If it can be grown or produced in the UK we should avoid buying imported versions. For example banana’s aren’t grown here, but apples are so look for UK origin apples. All animal products that we typically eat are farmed in the UK, however we import vast quantities.
Free markets and free trade have positive benefits, but where food production is concerns the negatives outweigh the benefits.
Food security – this is our ability to be self sufficient. Do you really want your pork to come from China, or your dairy to come from a 46,000 cow indoor farm in Saudi Arabia? The production costs might be cheaper, but that benefits the businesses in the food chain, not the consumer. The more imported food we buy the more risk we are stuck with it with little or no control over production standards, quality or price. Creating a threat to our national food security.
Level playing field – We are lucky in the UK as a lot of our agricultural policies, mean safer and better produce, but it often means we ask more of our farmers in the UK, through welfare acts, non GMO crops, reduced use of chemicals etc. they face tough challenges competing with producers from other countries. We can’t have it both ways and need to support our UK farmers.
Misleading labelling – watch out for products that appear to be British. It is used as a marketing technique. For example a ready meal sold as ‘British hotpot’, that is made using no ingredients from the UK. Or Strawberries advertised an ‘perfect British summer’ that are from Spain.
Lamb and mutton – Sheep are part of our farming heritage. Sheep suit our climate and landscape. UK lamb and mutton is available all year round, so buying it from the other side of the world, New Zealand is unnecessary. The same with beef from other continents, such as USA and South America.
Country of origin – Read the labels, the country of origin is listed. Be aware that ‘packed in’ doesn’t mean where a product originated. Some labels are misleading as it might be sold as British if it was finished or packed in UK. Apply common sense.
Source directly – supermarkets and will source produce from the cheapest, most available source. That doesn’t mean they pass the saving onto you, it means they can’t often can’t tell you which country they sourced the product from. For example it will have a list of countries or simply say ‘the EU’. Try to find direct sources of produce and independent retailers that are committed to local produce.
Support UK farming – We need to support our farming industry to ensure it’s future.
Grass fed dairy – The UK still has a high level of outdoor grazing dairy, around 80%. Compare this with a lot of other European countries where intensive dairy, with zero grazing is in the majority. For example in Italy where approx 90% of all dairy is intensive. We have an amazing cheese industry but buy a lot of imported cheese. Over all we import dairy products worth £1.3bn more than we exported.
Miles travelled – obvious one, less carbon footprint.
Pork – our welfare standards for pork production are better than a lot of other countries. The use of farrowing crates, sow stalls, male castration, tail docking, straw bedding systems etc. This puts a strain on our UK pork farmers to compete on price, but the product is better and worth the difference.
Provenance – Know where it has came from. The UK has a reputation for higher standards, including review and audit of these standards.
Chemicals and preservation processes – To be able to move your food around the world it undergoes chemical and preservation processes to retain freshness, control ripening etc..
Seasonal – It is always said it far better to eat in season, buying British means you are leaning to a seasonal diet. Enjoy ‘out of season’ produce as a treat but think about what you are buying when.
Buy locally – Go one step further and buy as much local produce as you can.
Parting thoughts – Buying British (or your local country) represents the overall concept of Ethical omnivore. Whole food, grown and supplied to benefits us all, keeping control of our food supply and quality. It makes sense for so many reasons. Sadly it doesn’t mean that all UK produce is ethical, as we also have intensive farming in the UK. So buy British and buy ethical British.
The Ethical omnivore.