to nuggets made from chicken meat.
  • Packaging for this 2 lb box is reasonably minimal – a plastic bag housed inside cardboard box.
Simulate Nuggs - Green Stars rating for social and environmental impact. A box of Simulate Chicken Nuggs is shown and beneath it is a score of 3/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact.

Summary scores (out of 5) for Simulate Nuggs:

  • 3.5 gold stars for quality and value
  • 3 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating!

Grocery Outlet wine sale, Nov 2-8, 2022

The Grocery Outlet’s wine sale is coming up again – it runs from November 2 to 8, 2022 – so it may be a good time to try something new or stock up on any 2022 favorites. I have a favorite from this year and it’s actually one of my favorite Grocery Outlet wine finds of all time.

Chateau Lavabre, Pic Saint-Loup ‘La Closerie’ 2017

La Closerie is a Rhone-style blend from the Pic Saint-Loup region in Languedoc.

Composition: 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre

Chateau Lavabre, Pic Saint-Loup ‘La Closerie’ 2017. Bottle is shown, focused on the label. Grocery Outlet wine sale, Nov 2-8, 2022

The 2017 vintage has a rating of 4.2 on Vivino, ranking first among the Languedoc-Roussillon Red wines available in California. It received 92 points on Wine Spectator, although earlier vintages scored as much as 96 points.

It’s a little pricier than most Grocery Outlet wines at $16.99, but it normally retails for around $35. It’ll be $13.50 during the sale, so I’d recommend giving it a try if you come across any bottles. Bottles are often tucked away, lying horizontally in their cardboard nests.

Until next time – stay safe!

The best song on every Taylor Swift album from Fearless to Midnights

In celebration of Midnights, here’s my take on the best song from each Taylor Swift album, based on lyrics, music, and enjoyability to sing and play on guitar. There were some close calls in these cases I called on techniques like putting songs on repeat and asking which one I’d be happy to listen to over and over (most fun I ever had).

I discovered her music during lockdown and exclusively chose her songs to learn on my guitar, which I dusted off, restrung and started over with. I haven’t listed a favorite song from her first album because I haven’t listened to it yet – I wanted to give each album space rather than rushing through them all.

So, here goes!

Fearless (2008)

Favorite song: Forever & Always

There several other contenders on the album (Breathe, Fearless, You Belong With Me) but I think that Forever & Always is probably her best work here for its consistency and emotional energy. Like many of her later songs (and unlike most pop music) the song avoids slumping or feeling repetitive at any point.

Lyric highlight:

So here’s to everything coming down to nothing

Here’s to silence that cuts me to the core

Interesting versions: Forever & Always (Piano Version) has a slower tempo and an extended bridge, providing a nice alternative to the more energetic album version. On the other hand, the live version (featured strongly in the Journey to Fearless documentary) involves young TayTay throwing an armchair onstage. Ohhhhh (*throws chair*) back up, baby, back up!

Speak Now (2010)

Favorite song: Back To December

My favorite on Speak Now may change over time because I haven’t yet listened to it as much as her later albums. I was tempted to pick the second track on the album, Sparks Fly, as it sounds more welcoming next to Back to December, which at first sounds a bit drippy. But that’s part of the appeal of Back to December – she paints the scene so well here with her choice of music and, of course, her lyrics. The first verse illustrates her growing ability to bring the mood of a story through life through her words.

Lyric highlight:

It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you

Wishing I’d realized what I had when you were mine

Interesting versions: Of all her albums, I’d say that Speak Now is the one that would benefit most from a revamp for Taylor’s Version. This live version of Back to December merges into You’re Not Sorry, bridged by One Republic’s Apologize.

Red (2012)

Favorite song: All Too Well

What else?! Actually there are lots of great songs on Red to choose from – Treacherous is probably my second choice.

Lyric highlight:

Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turning red

You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin size bed

Interesting versions: Here’s Taylor performing the 10 minute version on SNL with her short film playing in the background. After releasing Folklore and Evermore in 2020, the 2021 release of Red (Taylor’s Version) and the extended All Too Well kept her in the spotlight throughout lockdown.

1989 (2014)

Favorite song: All You Had To Do Was Stay

1989 has a lot of big hits but rather than choosing one of the seven (!) singles, I’m going for All You Had To Do Was Stay. I’m choosing it as much, if not more, for the melody than the lyrics. The runner up was close: Out of the woods.

Lyric highlight:

Here you are now, calling me up, but I don’t know what to say
I’ve been picking up the pieces of the mess you made

Interesting versions: playing/singing it yourself! Here’s a live version but it would be nice to see an acoustic version.

Reputation (2017)

Favorite song: Call It What You Want

Reputation took some getting used to after I had spent lockdown listening to Folklore, Red, and Evermore. With many songs focusing on cadence and intonation over lyrics it seemed like a different world. I did stumble across her Delicate music video (who said research scientists don’t get out much?) and fell in love with it. However, I’m picking Call It What You Want as my top song from Reputation.

