A growing number of consumers are looking to make sustainable choices when they shop, whether that means buying organic produce, striving for a more plant-based diet, or seeking out products and ingredients that boast the environmental beneﬁts of farming practices like regenerative agriculture. “We want products that regenerate our soil, our climate, and our social fabric,” Melissa Abbott, of Hartman Group, explained at our last Whole Grains Conference.
Just last year, the EAT-Lancet Commission released a report outlining the elements of a healthy, sustainable diet. Through an extensive review of the literature, they found that an ideal diet should include about 8 servings of whole grains, along with vegetables, dairy foods, fruit, legumes, and nuts, with animal foods (like eggs, poultry, and meat) eaten only in very small amounts.
With increased public discourse about sustainability and the eﬀects of climate change on our agricultural systems, it’s no surprise that we are frequently asked questions about which grains are the most sustainable. This turns out to be an extremely complex question to answer. There are so many diﬀerent ways to look at and measure sustainability and the grain or grains that rise to the top of this evaluation vary depending on the criteria used. Sustainability can be viewed through a wide variety of lenses, from looking at the input requirements of a crop (measuring the relative amounts of water, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. that farmers must use to produce suﬃcient yields), to tracing the CO2 emissions released in transporting a particular crop to its end market. Additionally, there are the energy costs of milling, processing, packaging, and storage that must be taken into account in order to appreciate the full environmental impact of a particular product or ingredient.
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