The food we choose has an effect, not only on our own health, but also on the health of the environment and the planet.
How food is produced is an outcome of our buying choices. In March 2010 Hilary Benn, then Secretary of State for Defra, said that ‘people power’ could revolutionise the way that food is produced and sold. As an example he cited the increased popularity of locally produced or free range eggs, which over the course of ten years had increased from 16 per cent to 40 per cent of eggs purchased. Farmers and retailers have had to respond to the power of the purse, what consumers choose to buy.
The Government’s minimum criteria for Sustainable Food are:
- Seasonal produce.
- Seafood from sustainable sources.
- Fairly traded produce.
- Higher environmental standards, such as organic or integrated production (eg. LEAF – Linked Environment and Farming).
- Animal welfare.
- UK or equivalent production standards.
The Government’s website will give more details. These standards also identify the need to fulfil nutritional needs, minimise food waste, and use energy efficient equipment.
You can see the Marine Conservation Society’s advice on sourcing sustainable seafood here.
Local food is generally considered to be desirable in terms of sustainable sourcing as long as it has a low carbon footprint throughout its lifecycle.
Grazed pasture is important for the sequestration of carbon in the soil, especially if the grass contains mixed species with deep rooting herbs. Dairy produce and meat from animals that are mainly grass-fed also have health benefits. (Graham Harvey – “We Want Real Food”; “The Carbon Fields”).
It is easy to start by choosing some sustainably sourced food and drink and gradually progress to more, exploring the options from there.