Lyric highlight:

And I know I make the same mistakes every time

Bridges burn, I never learn

At least I did one thing right, I did one thing right

Interesting versions: This live acoustic version on SNL:

Lover (2019)

Favorite song: Soon You’ll Get Better

I’m picking this song because it’s hard not to. Even for someone known for her emotion and openness, this song stands out. Soon You’ll Get Better is not the first time Taylor sung to her mother, but it’s the most poignant. It’s Nice To Have A Friend is also outstanding – it uses rhythm in a playful way, perhaps foreshadowing Closure from Evermore.

Lyric highlight:

Holy orange bottles

Each night I pray to you

Desperate people find faith

So now I pray to Jesus too

Interesting versions: This performance in April 2020 was the first time I noticed TS. Within a year she had become my favorite artist.

Folklore (2020)

Favorite song: Seven

My favorite song from Folklore has definitely shifted over time. I was first attracted to Exile, initially because of Justin Vernon who I was more familiar with than TS. I love Aaron Dessner’s guitar on Invisible String, which is also a sweet, whimsical song. But I’m picking Seven as my favorite song from perhaps the most important Taylor Swift album – the one that got us through one of the toughest years of our lives. Seven is all about childhood and it best represents Folklore’s wonderful innocence.

Lyric highlight:

Please picture me in the trees

I hit my peak at seven feet

In the swing over the creek

I was too scared to jump in

But I, I was high in the sky

With Pennsylvania under me

Interesting versions: The Long Pond Studio Sessions are a great way to experience Folklore.

Evermore (2020)

Favorite song: Right Where You Left Me

This album has grown on me more and more and I’d count several songs as general favorites – Marjorie and Evermore in particular. But I think the best song on the album is actually a bonus track: Right Where You Left Me. In time, I think it’ll be counted as one of her masterpieces.

Lyric highlight:

Matches burn after the other

Pages turn and stick to each other

Wages earned and lessons learned

But I, I’m right where you left me

Midnights (2022)

Favorite song: You’re On Your Own, Kid

As soon as I heard this song – even the first five seconds of it – I knew it would be a favorite. I immediately put it on repeat and told the rest of the album that it can wait until 2 am.

Lyric highlight:

Summer went away

Still the yearning stays

Agree or disagree with these choices? Comment below!

Also, please check out the rest of this site if you’d like to learn about ethical food choices!

Beyond Chicken Tenders at the Grocery Outlet – sustainability & ethical rating

Beyond Chicken tenders have been available at the Grocery Outlet for $2.99, compared to the normal price of between $5 and $6. However, last weekend they were reduced even further to $1.99 (at least in one store), so it’s a good time to try them out if you’re thinking of reducing your carbon footprint or reducing harm to animals. We kill around 50 billion chickens per year, for worldwide meat production – that’s over 6 times the number of humans on earth, slaughtered every year. The vast majority of the chickens live in extremely crowded, inhumane conditions. The business of slaughtering animals is also creating a negative miasma in society – check out this post on the social impact of the meat industry.

Beyond Chicken Tenders – review

First off, I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a chicken nugget, so it’s hard for me to compare Beyond Chicken directly to chicken. However, you can check online for reviews of plant-based chicken tenders and you’ll find that most of the taste panelists (The Kitchn, Food Network, Buzzfeed, etc.) consider them to be very close in taste and texture to real chicken. Is there really any need to eat chicken anymore?

Beyond Chicken Tenders at the Grocery Outlet. Beyond Chicken sustainability and ethical rating.

I have, however, had many kinds of plant-based chicken nuggets and I’ll say that these stand out for juiciness and meatiness. They pair perfectly with JUST vegan mayo (which I need to review here at some point) for dipping, but also work quite well with Spero vegan goat cheese and many other options.

My most important tip is that I’d recommend cooking for longer than the 8 minutes directed on the packet or you may find them a bit too juicy! I find that around 12 to 15 minutes in a toaster oven (turning halfway) gives the best results. Cooking in an air fryer also gives very good results.

Beyond Chicken Tenders – Ingredients and Nutrition

There are certainly a lot of ingredients – I wouldn’t eat these on a daily basis – but it’s still a lot better than a regular chicken nugget. It’s worth mentioning that folk who eat a lot of animal-based protein have shorter lives, relative to those who follow plant-based diets.

Beyond Chicken Tenders – Ingredients: Water, Faba Bean Protein, Breading (Wheat Flour, Rice Flour, Salt, Corn Starch, Pea Protein, Canola Oil, Wheat Gluten, Paprika, Spices, Dextrose, Leavening[Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate], Sugar, Sunflower Oil, Dried Onion, Dried Garlic, Yeast Extract, Natural Flavors), Breadcrumbs (Wheat Flour, Sugar, Sea Salt, Dried Yeast), Vital Wheat Gluten, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Flavors, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Pea starch, Methylcellulose, and 1% or less of Yeast Extract, Refined Coconut Oil, Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Sodium Phosphates, Spices, Titanium dioxide (for color), Sunflower Lecithin. Contains: Wheat, May Contain Soy

Beyond Chicken Tenders – Nutrition Facts: The fat content is not super high – I thought there would be more, based on the taste. They do contain sodium 20% of your recommended sodium intake, per serving, so I would recommend sticking to the serving size. Also, as the picture below shows, I ate four of them (2 servings) in one meal and found that this was too much – they are pretty filling.  

