By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
People who depend on soy milk, tofu and veggie burgers as staples of their vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diets get good news nearly every day about the healthful benefits of eating a low-fat, heart-healthy food that’s rich in protein and antioxidants.
Now here’s the bad news: If you don’t know where and how all those soybeans are grown and processed, you could be eating a lower quality product that relies on cheap imported food, contains genetically modified (GM or GMO) soybeans and is not certified Organic.
Yes, its true, just as you need to know where your meat, produce and dairy comes from — you need to run a background check on your soy products. The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin advocacy for small farmers and sustainable, organic food production, can help.
In 2009, Cornucopia rated tofu and other soy-based foods, giving the highest marks to those that are owned by families or farmers; buy mostly or exclusively organic soybeans; produce a high percentage of products that are certified Organic; buy mainly or exclusively non-GMO soybeans; buy North American-grown soybeans (or grow their own).
Using this scorecard can help you support local or regional food networks and North American farmers, and avoid producers who buy cheap, genetically modified and less monitored soybeans from exporters like China. (Caveat: Just because something comes from China, doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it does mean it carries a higher carbon footprint because of necessary shipping. It also typically means more laxity in monitoring for adherence to organic production and a less transparent process that can hide flaws, according to Cornucopia.
The advocacy group recently praised one of the soy makers on its list, The Tofu Shop, for changing its buying practices to include only North American soybeans. Tofu Shop moved up from a “four bean” rating to the top tier, among the “five bean”-rated companies.
Here is the list of the top soy milk/tofu producers as rated by Cornucopia. These top nine soy product makers all scored very high on Cornucopia’s scale, being virtually equals among kings. To see the next categories, check out the scorecard here.
1. Eden Foods, Clinton, Mich., distributes nationally and internationally. Makes: soymilk, tofu, miso, soy sauce, ponzu sauce and canned soybeans. (Bonus: Eden Foods reportedly does not use the resin coating on cans that’s been implicated in the controversy over BPA. Virtually all other canned products in the U.S. are packed in cans lined with a BPA-containing resin. It’s unknown if this is as harmful as polycarbonate made with BPA, which leaches the chemical when heated, some stories suggest that acid-containing foods like tomatoes can eat into can linings. Rank: 955 out of 1,000 possible points.
2. Rhapsody Natural Foods, Montpelier, Vermont. The raters wanted to sing this tempeh company’s praises, giving it a 920 on a 1,000 scale. Rhapsody’s tempeh is distributed in all the New England states and New York.
3. Unisoya, Quebec, Canada, makes tofu and meatless sausages that’s sold in Western Canada and the U.S. (920)
4. Vermont Soy, Hardwick, Vermont, makes soymilk sold in the Northeastern U.S. (920)
5. Small Planet, Newport, Wash., makes tofu sold in the Western U.S. (920)
6. FarmSoy , Summertown, Tenn., tofu and soy yogurt maker, sold in Fresh Market stores (predominantly in the Southeast and Central part of the
7. Twin Oaks, Louisa, Va., makes tofu, tempeh, soymilk and mushroom pate sold in the Mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast U.S. (910)
8. Green Cuisine , Victoria, Canada, makes tofu and tempeh sold in Canada (900)
9. Tofu Shop by Tofu Shop Specialty Foods, Arcata, Calif., makes many tofu varieties and soymilk sold in Calif. and Oregon. (900)
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