Totino’s pizza rolls are a very unsustainable product. They use three different types of meat, dairy, palm oil, and non-organic soy in the product. All of these ingredients have a substantial environmental impact. Because the pizza rolls are an ultra processed food, they are not a good choice for health, farmers, or the planet. Totino’s does not do one sustainable thing in making their pizza rolls. However, Totino’s is owned by General Mills who is taking steps to make themselves a more sustainable global food manufacturer.
In a measly bite size serving, Totino’s Pizza Rolls contain over 50 ingredients. None of the ingredients are organically sourced which greatly hurts the sustainability of the product. Without being organic, it is highly unlikely that any of the ingredients were sourced responsibly regarding labor practices or the environment. Totino’s products contain GMOs, which means that ingredients were cultivated to be able to withstand excessive pesticide use that can do serious harm to local communities and ecosystems. The specific animal-based ingredients that make this product unsustainable are the following: pork, chicken, beef, non-organic soy, and mozzarella cheese. Because Totino’s does not have information regarding sourcing available, I am forced to assume standard animal agriculture practices. Beef has the largest CO2 emissions of all animal products (60 kg / kg product), followed by cheese (21 kg), then pork (7 kg), and finally chicken (6 kg). There are multiple reasons why beef’s emissions are so much higher, the primary factors are methane production by cows and land conversion for grazing & animal feed. Per pound of product, it takes approximately 1,800 gallons of water for beef, 576 gallons for pork, and 468 gallons for chicken. For reference, it takes 220 gallons to produce a pound of soybeans and 108 gallons for a pound of corn. The next problem with Totino’s pizza rolls is the non-organic soy and the palm oil. Since they do not have any information available, I will explain why it is irresponsible to not source these ethically. If Totino’s does not list where their soy comes from, it may be coming from Brazil. Brazil is currently the largest producer of soybeans in the world and approximately half of their soy is grown in the Amazon rainforest. In order to grow soy, they must level the rainforest and this is sometimes done by burning the land. This means that any soy produced here has a significantly higher carbon footprint than soy produced anywhere in the world. 80% of soy that comes from the Amazon is used for animal feed to produce meat and other animal products, which further elevates the carbon footprint of these products. It is possible, again due to the lack of information provided, that their meat was raised using soy from deforested land in the Amazon. All we know for certain was that it was not produced on an organic soybean farm in the US where ethical practices are used. Non-organic palm oil is similarly harmful to the environment in that forests are burned down, indigenous peoples are displaced, and animal species are driven closer to extinction in order to harvest it. I am not blaming Totino’s pizza rolls for all this destruction, I am just recommending that they be more responsible in sourcing their ingredients.
Totino’s pizza rolls are a highly processed food product, and according to Harvard Health can be considered an “ultra processed food”. Processing changes a food from its natural state by adding salts, oils, sugars, and other compounds. Ultra processed foods are foods made mostly from substances extracted from foods (for example many, but not all, frozen meals). According to Lancet, “The purpose of ultra processing is to create branded, convenient (durable, ready-to-consume), attractive (hyper-palatable) and highly profitable (low-cost ingredients) food products often designed to displace all other food groups”. Processed and ultra processed foods have a higher environmental impact because they are inherently made with ample energy-intensive processes in order to convert the ingredients into the finished product. In other words, these products are made for generating profit for a company by delivering convenience to consumers. They are not made for people’s health, they are not made for the benefit of those producing the ingredients, and they are not made with the planet in mind. There is nothing sustainable about the way this product is made.
Totino’s is owned by the General Mills brand, who is one of the largest manufacturers of branded food products in North America. They manufacture food in 13 different countries and market their products in over 100 countries. General Mills states that their supply chain is “large, complex, and global with thousands of suppliers in more than 25 countries”. General Mills had very bad press in 2019 when it was discovered that “21 of their products contained glyphosate residue, the main ingredient in the much-vilified RoundUp pesticide”. Since then, they have released statements committing themselves to investing in regenerative agriculture on 1 million acres of farmland in their supply chain by 2030. To do this they are trying to reduce their suppliers reliance on synthetic pesticides by collecting data on what pesticides are used, how much are being used, and why they are being used. The bar is very low in the food manufacturing industry since there are many factors that make it difficult to operate sustainably when you are such a large corporation. As of now, General Mills knows they need to be doing more for the environment, evident in the presentation of their sustainability initiatives on their website. They reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 13.4% between 2010 and 2018. They have hopes to reduce it by 27.6% more by 2050 which would be a massive step in the right direction.