Beyond Chicken Tenders served with JUST mayo, Spero vegan goat cheese, leeks, cucumber salad and bread. Beyond Chicken Tenders at the Grocery Outlet. Beyond Chicken sustainability and ethical rating.
Beyond Chicken Tenders served with JUST mayo, Spero vegan goat cheese, leeks, cucumber salad and ACME bread.

Ethical rating for Beyond Chicken Tenders

I’ve previously written about the sustainability of Beyond Meat on The Green Stars Project, so please take a look at that post for more information, including detail on a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of peas versus other protein such as meat. Beyond Meat started off well with that LCA study and pretty minimal packaging for their Beyond Sausage and Cookout Classic burgers 10-pack. Since then, Beyond Meat haven’t produced much new information on sustainability, and the amount of packaging for some of the newer products, like these Beyond Chicken Tenders is pretty high, relative to the contents. Beyond Meat still rates well, ethically, but needs to step it up right now – having Kim Kardashian telling us that Beyond Meat is better for the planet is not enough.

I think that Beyond Chicken Tenders deserve 4/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:

  • Beyond Chicken is a vegan product. Adopting a plant-based diet is the top thing you can do to mitigate deforestation & climate change and to end animal cruelty and the insidious negative impact that the meat industry has on society.
  • The main ingredients, faba (fava) beans, peas, and wheat are far more sustainable than meat.
  • Legumes such as peas and beans are among the most sustainable protein sources, as shown in many studies such as the well-regarded 2018 study by Poore and Nemecek.
  • Legumes generally require far less fertilizer as the plants fix their own nitrogen
  • Packaging for Beyond Chicken Tenders is disappointing compared to Beyond Sausage and other Beyond Meat products – a thick plastic bag was used when a box could have been used (e.g., as used by Quorn).
  • Unlike other Beyond Meat products, this one is not non-GMO certified – this is also a step backward for Beyond Meat. I don’t expect the beans and peas to be organic, but other ingredients should be.
  • I’d also like to see corporate sustainability reports from Beyond Meat and more information on ingredient sourcing.

Summary scores (out of 5) for Beyond Chicken Tenders:

  • 4.5 gold stars for quality and value
  • 4 green stars for social and environmental impact
Below the image of a bag of Beyond Chicken Tenders is a graphic showing a score of 4/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact. Beyond Chicken Tenders at the Grocery Outlet. Beyond Chicken sustainability and ethical rating.

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating!

Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon

Sweet Earth’s Benevolent Bacon is my favorite version of vegan bacon – I’ve been buying it for years. So when it turned up at the Grocery Outlet on sale for $1.99 (it’s normally around $5) I bought a few packs – they are frozen so you can keep them for months in the freezer. Sweet Earth’s vegan bacon is made from mainly wheat gluten, expeller-pressed canola oil, organic adzuki beans and organic buckwheat groats, along with a bunch of other ingredients (some organic) that look reasonably ok.

My favorite way to eat it is on whole grain bread either with just vegan butter or a selection from the usual suspects of avocado, tomato, and lettuce. It’s a good way to include some protein with breakfast, with each 20-gram slice containing 4 grams protein. It’s pretty low in fat (compared to the meat version of bacon, which usually contains equal amounts of fat and protein) with around 1.5 grams of fat per slice, plus there’s no saturated fat, trans fat, or cholesterol. Overall, I think it’s a really good bacon substitute, whether you want to go plant-based for ethical reasons, health reasons, or a bit of both!

Benevolent Bacon – Ingredients & Nutrition Facts

Water, Vital Wheat Gluten, Canola Oil (3), Natural Flavor, Adzuki Beans (1), Buckwheat Groats (1), Natural Hickory Smoke Flavor, Cane Sugar (1), Smoked Paprika, Annatto, Maple Syrup (1), Tomato Powder, Garlic, Onion Powder, Spices, Tomato Paste, Soy Sauce (2) (Water, Soybeans (2), Wheat, Salt, Alcohol (1)), Nutritional Yeast (1), Apple Cider Vinegar (1), Coconut Oil, Sea Salt and Caramel Color (1). (1): Organic. (2): Non-GMO. (3): Non-GMO expeller pressed.

Photo of Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon and Nutrition Facts panel. Each slice of bacon (20 grams) provides 1.5 g fat, 3 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, and 100 mg sodium

Ethical rating for Sweet Earth’s Benevolent Bacon

I’ve already posted a review of Sweet Earth’s vegetarian pizzas, although Benevolent Bacon will get a higher score as it is 100% vegan. In that previous post, I covered the fact that Sweet Earth is owned by Nestlé, and in a related post on the Green Stars Project blog, I discussed whether to buy vegan brands owned by less ethical companies.   

