Much has been said around the issue of sustainability in plant milks, with almond milk in particular having notoriety and receiving a plethora of bad press including a well-documented Guardian piece from 2020. However, almond is said to cause the least C02 emissions. It’s a complicated issue.
Those milks seen as more beneficial, or indeed least detrimental to the environment, include soy, oat, and pea. But what about the cashew? Highly nutritious despite their high calorie content, this drupe (a stone fruit) offers a good source of magnesium as well as the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin.
In terms of sustainability, the cashew requires little water usage and emits fewer greenhouse gases than some other alternatives. Also, their surrounding fruit can be upcycled as a byproduct into many other products.
However, their export from three main countries — India, Vietnam, and Ivory Coast — adds to their carbon footprint, and there are surrounding issues of ethics in their farming with harmful effects and dubious treatment of the workers in these countries.
Again, it’s a complicated topic. One which New Roots, a vegan dairy producer in Switzerland, decided to delve into, partnering with Eaternity to investigate whether cheese made from cashews is more sustainable than cheese made from Swiss cow’s milk.
Cashew Vs animal dairy
New Roots, which claims to be the first and largest vegan cheese dairy in Switzerland, says the analysis was carried out in order to gain insights into the environmental footprint of its Soft White Camembert alternative and compare its ecological footprint to that of a classic cheese made from animal milk.
Eaternity calculates the ecological impact of thousands of foods according to four criteria: CO2, water, animal welfare, and tropical forest. The organization has completed the life cycle assessment for New Roots’ best-selling Soft White, a plant-based alternative to Camembert made from cashews.
The Soft White was able to achieve the highest possible score in all of the four categories, according to New Roots. Although the Soft White is made from imported cashews, it has a significantly lower environmental impact than a Swiss cow’s milk cheese. According to the report, it is more efficient to consume plants than to feed them to an animal that is then eaten.
In an interview back in 2018, Alice Fauconnet, co-founder of New Roots, told vegconomist that “the dairy industry needs to face the reality of the situation which is that, regardless of your moral standards, this industry is an environmental disaster. We all need to realise that animal agriculture is a highly ineffective and obsolete system, and work together to find ways to move forward in a more ethical and sustainable manner. Veganism offers just this.”