It’s hard enough these days to know whether we are eating the ‘right’ foods nutritionally let alone if we are eating the ‘right’ foods ethically, sustainably and locally.
I know myself, I have slipped into a period of comfortable (read lazy) consideration of my food. I’ve seen the docos, done the research and feel a little bit more informed about where my food comes from and what the labels mean.
But how well am I putting this increased knowledge into practice?
I thought it would be a good idea to test myself by having a long hard look at what I ate in a day. I was surprised to discover how ignorant I still am as to exactly where my food comes from. The following are just some of the questions I was left to dwell on.
Bread & Cereal
I know my bread is baked on site at the local independent grocer (I know this because I see the baker come out with it and also it has a little bit of steam still in the bag) but is it actually made on site or just baked on site? Do I know the background of the ingredients? While I assume the actual ingredients are from Australian sources, chances are high that the grains are internationally ‘owned’. Check out this ABC report for an interesting breakdown of who actually owns Australia’s grain.
Fruit and Vegetables
I am really lucky to have a local grocer down the road who only supplies fruit and vegetables that have been grown within Australia. Their focus is on good quality, local produce without trying to compete with the major supermarkets on price alone. I don’t always buy organic but rather go by the top ‘Clean 15’ foods list and the ‘Dirty Dozen Plus’ list to find out what is important to buy organic and what’s not so important. Turns out that for apples, I should really be buying organic.
Ah, milk. One of my biggest struggles. I don’t buy the cheapest milk (because I don’t believe in the sustainability of $1 a litre milk but that’s another story) but I don’t buy the most expensive milk either, because well, isn’t it all just milk? Do I know if the cows that produce my milk roam free during the day and have a quick milk in the morning or afternoon? No, I don’t. And I think I should because I’m not convinced they stand around grazing on lush green grass all day as depicted on the label – but then again, maybe they do? This is the same for my cheese and ice-cream as well, which funnily enough also have cows munching on grass on their label. Are they trying to tell me something?
Ham. And there it is, my big admission. Not three months after I saw the documentary film ‘Our Daily Bread’ and swearing to myself that I just could not eat any type of meat that came from a pig ever again, here I am just buying a little bit of ham here and there from the meat counter. What disturbs me the most is the little sign saying ‘Made in Australia from Local and Imported Ingredients’. What the hell does that mean??? Surely it is just ham from the same animal! Some more investigation needed here I think.
Mini Kit-Kat – When I first wrote about where chocolate came from I vowed that I would only eat Cadbury plain chocolate that stated it was Fairtrade and yet here I am guiltily nibbling on a Mini Kit-Kat. Nestle, under pressure from Greenpeace, have come along way with their Kit-Kats and no longer use palm oil. The chocolate on their standard Kit-Kat is also rainforest certified. This is on their standard Kit-Kat mind you, not their minis. So, whatever I try to tell myself, the truth is I don’t know if this chocolate treat is ethical or sustainable. I should really know this.
Looks like I still have a little bit of work to do in terms of changing my shopping and eating habits but I feel the most important first step in this process is to make that little change in thinking and consciously consider what has to happen for our food to get to our plate.
A great place to start if you are wanting to find out more about the products you buy is the Shop Ethical site which has a comprehensive listing of products, companies and their background. Check out the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists for what organic produce counts and also shop as locally as you can, interact with your grocer and find out where things come from.
More importantly just start small, perhaps there are a couple of products you are unsure of or think you can improve on then go from there.
What does a day in the life of your food look like?