In recent years we became more and more aware about choices we can make around the food we eat. The options to eat more consciously and plant-based are never ending, at least in the meat and milk replacement isle of your local supermarket. However, the one thing that has stayed under the radar for too long is a sustainable, healthy and most importantly, a delicious alternative to cheese.
Cheese is one of those items many people cannot live without. Quite literally, as we know from the Netherlands with our large amount of dairy farmers and cheese shops, that are ingrained in our culture. It is a thriving industry, with passion for beautiful dairy products at the basis of hard working farmers and companies that have sometimes been in families for decades. Cheese has become staple product in most households, and maybe that is why the questions around the impact of cheese are not often asked.
On our journey to eat more sustainable we had to dig into the impact of cheese on our planet. Although we don't want to throw around numbers, we do feel like sharing a few. Worldwide there are more than 250 million dairy cows and each cow emits around 125 kg methane per year, which is a greenhouse gas that's 25x stronger than CO2. If you continue with that equation you end up with the fact that about 10 kg of milk produces 1 kg of cheese, which emits between 10-18 kg of CO2. This is more than a kg of chicken (6.9 kg CO2) and pork (7 kg CO2).
The Cheese Growers have sustainability as one of the main criteria for producing our cheeses. We are constantly on the look-out for new ingredients that can improve the impact that our cheese have.
Currently our base ingredient is cashew nuts. We don't use whole cashew pieces like the ones you buy in the supermarket. Instead, we use little pieces of cashew nuts that can't be normally sold in stores anymore. Although a part of these cashew pieces are used in large scale industry as an additive to different foods, we turn these 'waste stream' cashew nuts into a high quality cheese. The emissions in the supply chain of cashew nuts come from farming and transporting them. Farming emissions are inevitable, but although transport only makes up around 5% of general food emissions, we strive to experiment with more local ingredients in the future, together with Dutch farmers and chefs. On the package of our cheeses you can see how much CO2 you have saved by eating one of our cheeses, versus if you would have eaten a similar cheese made from dairy.
However, we are very aware of the amount of water cashews need to grow. That is why we are also on the look-out for other ingredients to make our cheeses from.