Daily Footprint, #35 – Tofurky

Tofurky (made by the charmingly-named Turtle Island Foods, based in Portland, Oregon) has been around since the 1980s and is still a family-owned company. Founder, Seth Tibbot had this to say about the journey:

Armed with my life savings of $2500 and a passionate love for soybeans, I rented a small space in the back of the Hope Coop Café in Forest Grove, Oregon, and started making 100 pound batches of tempeh at night when the coop was empty. 

“Sure we have had offers to sell, merge and take on outside investment. And as we go forward, the day might yet come that sends us in one of these directions. Believe me, we question the sanity of walking the independent path all the time. But at the end of the day, we get great joy from our work and our independence and are sustained by it.”

He started by making tempeh, and that still represents around 10% of their sales, but they are more focused on products made from a tofu/gluten blend, such as their ubiquitous deli slices and their famous holiday roasts. Having developed a method for making roasts around 1997, they recently celebrated the sale of their five-millionth.

Packaging for the Tofurky veggie roast with wild rice stuffing
A vegan Thanksgiving staple for two decades: the Tofurky roast (Canadian packaging).

Tofurky: social & environmental impact

Their new facility in Mount Hood, Oregon, was built to LEED Platinum standards with FSC-certified wood, a solar array that provide around 8% of their electricity needs, and a rainwater collection system to cover their grey water needs. Tofurky is B-Corp certified, meaning that they have surpassed a threshold score on various social and environmental metrics. They have a waste-minimization program and their outer packaging is made from recycled cardboard and printed with low VOC inks.

Images of the front and back of Tofurky's hickory-smoked deli slices

INGREDIENTS (Hickory Smoked Deli Slices): Water, vital wheat gluten, organic tofu (water, organic soybeans, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride), shoyu soy sauce (water, non-GMO soybeans, wheat, salt, culture) non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil, vegan natural flavors, non-GMO corn starch, white bean flour, garbanzo bean flour, lemon juice from concentrate, onion, celery, calcium lactate from beets, sea salt.  

The tofu is organic and sourced from North America, which covers the two key ethical issues to watch for with soy.

Ethical rating for Tofurky

Comparing Tofurky to a recently-reviewed product that’s also made from gluten and soy, The Stallion sausages from No Evil Foods, it looks like the companies are about level in terms of packaging impact while No Evil is ahead on the use of organic ingredients and Tofurky is ahead in terms of transparency on corporate social responsibility. So each company has their strengths, and I feel that both deserve 5/5 Green Stars.

Summary points:

  • Vegan product.
  • The water, land, and greenhouse gas footprints for tofu and gluten are much lower than those for meat.
  • Made with organic soybeans sourced from North America.
  • Independent company that’s certified by B-Corp.
  • Their main production facility was constructed to LEED Platinum standards.
  • Some of their energy is generated by on-site solar.
  • Packaging is recycled cardboard and minimal plastic.
  • They support local animal-rescue and environmental groups.

Have you thought about writing a green stars review?

5 thoughts on “Daily Footprint, #35 – Tofurky

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