You may have realised from my columns that I like to support local food producers. I would like to say my reasons are altruistic, but mainly they are selfish! The taste of meat from a proper butcher is unsurpassed. Fruit and veg (eaten in their proper season) may have dirt on them and be irregularly shaped, but taste so much better and, on the whole, are not full of chemicals and preservatives. But perhaps more importantly in these days of “Kyoto Agreements” and the like, local produce can be kinder to the environment. If I can be allowed to plagiarise an article from a recent Sunday paper I can illustrate the point:
Take a Sunday roast consisting of leg of lamb roasted with garlic, onions and rosemary, with green beans, carrot and roast potatoes. Purchased from one of our leading supermarket chains the ingredients had travelled 21,000 miles (eg lamb from New Zealand, beans from Kenya, carrots from South Africa, garlic from Spain). Total cost £21.12. The same ingredients purchased from some local shops had travelled 1,050 miles (eg lamb from Scotland, all vegetable from the UK but having travelled 650 miles in total). Total cost £21.35. Ingredients bought from a farmers’ market had travelled 119 miles (eg all vegetables from the same farm 18 miles away, lamb from an organic farm 100 miles away and rosemary from the garden). Total cost £17.46.
But that is not the whole story. At every step along the way, the further we are away from the producer of our food, the more middle-men get some of what we pay for - and here is the crunch - the more fuel is used by us and the suppliers. When we choose to eat things that are produced further away, our eating habits are increasing pressure on our environment. Everything from increased traffic polluting our homes, plastic wrapping (and don’t get me started on packaging!), and increased fuel bills for our own use of cars.
I do understand that not all our lifestyles make it easy for us to find the time to visit our local shops when a trip to the supermarket is far easier. But if you get a chance please support our local traders and farmers. Believe me, there is a big difference. Personally I could never eat meat from a supermarket again! If you want to know more about “food miles” I have included some links (below) that you may find interesting.
But enough of all this seriousness. ’Tis the season to be jolly after all (written in the lead up to Christmas). I hope you have a very happy Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.
Since compiling this 'fun' table in 2002, many innovations have taken place - mostly in the area of internet shopping (and delivery), and car technologies and taxation. So, the picture keeps changing. Railway transport of food remains of little relevance (which reflects the loss of goods yards around the UK).
|Low Carbon Emissions||Contribution of Suburban Living?||High Carbon|
|OK, you can't carry much, but your heart might love you!||Good for bulk and non-perishable items but needs trains and vans to get them to people||25% of all HGV traffic moves food. HGVs contribute huge quantities of diesel particulate matter that is small enough to migrate through membranes and deep into bodily organs.||51% of all fuel used to fetch and carry food is used by cars. There is increasing focus on hybrid cars - to some degree this simply moves pollution to electricity generation and the innefficiencies of transmitting power over large distances||40 times more fuel than a ship to move each ton.|
|If you like road casualty Statistics - here are loads from the National Statistical Office||In 2002, 102 fatal accidents related to transporting food||In 2002, 166 fatal accidents related to transporting food|
|Motor vehicle traffic volume in 2009 was 313.2 billion vehicle miles, more than 10 times the volume in 1949.|
|In 2002, 408 serious injuries related to transporting food.||In 2002, 1,549 serious injuries related to transporting food|
|In 2002, food transport produced 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, of which 10 Million tonnes were emitted in the UK and 9 million tonnes were generated by food imports. This represents 1.8 percent of the total annual emissions of carbon dioxide. Just moving food - and mostly to supermarkets. So that includes us using cars for our weekly shop. Defra Report|
SOME INTERESTING LINKS
|Big Barn||Farmers Weekly - rich source on food miles and seasonality||National Association of Farmers Markets and more - Local Food Site||Defra - Food Miles Report of (2005) is a stimulating read (executive summary is very accessible).||A Year of Food and Farming 2008 - [Archived Website] fascinating collection of food and food production|
|British Dietetic Association - latest food fact sheets||Search Engine for organics||British Nutrition Foundation||Soil Association - Good Food for All||The Fresh Food Cookbook|
|The Cool Food Planet - jazzy site that aims at engaging with children's learning||Keeping Food Safe - Food Standards Agency advice on preparing and storing food||Natoora Website - find French and British food offered directly from the producer||Why Organic? Soil Association directory||SustainWeb - Alliance for better food and farming|
Lis’s Soapbox (from the October 2007 Parish News Letter; with November Post Script)
I do hope you will forgive me one of my occasional soap-box rants. As a lot of you know we have run the home produce stall at Lynsted Fete for several years. The generosity of our local fruit farmers has always meant that we have raised a considerable amount over the years. This year in particular we were treated to some wonderful fruit. The Bramleys were again snapped up almost before we could get the price on them (see this month’s seasonal recipe for a great use for them).
But I want to talk about eating apples. We were treated to a wonderful variety of eating apples for this year’s stall. Worcesters, James Grieve, Charles Ross and Katy. I wish I had a pound for the number of people who bought one or two of each variety just to try, because they had never heard of them, and then came back to buy more because they hadn’t tasted apples like it. Also a pound for every customer who said they hadn’t seen these varieties for years. A sign of the times? Now please bear with me while I recount a memory.
When I was young my brother and I were very close (we still are) and our long summer holidays were always spent on some pointless, but fun, project or other. The year I recount was when he went abroad on a school trip and I was left to my own devices for the first time. My mother decided on a day trip to Canterbury to keep me occupied. Knowing that I was going to be hungry on the train home she purchased some “Miller’s Seedlings” apples. This was a risky choice as Mum knew the only apple that passed my lips voluntarily was a Bramley! I can remember being presented with the said “Miller’s Seedling” whilst waiting for the train on Canterbury East station. By the end of the journey my poor Mum had been pestered to breaking point to let me have more.
Now forgive me if there is actually anybody out there who is a Golden Delicious fan, but do you think there are going to many people in the future who will be so hit by the taste of an apple that they can recount the experience over forty years later? I can even tell you what I was wearing at the time , a rather dashing little orange and yellow two piece decorated with pineapples, bananas and raspberries. Lovely!
I was treated on fete day (2007) to my first taste of a Miller’s Seedling in more years than I care to remember. I feared that my memory may have played tricks on me, but no. It was magnificent. This led me to thinking about how we are always encouraged to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables everyday day, and especially how important this is for children. Although a lot of children love fruit there are plenty who don’t. Is it any wonder when a lot of the time the fruit we are trying to encourage them to eat is about as tasty as sucking on a cotton wool ball?
I don’t pretend to know the answer but I do feel frustrated there is nothing I can do. Fruit farmers (who along with most farmers are my heroes) have to make a living. We should also be grateful to them for being the custodians of our landscape. What would Kent look like without our orchards? But I presume the stories we hear of the supermarkets having such a strong influence on fruit production is probably true. I suppose too in my younger days the fruit I ate was almost straight from the tree. I doubt it would have been transported such long distances or stored for so long. Am I just living in fantasy land when I hope that the wonderful varieties of apples almost lost to us now could make a comeback? If anyone has the answer I am happy to hear it.
Only a little moan this November. The apples are all picked and packed away. Cox’s are coming into their own and British Fruit has had a bumper season. Then why are the shops full of apples from New Zealand???? It’s not even their fruit season. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!! That’s better. Now let’s get back to enjoying Christmas.
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