Overall, I think that the Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon deserves 4/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, based on these factors:

  • This product is vegan. About 70% of Sweet Earth’s products are vegan and the remaining 30% are vegetarian.
  • Sweet Earth used to have an Eco Clock on their site which was fun to watch and catalogs some facts and figures like greenhouse gases avoided (79,000 tonnes), water conserved (82 million gallons) and animals saved (24,000 cows, 84,000 pigs and 2.7 million chickens). Those figures are about 1.5 years old – the clock has been removed from the site and now links for “About Us” and “Track our Impact” are circular, providing no information.  
  • It’s disappointing that Sweet Earth doesn’t provide much information on sustainability or social impact anymore.
  • Packaging is not bad – a plastic wrap and then a small outer cardboard sleeve that can be recycled.
  • A FAQ on the Sweet Earth site states that, “All ingredients are non-GMO and the majority are organic.” It’s quite confusing then that some ingredients such as wheat gluten (the main ingredient in Benevolent Bacon) are not labeled as non-GMO (see ingredients, above).
  • Sweet Earth was a small, local company, based in Moss Beach, on Monterey Bay with a history of mostly women in positions of leadership.
  • In 2017, Sweet Earth was acquired by Nestlé, a company with a poor ethical track record. I bought Sweet Earth products before the company was sold to Nestlé, and will continue to support the brand, but only if the original company values are maintained.
  • I have to say that the company seems to be going a bit backwards lately, with sparse information presented in a disorganized way. The score would have been 4.5 Green Stars, otherwise.
Ethical rating for Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon. The bacon is pictured over a graphic showing a rating of 4/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact.

Summary scores (out of 5) for Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon:

  • 4.5 gold stars for quality and value.
  • 4 Green Stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )  

Naturli’ vegan block – sustainability, review

Naturli’s Organic Vegan Block is a plant-based butter that tops my list of sustainable butters to buy in Ireland – and across Europe for that matter. I’ve been on vacation in Ireland for most of May and became frustrated with the lack of options. I sometimes buy dairy butter – Ireland is famous for it, of course – but there are some ethical issues with dairy that are virtually unavoidable. Most of the vegan butters sold in Ireland (such as Flora) aren’t very close to dairy butter in terms of flavor and texture and also have the downside of being made with palm oil.

Flora is not the worst option as the palm oil is certified as Segregated – a step above the lower RSPO certifications options (Palm Trace and Mixed) that you’ll probably see on the packaging of spreads sold in Lidl and Aldi stores. However, as I pointed out in a GSP post on palm oil certifications, scientists found no significant difference between RSPO-certified and non-certified palm oil plantations for any of the sustainability metrics investigated. So, complete avoidance of commodity palm oil (Malaysian/Indonesian) is the best approach in most cases. Hence my excitement at discovering Naturli’s Organic Vegan Block, thanks to comments from Tash and Frances on my GSP post 🙂

Naturli also has plans to launch product sales in the US, including vegan butter and milk as well as plant-based mince, sausages, and falafel. Unlike the other items in this blog, this particular product is not available in the Grocery Outlet yet. I’m investigating whether Naturli’ is an ethical option more for folk in Europe.

Naturli’ vegan block – taste test

Naturli’s Organic Vegan Block is one of the best plant-based butters I’ve ever had (and I’ve had plenty of them!). It’s probably as good as Miyoko’s vegan butter, which is my go-to plant-based butter in the US, although more neutral in flavor. I subjected my family to a blind test of four different butters, spread on toast. The candidates (and their main ingredients) were as follows:

  1. Naturli’ Vegan Block: shea butter oil (43%), water, coconut oil (21%), and rapeseed oil (11%), all organic.
  2. Dairygold Plant-Based spread: rapeseed oil, water, shea butter, and coconut oil.
  3. Flora Light: water, rapeseed oil, palm oil, sunflower oil (4%) and linseed oil.
  4. Olive Spread (from Aldi): water, palm oil, olive oil (21%), rapeseed oil.

A couple of things to note: Flora and Aldi’s Olive spread advertise themselves based on sunflower and olive oil content, respectively, yet both contain higher amounts of palm oil than their touted ingredients. Also note that Naturli’ and Dairygold contain similar main ingredients, just in different proportions (and they are organic in the case of Naturli’).

We scored the four spreads (blind) out of 10 and then I added up the scores. Here are the results:

1st: Naturli’ Vegan Block. Everyone’s favorite (or joint-favorite). Average score: 7.5/10.

2nd: Dairygold Plant Based spread. A very close second place, with an average score of 7/10.

3rd. Flora Lighter. Thinner and less buttery with a margarine-like taste. Average score: 5/10

4th. Olive Spread. Everyone’s least favorite, with an average score of 4/10.

In terms of texture, I found the Naturli’ and Dairygold spreads to be very appealing. They spread easily straight from the fridge and on warm toast they melted at about the same rate as dairy butter. I think both of them taste as good as an average dairy butter and, particularly with Naturli’, I think most people wouldn’t notice the difference. Most of the other spreads in Ireland, made with palm oil, taste like margarine – you would not mistake them for dairy butter.

Naturli’ vegan block – sustainability, review. The photo shows a block of Naturli' organic plant-based butter on the left and a tub of plant-based Dairygold on the right. In the middle is a slice of toast with the two butters spread on each half, melting into the toast about equally.

