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Ethical Comparison - Pasta, Rice and Pulse

Pasta and rice have long been a popular choice of carbohydrate - quick to prepare and with a long shelf-life - they have become a kitchen cupboard staple in most households.  And with the increasing popularity of plant-based diets, pulses are now earning their space alongside these traditional staples.

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Pasta

Traditional quality pasta should be made with 100 per cent durum wheat, in wholewheat or semolina form. However, with growth in the own-brand market pushing prices down, many of the cheaper pastas now contain ‘soft wheat’ substitutes, which can result in a slightly sticky or slimy texture.

A richer pasta is produced with the addition of egg, making it unsuitable for vegans. Tomato or spinach is added to produce the distinctive red or green pastas, and some pasta-makers are fond of ingredients such as nettles, beetroot and chilli.

 

Pulses

However, rice is an undeniably essential food source for more than half the world’s population, including over 800 million people who go hungry globally each year. In addition, according to the IRIN, one-fifth of the world’s population (over 1 billion people) depend on rice cultivation for their livelihood.

Consumption of rice is a complex ethical area.   On the negative side, growing rice has a number of environmental drawbacks – and indeed, is a crop with one of the highest carbon footprints.  From the high-levels of water usage (rice is grown flooded ‘paddy’ fields); heavy use of fertilizers not to mention the food miles as 90% of rice is produced in Asia.  But most significantly, flooded rice fields are responsible for the release of methane gas into the environment, due to the microbes which live in the soils of rice paddies.

Pulses are the dried seeds from the legume plant family and include peas, chickpeas, lentils and other beans and not only are they a healthy, low-fat source of protein - pulses tick many boxes in terms of ethics.   Pulses have a much lower carbon footprint than animal-derived protein sources.  According to organisation Water Footprint Network, the water footprint per gram of protein for beef is 6 times larger than for pulses.  And another study from World Resources Institute, found that compared with beef, beans require just one-twentieth of land usage per unit of protein consumed.  

Rice

Options

Whatever you choose to stock in your kitchen cupboards, in addition to picking from the ethical brand options above, look for organic and fair-trade options where possible.  JustIngredients, which has been awarded independent Ethical Accreditation from The Ethical Company Organisation, has a number of certified Fairtrade and Organic products available to buy directly from their website.