If you ate today, whatever it was, then you supported a farmer somewhere in the world; but my question is, if you can, why not support one closer to home?
Ethical… Sustainable… Natural… All popular words at the moment, with a very broad range of interpretations. To me, they are along the lines of something which has spent a minimal amount of time in a factory being processed into the end product, or on an aeroplane, has been produced in accordance to strict regulations which prohibit exploitation and abuse of the workers, animals, and land involved, and in a way which works alongside the environment surrounding it, not against it, striving to improve things along the way… The closer from my front door it originates, the better.
But that’s just my interpretation, which is what I base my buying decisions on, (well, what my parents do- I don’t actually have a bank account yet, due to not being able to *physically* visit a bank… so, apart from a Legoland driver’s license, I don’t exist… but that’s probably a story for another time…).
Anyway, my point is, where our money goes directly influences what is produced and how. If consumers keep up the demand for cheap food, that demand will be met, the only questions will be how and by who…
Why buying British matters
British agriculture is the backbone of many industries and ecosystems, and one of the leaders in animal welfare, environmental, and food-safety standards across the globe, no matter the production system; but the consumers and their buying habits are what keep it afloat and determine whether cheaper imports produced to lower standards, will make it onto our shelves.
I know you probably hear this a lot… Modern eating habits and seasonality mean it’s impossible to do 100% of the time, and for some of us, it simply isn’t feasible to always buy the British option; whether that’s due to financial constraints, allergies and intolerances necessitating imported alternatives, or like in my own case, disability meaning pre-chopped frozen veg (which is mostly grown overseas) is the only way to make cooking from scratch accessible. But where possible, trying to buy homegrown produce, whatever it is and however small that swap may seem, helps ensure everyone’s survival. Whether it’s fruit, vegetables, grains, oils, pulses, or animal products, every sector is interlinked, swapping products for organic matter and other benefits… and every purchase helps keep food production alive on your doorstep, in a form I feel we should be proud of, especially amongst the haze of uncertainty and volatile prices of today.
Where you can, support the egg producer down the road, selling them at the local shop or with an honesty box. The British dairy farmers abiding by extremely stringent regulations, regardless of the current milk price, to supply the supermarket shelves with safe, nutritious dairy products; or the ones selling their milk straight from the farm to your doorstep in various, ingenious forms. The beef, sheep, and pig farmers selling boxes of joints from the farm-gate or through the local butchers. The growers selling at the farmer’s markets, or turning their produce into preserves, oils, and other foodstuffs on site. Or any of the British farmers and growers, putting products from chicken to sugar onto the supermarket shelves, under the Red Tractor, Soil Association, or any of the other hard-earned, independently inspected, quality assurance schemes.
And if there are British standards you think should be higher, support the ones who are achieving that. Enable them to have more of a market share, and through supply and demand, have a hand in changing things.
Imported food is necessary, and there’s surely a balance to be found between supporting farmers overseas and supporting our own.
There are things we simply cannot grow, or can’t keep up with the consumers’ demand for; and working together, globally, supporting sustainable techniques which match our own, is better than trying to use excessive amounts of energy to create conditions that mimic another country’s natural climate. But it’s about being mindful about those imports and the standards they adhere to. Choosing with care, instead of blindly encouraging the supermarkets to stock things just to outcompete our own because of the cheaper price they can be produced and sold for, due to vast differences between production systems; often at the expense of the workers, environment, or animals in those countries.
Obviously, I’m speaking purely from a British perspective, but if you’re reading this from your home in another country, then it’s still applicable. Consider supporting the local farmers who align with your interpretation of those 3 magic words, and with that, strengthening and improving the industry as a whole, and your local economy.
It’s so easy to become disconnected from the origin of food when you’re just putting packaged items into a basket. Maybe we should all pay a bit more attention to what goes into our meals… Who and what are we supporting? Is there a more local product available? And if something is cheap, why?
SOME IDEAS FOR BRITISH PRODUCERS TO SUPPORT
I’ll keep adding to this, so please let me know if you would like to be included or have any suggestions.