Ever wonder why tofu rarely appears on school lunch trays? I found out recently that tofu is not recognized as a “meat alternative” by the USDA. I looked it up:
USDA is aware of a growing interest to expand the list of allowable meat alternates to include tofu, a whole soybean food. We recognize that soybean foods are increasingly being incorporated in the American diet as nutrient-dense meat alternatives. This rule is not proposing to credit commercially prepared tofu as an allowable meat alternate at this time. However, USDA is interested in receiving comments from the child nutrition community proposing a methodology that could be used for crediting commercially prepared tofu.
A longstanding concern regarding tofu is the lack of an FDA standard of identity. An FDA standard of identity defines what a given food product is, its name, and the ingredients that must be used or may be used in the manufacture of the food product. Without a standard of identity, USDA cannot assure nutritional consistency across brands and types of tofu in a food-based menu planning approach. Although tofu does not have a standard of identity, the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22 (2009) provides nutrient profiles for different types of tofu.
Other soy-based products are currently allowed as alternate protein products (APP) if they meet the requirements in Appendix A to 7 CFR part 210, and Appendix A to 7 CFR part 220. Examples of allowable APPs include products that are formulated with ingredients such as soy concentrates, soy isolates, soy flours, whey protein concentrate, or casein. Tofu is not an allowable APP because it does not meet the established minimum requirement to consist of at least 18 percent protein by weight when fully hydrated or formulated. (Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 9 / Thursday, January 13, 2011 / Proposed Rules)
Makes me wonder how did Red #40 and Yellow #5 got by, when tofu was stopped at the gate? Tofu seems like an easy win to me: it’s cheap, it’s healthy, and it’s plant-based.
I have heard some people ask why don’t school lunches go meatless more often? If cost is an issue, why don’t we go the “rice and beans” route more often? Well, I have seen “meatless” consist of neon yellow processed cheese…
Although I am a meat eater, I don’t think every meal needs to incorporate meat. With respect to school lunch, the default lunch is often a hamburger consisting of a standard meat patty. I don’t know what the life cycle of a soybean plant is, but I bet it’s shorter than the 18 months it takes to raise a calf from birth to when it is ready to be slaughtered. The life/growth cycle of an organism should factor into their consumption cost, right? And what about other costs of production? Per Meatless Monday, an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Tofu requires 220 gallons of water per pound.
This week I chatted with a rancher and I should be posting a Q and A with him sometime in the next couple weeks. Also, the amazing school lunch I ate earlier this month? I still owe you a post! Actually I’m turning it into a short series. Look for it to start next week.
It’s nice to be back. Thanks for waiting! Speaking eating tofu, here’s a recipe you might enjoy Orange-Soy Tofu Stir-Fry. Any other ways that you prepare tofu at home?