Naturli’ vegan block – Ingredients and Nutrition Facts

Naturli’ vegan block ingredients: Shea butter oil* (43%), water, coconut oil* (21%), rapeseed oil* (11%), salt, almond* (1%), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin*), carrot juice*, lemon juice*, natural sunflower oil flavour.    *Organic.

Can be frozen for up to 3 months

Nutritional content panel is shown for Naturli’s organic vegan block. The butter is certified vegan and contains 75 g of fat per 100 g, of which 39 g is saturated fat, 28 g is monounsaturated, and 7 g is polyunsaturated. Naturli’ vegan block – sustainability, review.

Naturli’ vegan block – sustainability

It’s perhaps not surprising that Naturli’ and Dairygold emerged as the winners in terms of taste and texture, as their ingredients are fairly similar. I’d never tasted shea butter before (although I’m a fan of it in soap and moisturizer) but it seems to work really well, combined with coconut oil and rapeseed oil, in plant-based butter. (Rapeseed oil is more commonly known as canola oil in North America – it’s quite commonly grown in Western Europe and easily identified by the bright yellow flowers.)

Naturli’ versus Dairygold plant-butter

I would tend to pick Naturli’ over Dairygold for the main reasons that ingredients are organic and packaging is compostable (a simple paper wrapper). There is another “spreadable” version of Naturli’ that’s packaged in a plastic tub but the block version is already easily spreadable so I would stick with that. Naturli’ provides some information on the carbon footprint of the spreadable product – 2.3 kg of CO2 emissions per kg of Naturli spread, compared to 8.4 kg of CO2 for a dairy-based spread – almost 4 times lower. The breakdown of Naturli’s carbon footprint reveals that the coconut oil comes from the Philippines and shea butter is sourced from Ghana.

Shea butter versus palm oil

Faced with the choice of shea butter versus palm oil as an ingredient, I would choose shea in most cases. There are a few situations where palm oil is acceptable – for example, mission-driven companies like Nutiva and Dr. Bronner’s source organic palm oil from family farms in Ecuador, in conjunction with Palm Done Right. However, the majority of palm oil that’s purchased by large corporations benefits nobody and shea butter is a better choice. Shea trees are an important, but increasingly threatened species in the African savanna and a key source of income for many women in countries such as Ghana.

Shea trees can live for about three centuries, bearing fruit for up to 200 years. The shea tree provides numerous benefits to local communities. – Earth Journalism Network.

Harvesting and processing shea nuts is not an easy way to make a living, so it’s good to support mission-driven companies such as Alaffia soap that purchase fair trade shea butter from women’s cooperatives. I’m hoping that Naturli and Dairygold (Kerry Group) will develop simialr relationships with suppliers, supporting community development and empowerment of women in Africa.

Naturli’ ownership

Naturli’ is a Danish company that has been making plant-based products since 1988, but is now owned by Norwegian conglomerate, Orkla. This complicates things a little as Orkla has a more mixed reputation – for example it ranks low on Ethical Consumer for palm oil sourcing. However, Orkla did make some moves in the right direction, starting around 2008, including the elimination of palm oil from the majority of products.

The major selling points of Naturli’, from an ethical perspective, is that it contains no palm oil, is vegan, and is made from organic ingredients. So I think that buying Naturli’ supports moves in the right direction for parent company Orkla – towards sustainable, plant-based products and avoidance of palm oil. See my GSP post for more discussion on whether to support plant-based brands owned by less ethical parent corporations.

Ethical rating for Naturli’ vegan block

Here’s a summary of how I feel about the social and environmental impact of Naturli vegan block, which I’m rating 4.5 out of 5 Green Stars

  • This butter is vegan, like all Naturli’ products, avoiding the ethical issues of dairy farming.
  • Naturli’ is one of the few vegan spreads in Ireland that’s free of palm-oil, and associated ethical issues.
  • Organic ingredients, supporting sustainable agriculture and soil health.
  • Shea butter sourced from Ghana can (hopefully) support communities and native shea tree populations.
  • Plastic-free – packaging is a simple paper wrapper.
  • Naturli could do a bit better with communicating on environmental impact and ingredient sourcing.
Naturli’ vegan block over a graphic showing a score of 4.5 out of 5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact. Naturli’ vegan block – sustainability, review

Summary scores (out of 5) for Naturli’ vegan block:

  • 5 gold stars for quality and value
  • 4.5 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )  

Lightlife tempeh strips – sustainability, review

Originally formed all the way back in 1977 and known as Tempeh Works, Lightlife Foods is known for its tempeh and perhaps more so for its bestselling plant-based Smart Dogs. I picked up some Lightlife Tempeh (smoky bacon strips) at the Grocery Outlet for $3 (normally around $5) and was surprised at how good it was. I’ve had mixed experiences with tempeh but Lightlife’s Smoky Tempeh Strips definitely ranks among the best that I’ve had. They are really easy to cook (just pan fry on medium heat in a few drops of olive oil for a few minutes) and make for a really good bacon substitute.

Like bacon, you can cook it to your desired level of crispiness, and it works well in sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, avocado, etc. Also like bacon, it’s pretty high in salt, but I find that just two strips is sufficient for lunch or breakfast rather than the recommended serving size of four strips – so that’s a more reasonable 15% of my recommended sodium intake.

