Peanuts and sustainability: Good for our health, communities and the planet

Peanuts & SustainabilityWhile peanuts and peanut butter are delicious additions to many dishes and snacks, many Canadians aren’t aware that these nutritional powerhouses are some of the most sustainable ingredients available. Consumers can feel good about purchasing and eating peanuts and peanut butter knowing they’re not just good for our health, but also for our communities, and our planet.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) 2021 Food and Health Survey found 42% of consumers believe their food choices impact the environment. Likewise, 53% of shoppers said understanding the environmental impact of their food purchases would greatly influence their purchasing decisions. Finally, the EY Future Consumer Index Survey found 61% of those surveyed say they plan to pay more attention to the environmental impact of what they consume. Overall, consumers believe companies and food producers can make an environmental impact through “market-transformative, sustainably-focused processes and innovation.” Fortunately, peanuts and peanut butter are excellent options for the sustainably conscious consumer. Here’s why:

Nature’s original zero-waste plant: Everything from the peanut roots to the hulls is used.

Less water and a smaller carbon footprint: Peanuts adjust their growing cycle based on available water, whereas other tree nuts need a consistent water supply to grow. For example, a one ounce serving of shelled peanuts requires only 4.7 gallons of water to grow, compared to 18.8 gallons for one ounce of pistachios, 73.5 gallons for one-ounce of walnuts and a whopping 80.4 gallons for one ounce of almonds.

Unique ability to improve soil: Peanuts are nitrogen-fixing, meaning they take nitrogen from the air and produce their own in the ground, helping to lower crop production costs while benefiting soil conservation, sustainability, and supporting other future rotation crops.

Innovative farm practices: The U.S. peanut industry is constantly improving its sustainability efforts. Thanks to better farming practices, it takes less than half the land to grow a pound of peanuts today versus 30 years ago!

Peanuts fight hunger: Peanut butter is an economical source of protein that doesn’t require refrigeration, making it one of the most requested items by food banks. In developing nations, peanut-based, ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs) are saving the lives of malnourished children.

Biomass-to-fruit ratio: Combined, a peanut plant’s size, outstretched vine structure, and its full but small canopy combine to create a micro-climate below that contributes to water conservation.

Root depth: Peanuts are a sturdy, deep-rooted crop (6 inches deep or more) whose roots also grow crossways in the soil to find and use available water and obtain nutrients during periods of drought.

Unspecific fruiting pattern: Unlike other nuts, the peanut plant’s natural intelligence will pause fruiting in periods of dry weather, with plants then reflowering and continuing to bear fruit once it receives rainfall or is irrigated.

In addition, the U.S. peanut industry is constantly seeking new ways to grow peanuts even more sustainability, which has led to the development of a sustainability initiative inclusive of: 

- Developing a protocol to ensure peanuts are grown even more responsibly.
- Driving continuous improvements through production practices.
- Developing metrics to monitor progress and communicate to consumers.
- Communicate best practices and success stories to the industry and consumers.

U.S. peanut farmers have long believed in and practiced sustainable agriculture way before it became vogue for today’s conscientious consumers. Ultimately, peanut farming families understand the while the land they cultivate is theirs for the span of their lives, it also belongs to the next generation.

As consumers become more focused on environmental sustainability and nutritional wellness, peanuts are well positioned to remain a pantry staple. Innovation within the industry – including emerging technologies, varieties and practices – continues to increase on-farm efficiency and propel peanuts forward into the next generation. For more information on peanut sustainability, check out the “Perfectly Sustainable Peanut” video from the National Peanut Board.