Cheese is a popular food and an integral part of many people’s diets. However, cheese is one of the most climate-damaging foods. Pure plant-based cheese could be an alternative.
The climate balance of cheese is not good. In the ranking of the most climate-damaging foods, the cheese takes third place – ahead of pork. How does that come about? Cattle produce huge amounts of methane when chewing the cud. This in turn is many times more harmful than CO2. In addition, lactating cows are often fed soy, which is often grown in monocultures under difficult conditions. Due to the high protein content and comparatively cheap cultivation, most of the soya is used as food for animals in the meat and dairy industry.
Conscious consumption is the order of the day
The rule of thumb for cheese is: that the less fat it contains, the more climate-friendly it is. It takes around 11.5 liters of raw milk to produce one kilogram of Comté. One kilogram contains around 12.6 kilograms of CO2. For comparison: one kilogram of conventional beef consumes 12.8 kilograms of CO2. Does cheese have to disappear from the menu now? “Weighing is better than forbidding,” says Marc-Oliver Pahl, Secretary-General of the German Council for Sustainable Development. First of all, it is good if consumers know the environmental balance of their food and takes this into account when making their purchasing decisions. Meaningful and reliable product information would gradually change consumption habits and the appreciation of food in our society.
Cheese substitutes made from nuts, legumes, or oil
But there is a growing awareness in society of everyday consumer behavior. The market for substitute products is growing. There is cheese, for example, based on almonds, lupins, or coconut oil. In Cuxhaven, cheese has been made from cashew nuts for some time. According to the company, significantly less CO2 is produced during production compared to conventional cow’s milk cheese. The cheese is made in a large hall at the port of Cuxhaven between fish processing companies. Men and women work here, wearing white coats, face masks, and hairnets. The air is warm and humid, like a laundry room, says Mudar Mannah. He is the managing director of Happy Cheeze: “As a rule, the mass is produced here, fermented and shaped, and the whole thing is then matured in ripening rooms. We have different varieties – matured variants and our noble mold.”
Cashews: productive and nutritious
One kilogram of cashew nuts can be turned into two kilograms of cheese substitute. For comparison: It takes around twelve liters of milk to make one kilogram of cow’s milk cheese. Cashews also have good properties: “If you make milk from cashews, then nothing is left over. You don’t have any pomace or other residues, you take a cashew nut, grind it with water and then you have a milk-like alternative.” Mannah came up with the idea for this cashew cheese about ten years ago. The surgeon wanted to change careers: “In addition, I had to change my diet due to health problems. I now only eat plant-based food and since I have always been a cheese lover, I looked for an alternative. Because there was nothing that could satisfy my taste buds, I thought, I’ll try it myself.”
Fair cultivation and low emissions
Ever since he presented cashew cheese at a cheese fair in Berlin, demand has been increasing. The company in Cuxhaven now has more than 25 employees. In addition to the cheese alternatives, it also offers yogurt-like products. The cashews for this come from organic farming in Vietnam, says Mannah. He values that very much. Also on the fact that the cashews are mechanically cracked because there is a caustic oil between the shell and the kernel, which is dangerous for people if they are cracked by hand: “The kernels then come north by sea. That’s the only thing about CO2 Emissions that are generated. Cashew trees consume CO2 and produce oxygen, effectively neutralizing the path of CO2 emissions.” A somewhat simple calculation. But Mannah does a lot to ensure climate-neutral production, he says himself.
A heat exchanger ensures economical production
The cooling system is located in the rear part of his hall. He uses waste heat to regulate the humidity. He also wants to use it to heat the water he needs in the future. Mannah has also reduced packaging material over time. He sends the cashew cheese to private customers in cartons with reusable insulating materials and cool packs. He is currently experimenting with cheese alternatives made from local vegetables.