In most other ways, it’s far superior to bacon and other meats in terms of nutrition and sustainability (more below).  I’ve picked up Lightlife products several times over the years and sometimes put them down again (depending on the ingredients) but this time I noticed that the tempeh is organic so I took a chance on it. The company has a long history, with multiple owners, which probably explains why Lightlife products (ingredients) have fluctuated over the years. In fact, Lightlife reformulated recipes and ingredients for many of its products in 2021 and it looks like all products are now vegan. 

Lightlife ownership

The history of Lightlife Foods is like a microcosm for the history of the plant-based foods movement in general. Since the late 1970s until 2000, Lightlife grew operations in Massachusetts, experimenting with a range of plant-based products over the years. Then Lightlife was acquired by giant food conglomerate, Conagra – I recently profiled Conagra Brands and how its takeover impacted the integrity of Earth Balance. As mentioned on Wikipedia, acquisition of plant-based brands by giant corporations was happening a lot at the time:

The sale was made due to the changing landscape of the natural foods industry; competitors were purchased my Kellogg’s and Kraft Foods, and a small independently owned company would not be able to compete with such huge food conglomerates.

Well, it’s a shame, but perhaps it was true as Lightlife’s president has commented: “We were just two hippies in 1970s. We did not plan on building this size of a company.” American investment firm, Brynwood Partners, acquired the company in 2013 and then it was sold to Maple Leaf Foods in 2017. Maple Leaf Foods sounds idyllic but is actually one of Canada’s biggest meat companies.

Perhaps to establish some distance between the meat and vegan branches, Maple Leaf Foods established an independent subsidiary, Greenleaf Foods that encompasses its two plant-based brands: Lightlife and Field Roast.

Lightlife tempeh strips – Ingredients & Nutrition Facts

Ingredients: Water, Cultured Organic Soybeans (Organic Soybeans, Lactic Acid From Plant Sources), Organic Tamari Soy Sauce (Water, Organic Soybeans, Salt, Organic Alcohol), Organic Cider Vinegar, Organic Cande Surgar, Natural Smoke Flavor, Sea Salt, Less Than 2% Of Organic Onion Powder, Brown Rice, Beet Powder (Color), Organic Spices, Xanthan Gum.

Nutrition Facts for Lightlife Tempeh, smoky bacon. Four strips provides 6% of recommended daily fat intake, 30% sodium, 18% dietary fiber, 24% protein (12 grams), and 10% iron, based on daily value recommendations. Lightlife tempeh strips – sustainability, review.

It’s nice to see that the tempeh is organic. In a Green Stars Project post on sustainability of tofu and other soy products, I mentioned that it’s a good idea to seek out organic products (to avoid neonics for one thing).

There are a lot of health benefits to eating tempeh – even WebMD gives it a good write up and they almost never commit to anything! Because it’s fermented by a fungus, it can be a good source of B vitamins, including some B12. It also contains a lot of fiber that’s probably good for gut health, as well as antioxidants, calcium, iron, and protein of course.

Lightlife Versus Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods

Back in summer 2021, Lightlife issued an open letter to Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods saying, “enough with the hyper-processed ingredients, GMO’s, unnecessary additives and fillers, and fake blood.”

Impossible Food’s response was equally heated and drew attention to the fact that Lightlife is owned by a meat company and referenced cheap tactics used by the meat industry to undermine the plant-based food movement.  

Beyond Meat’s response basically pointed out that Lightlife’s accusations simply don’t apply to their products:

If they were clear on our ingredients, they would see that our products are made with simple, plant-based ingredients. With no GMOs. No synthetically produced ingredients. Our products are designed to deliver the same taste and texture as animal-based meat but are better for you and the planet. – Forbes

I guess the letter was timed to coincide with Lightlife’s reformulation of its products and even though it was claimed to be a conversation starter (!) it clearly looks like a PR stunt. If anything it just highlighted the differences between Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. (I’ve previously rated Beyond Meat at 4.5 Green Stars while Impossible gets 3 Green Stars).

Lightlife carbon neutrality

Lightlife’s packaging announces that it (or rather, parent company Greenleaf Foods, which owns Lightlife and Field Roast) is a carbon-neutral company. Carbon emissions are offset via two wind energy products (certified by Green-e) and a forest conservation funding (certified by the American Carbon Registry). The company also has targets for reduction of carbon emissions:

We’ve reduced our greenhouse gas emissions and are neutralizing our remaining unavoidable emissions. By 2025, we aim to reduce our environmental footprint by 50% and our absolute carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.

In fact, Greenleaf’s parent company, Maple Leaf Foods, also states that it is carbon neutral and provides the benchmark date that Lightlife forgot to mention (2015).

Unfortunately, on the Maple Leaf consumer site, links to the carbon strategy and sustainability are all broken. I eventually found information and a sustainability report on the Maple Leaf Foods corporate site. Sheesh! Anyway, communication issues aside, it looks like Maple Leaf (and Lightlife) are on a legit journey to improve on impact.

