Winter or summer, it is the meal of the week, but have you ever wondered how far the food on your plate has travelled?
Last Sunday I decided to check out where the parts of my meal originated. I was shocked to see that well over 60 per cent of the food had come thousands of miles. I ate lamb from New Zealand, broccoli from Spain with herbs that came from Italy.
Usually, I try to eat local and seasonally with as much organic food as I can find. However, this gets difficult from March to June when local farmers don’t have much to sell.
Sadly, many stores and supermarkets sell food grown in other countries and has travelled miles by road and air to get to the shop and as the Government press for us to cut our carbon emissions, this is far from ideal.
The Sixth Carbon Budget outlined many ways in which the Government wanted to reduce emissions to zero. One of these included eating less meat and dairy. Surely, a better way would be to support British farmers to grow the food that we need to eat and cut down the number of planes and lorries bringing in food from all over the world?
I think it is outrageous that so much food is imported. Don’t the Government realise that one of the biggest polluters and contributors to climate change is air travel?
I have to ask why we need to fly in so much food? Why can’t we have a steady supply of British meat and vegetables with less miles from field to table?
It is an inconvenient truth that air-transported fruit and veg can create more greenhouse gas emissions per kilo than poultry and meat production. Asparagus eaten in the UK has the highest carbon footprint, with 5.3kg of carbon dioxide being produced for every kilogram of asparagus eaten.
I believe that the strange eating habits we have developed over the last few years contribute to climate change. Consumers want strawberries in winter and cauliflower all year round. It would seem that the idea of eating seasonal foods goes against their human rights.
There is also a growing number of vocal people who feel that being vegan is the only way to achieve a better world.
As a retired vegan myself, I can assure you that unless it is done properly, a vegan diet is not good for the planet or the person eating it.
Some vegan food is saturated with salts, preservatives, sugars and is highly processed, which in itself creates more pollution. Even mycoprotein used to make false meat isn’t as green as some would think.
The way forward isn’t just lowering meat and dairy consumption, but limiting where those products come from. It is ridiculous to eat avocados that have been flown in from Mexico adding tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere.
As we slowly start to leave lockdown, it is important that we buy local and I don’t mean from the supermarket around the corner. Local means supporting the independent sellers across the county.
One such shop is Crosiers Butchers in Bridlington. It is well worth a visit just to be treated to the wealth of knowledge the staff have and to be told where the meat has come from and practically, the name of the animal.
In Yorkshire, we have an abundance of artisan and traditional food producers that we could support. Field House Farm, near Driffield, have a herd of Wagyu beef cows that provide amazing meat that can be supplemented by vegetables from the growing number of organic farmers in the region.
We have to shelve the habit of going to the supermarket as a ‘one stop shop’. If we want to do our bit for the planet, we have to put aside convenience and shop ethically. There is nothing wrong with using the local veg shop, bakers or butchers – many Yorkshire suppliers deliver to your home.
The Covid pandemic has changed our society for good. I believe it is now time to take that change further and take an ethical approach to the way we buy food. It is important that we start to support our local farmers and food producers by buying direct where possible or through a local store if not.
One thing you will be assured of is a high-class product that tastes far better than anything you can get in a supermarket.
Sadly, many people will be stuck in their old ways and can’t be bothered with making the small changes to their lifestyles that could benefit future generations facing climate change as well as bolstering our local economies.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in East Yorkshire.
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