Ethical rating for Lightlife tempeh strips

Here’s a summary of how I feel about the social and environmental impact of Lightlife tempeh strips, which I’m rating 4.5 out of 5 Green Stars

  • All Lightlife products are vegan. Adopting a plant-based diet is the top thing you can do to mitigate deforestation & climate change and to end animal cruelty and the insidious negative impact that the meat industry has on society.
  • Lightlife’s main ingredient, the soy bean, is a legume that reduces the need for nitrogen fertilizer by fixing nitrogen from the air and also enriches the soil in which it is grown.
  • All of the major ingredients in the tempeh are organic – choosing organic (or at least non-GMO) is important for soy products if you care about bees and other pollinators.
  • All Lightlife products are non-GMO certified since 2017.
  • Lightlife’s parent company, Greenleaf Foods, is a carbon neutral company (as is Lightlife’s grandparent, Maple Leaf Foods).
  • Room for improvement: Lightlife could do a better job at communicating on some social and environmental issues. Most importantly, where are the soybeans sourced from?
A package of Lightlife Tempeh (smoky bacon) is shown over a graphic of 4.5 out of 5 green stars, representing a score for social and environmental impact. Lightlife Tempeh strips – sustainability, review

I have no love for meat companies – even the social impact of the meat industry is horrendous. So my skepticism runs high while researching Lightlife and its parent corp., Maple Leaf Foods. However, I’ve been increasingly thinking that it’s good to support vegan brands even when owned by less ethical corporations, if we want things to change. And it genuinely looks like Lightlife is a brand that’s worthy of support.

Summary scores (out of 5) for Lightlife tempeh strips:

  • 4.5 gold stars for quality and value
  • 4.5 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )  

JUST vegan egg bites – sustainability, review

JUST, the San Francisco plant-based food company mostly known for its vegan egg products has brought out a series of sous vide vegan egg bites. I’ve bought three of the four available varieties at the Grocery Outlet (around $3 for a box of four egg bites, compared to a normal price of around $8). Here are the four varieties available (I’ve tried the first three), each one inspired by a different country:

Japan: portobello mushrooms, yams, togarashi, soy, and tamari.

Mexico: roasted poblanos, chipotle chile powder, black beans, corn, and lime.

America: roasted potato, dill, chives, red bell pepper, and black pepper.

India: curry, broccoli, cauliflower, coconut milk, and lemongrass.

The first thing to note is that you can cook these in the oven for 40 minutes or microwave for about 2 min. I don’t have a microwave but tried them out in a friend’s one and preferred this method for cooking. Besides taking a lot less time and energy to cook, the microwaved egg bites had a texture fairly similar to that of egg bites made from hen’s eggs (which seem to be all the rage in café chains, these days). The oven-cooked egg bites were a little drier and could become rubbery if cooked for a bit too long.

My favorite of the three I tried was probably the America variety, probably because I love potatoes and find the combination comforting. My microwave-owning friend liked the Japan variety best, and we both agreed that Mexico was quite good too. So, I guess you can’t go too wrong 🙂

JUST vegan egg bites – Ingredients

Inspired by America (roasted potato, red bell pepper, dill):

Water, Vegan Creme (water, soybean oil, natural flavors, xanthan gum, sunflower lecithin), Potatoes, Bell Pepper and Onion, Mung Bean Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Canola Oil, Green Onion, Corn Starch, Contains less than 2% of Spices, Salt, Yeast Flakes (dried yeast, niacin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamin hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, cyanocobalamin), Tapioca Syrup Solids, Soy Lecithin, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Gellan Gum, Sugar, Chives, Potassium Citrate, Dill, Citric Acid, Transglutaminase, Carrot Extractives (color), Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Turmeric Extractives (color), Nisin (preservative).

Inspired by Mexico (roasted poblano, black beans, chili powder):

Water, Vegetable Blend (poblano pepper, roasted corn, black bean, green pepper, red pepper), Vegan Creme (water, soybean oil, natural flavors, xanthan gum, sunflower lecithin), Mung Bean Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Canola Oil, Corn Starch, Contains less than 2% of Cilantro, Salt, Cumin, Distilled Vinegar, Red Pepper, Chipotle Peppers, Tomatoes, Vinegar, Soybean Oil, Dried Onions, Dried Garlic, Spices, Yeast Flakes (dried yeast, niacin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamin hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, cyanocobalamin), Tapioca Syrup Solids, Soy Lecithin, Paprika, Sugar, Lime Zest, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Chipotle Chili Peppers, Gellan Gum, Potassium Citrate, Citric Acid, Transglutaminase, Ancho Chili Pepper Powder, Carrot Extractives (color), Turmeric Extractives (color), Nisin (preservative).

Here are some notes on nutrition, from the JUST website:

The canola oil we source for our retail products is a non-GMO, expeller-pressed oil. We don’t use any chemical solvents in the extraction process.

JUST Egg has 67 percent less saturated fat and a similar amount of protein as a chicken egg (about 6 g). It’s also free of cholesterol and full of good-for-you polyunsaturated fat. [That refers to the JUST egg liquid product but the egg-bites are in the same ballpark]

JUST sous vide egg bites – Nutrition Facts

Just Egg Bites, Inspired by Mexico - Nutrition Facts. A table of nutrition facts is shown next to an image of JUST sous vide egg bites, Inspired by Mexico variety. Two bites contains 11 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 3 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugars, and 9 g protein. JUST vegan egg bites – sustainability, review

JUST egg – sustainability

Here are some numbers that are oft quoted on the JUST website:

Water: It takes 53 gallons of water to produce a single chicken egg. It’s not because of thirsty chickens; it’s because of the water that goes into growing so much feed. By making JUST Egg directly from plants, we use 98 percent less water.

Land: More than three-quarters of the world’s farmable land goes to animal agriculture, yet it produces only 18 percent of our calories. By making JUST Egg directly from plants, we use 86 percent less land.

Summary: Our plant-based JUST Egg uses 98% less water, emits 93% fewer carbon dioxide equivalents and uses 86% less land than conventional animal sources.

This is communicated on a very fancy webpage showing these numbers but finding the data behind them is not so clear-cut. I eventually found links to the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) methodology and JUST’s 2020 Impact Report from the JUST FAQs page. I read through the LCA paper and found it to be opaque, particularly as it doesn’t appear to cover a straight comparison to egg – it’s more about egg-containing products such as mayo. I’ve written to JUST for clarification but have not received a response yet.

I can attest to the low footprint of mung beans, but it would be nice to have more clear information from JUST on calculation of the impact of their final products.

Ethical rating for JUST vegan egg bites

Here’s a summary of how I feel about the social and environmental impact of JUST vegan egg bites, which I’m rating 4.5 out of 5 Green Stars

  • All JUST products are vegan. Adopting a plant-based diet is the top thing you can do to mitigate deforestation & climate change and to end animal cruelty and the insidious negative impact that the meat industry has on society.
  • JUST’s key ingredient, the mung bean, is a legume that reduces the need for nitrogen fertilizer by fixing nitrogen from the air, has very low water requirements, and enriches the soil in which it is grown.
  • Canola oil is non-GMO and expeller-pressed. None of the ingredients are organic but JUST does have a bunch of policies about ingredient sourcing – souring only from existing agricultural land, no converted forests or high conservation value habitats, and JUST encourages sustainable soil management practices.
  • JUST calculated the impact (greenhouse gases, water, and land) of its ingredients but the information does not appear to include the final product manufacturing footprint.
  • JUST’s 2020 report mentioned goals, such as the 2021 goal of the “Introduction of contract farming to build equitable sourcing from farm to product.” However, JUST isn’t communicating updates on these issues – the website is big on graphics but information is scant.
  • Overall, JUST is on a mission to bring sustainable alternatives to egg and meat – it just needs to do a better job at communicating on sustainability.
A box of JUST vegan egg bites is pictured over a graphic showing an ethical score of 4.5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact. JUST vegan egg bites – sustainability, review.

Summary scores (out of 5) for JUST vegan egg bites:

  • 4 gold stars for quality and value
  • 4.5 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )  

Grocery Outlet wine sale, Spring 2022

From April 6-12, the Grocery Outlet will be holding its biannual wine sale – all wine will be discounted a further 20%. In the last sale (Fall 2021) I bought some Gérard Bertrand wine (Les Aspres, 2016) and last spring I picked up two wines (Ruby Cabernet and Sangiovese) from Cardella winery, based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, near Mendota. While writing these posts, I also learned something about sustainability in the wine industry.

In the post on Gérard Bertrand I pondered whether it’s good to support a sustainable winery if it’s located on a different continent. It turns out that the carbon cost of transporting items by ship without refrigeration – like bananas, or wine – usually constitutes a small portion of a product’s overall carbon footprint. That led me to think about imported wines a little differently – yes, the carbon footprint of transport is an issue to consider, but it’s not the only one. Gérard Bertrand is one of the 24 wineries around the globe have been awarded the Green Emblem, awarded by Robert Parker to outstanding proponents of sustainability.

Then, in the post on Cardella Winery, I learned that vines for good estate vines often get less water (1 to 1.5 acre feet of water annually instead of 2.5 to 2.75). I also learned that irrigation is illegal in some of the world’s best wine regions, particularly in Europe. That includes the five B’s: Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello.

Chateau Lacaussade Saint-Martin - Trois Moulins, 2018. The wine label is shown, and a second label announcing Silver medal at the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards.  Grocery Outlet wine sale, Spring 2022

So, putting these together, my top pick for the Spring 2022 Grocery Outlet sale is Trois Moulins, 2018 – a Bordeaux red blend from Chateau Lacaussade Saint-Martin. This wine picked up a silver medal at the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards and is rated 4.1 on Vivino. Chateau Lacaussade Saint-Martin is a certified sustainable winery that’s in the process of converting to organic viticulture. They no longer use herbicide or synthetic fertilizers. It’s $10 at the moment, so it’ll be only $8 during the Grocery Outlet wine sale this week!

Let me know if you have any topics related to sustainability in the wine industry that you’d like to discuss.

Until next time – stay safe!