What we eat and what we waste has a massive impact on climate change as well as food poverty in developing nations. In 2014, the United Nations issued a report stating that we all need to adapt and make changes. That means governments, big organisations, but also us as individuals. The good news is, it’s not yet too late, but we do all need to play our part, and we need to start now. We can easily adapt all of these changes into our current lifestyles. See what benefits making these changes will mean, for you, your family and the world and start making a difference.
The issue of meat, like many things in life, is complex. Whilst some people are turning to vegetarian and vegan diets for environmental reasons, this is not as straight forward as it might seem. We need to consider that everything we eat has some environmental impact. Our desire for avocados for example has led to deforestation in Mexico which increases the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Likewise, it is important to recognise that the environmental impact of meat is not all the same. ‘It’s not the cow, but the how’.
There is a big difference in environmental impact between locally sourced, grass-fed produce and factory farmed meat, often produced overseas and then shipped to the UK. If the price you pay for meat is cheap, you can be fairly sure the welfare has also been cheap. Don’t be fooled by a picture of a farm gate on a cheap chicken in your local supermarket. A local quality butcher will know the farms their meat comes from and often source meat locally, according to the seasons. Supporting local farmers who are key workers of our environment and countryside is important. A balanced environmental diet, is one that reflects the productive capacity of the land we live in. To eat meat well, we should know where it comes from, eat it less often and spend more on it which means supporting your local quality butcher.
Reduce Food Waste
The average UK family throws away £60 of food every month. That’s a massive £720 a year straight in the bin! Planning our meals, only buying what we need and using leftovers can really help reduce this amount. The LoveFoodHateWaste website has some great tips
In a world where 21,000 people still die of hunger every day, as a nation we throw away £12 billion a year of food. Food waste in our landfill sites emits methane gas which is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2. The reduction in CO2 gained by not wasting food would be the equivalent to taking 1 in 4 cars off our roads.
Organic food is considered to be better for you since it doesn’t contain traces of any pesticides. Organic meat and dairy products do not contain any antibiotics or other drugs, hormones or pesticides. There is still controversy over the level of health risks posed by the use of pesticides which have been linked to an increased risk of some cancers. Since organic food doesn’t contain artificial preservatives, it is usually fresher and tastes better and some studies show that organic grown foods have more beneficial nutrients than non-organic. People with allergies to foods, chemicals or preservatives often find that symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organics.
Organic farming is better for the environment since it produces less pollution, conserves water, reduces soil erosion, increases soil fertility and uses less energy. Pesticides can allow disease resistance to build up in plants, weeds, plant-eating-insects, fungi and bacteria. Pesticides and chemicals sprayed onto plants contaminate the soil, water supply and air and can in some cases, still be present decades later. Farming without pesticides is also better for people who live close to and work on farms as well as local wildlife.
Buying fair-trade products is a very direct way in which we can help the world’s poor. You get a high quality product and also make a real difference in the lives of the people who grow the food you eat. Since crops are often grown and harvested in smaller quantities, fairtrade food is often fresher and tastier. Fairtrade products are less contaminated since they limit the use of harmful agrochemicals that can be dangerous to the farmer’s health and indeed many fair-trade products are also organic.
Fairtrade products are produced in developing countries and are all about giving poorer famers a better deal. Fairtrade can be the difference between farmers earning enough money to feed their families or not. It’s also about decent working conditions and fair terms of trade. Fairtrade benefits small scale farmers who are amongst the most marginalised groups globally. It offers them a better life through trade rather than aid. Fairtrade re-invests in local communities improving housing, healthcare and schools. It’s also better for the environment since it supports sustainable practices that minimise the environmental footprint. Visit the Fairtrade website for more information.
Choose Seasonal & local produce
Eating produce in season means using food when it is at its best and also saving money. Research suggests that you can save up to one third on your shopping bill by buying food in season. This is because it is naturally abundant and hasn’t has to incur long term storage costs. Fruit and vegetables start to lose their flavour and nutritional value as soon as they are picked. Using fresh ingredients means you get the best nutritional value from the meals you cook, and amazingly, nearly all of the vegetables you find in the supermarkets and greengrocers can be grown in the UK.
Buying home grown seasonal produce helps to support both our local communities and the economy. Seasonal produce has a much smaller impact on the environment since it has not knocked up many food miles, or had to be stored in industrial refrigeration units which emit CO2. As it is grown naturally, at the time of year when nature intended, it ripens without the use of artificial conditions which use lots of energy. Products grown out of season here in the UK require considerable amounts of energy to maintain constant artificial conditions which lead to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. click here for more information or visit the Eat Seasonably website for more advice.
Choose Animal Friendly Products
Animal friendly products means meat and dairy products that have come from animals that have been raised in good conditions with enough room to move around, fed a good diet and allowed to carry out their natural behaviours. The best way to understand why you should choose animal friendly products is to consider the alternative. Animals that have not been reared to these standards have often been raised on industrial farms where as many animals as possible are confined indoors to maximise efficiency and profits. This means that they are exposed to high levels of toxins from their own decomposing manure which creates ideal conditions for disease to spread. To counteract these unhealthy conditions, the animals are given constant low doses of antibiotics. They are also routinely treated with pesticides and other additives and can also be given hormones to speed their growth and increase productivity. When you eat the meat from these animals, you are getting all of those antibiotics, pesticides and hormones too. If you want to make sure you are completely avoiding these additives, you should choose organic. Of course the other consideration is that it is totally unnecessary to keep animals in such poor conditions. As consumers we can choose to only buy meat from animals raised in good conditions.
Choosing meat and dairy products that conform to recognised welfare standards is a better choice for the planet. The farms these animals are reared on produce less pollution which is better for the environment. The high level usage of antibiotics in animals has been highlighted as posing a serious threat to human health as it drives up the level of antibiotic resistance leading to new superbugs. The RSPCA Assured label makes it easy to recognise products from animals that have had a better life and covers beef cattle, chickens reared for meat, dairy cows, egg laying hens, pigs, sheep, turkeys, veal calves and salmon and trout. Visit the RSPCA website for more details.
Choose a wider variety of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish
Fish is a good source of many vitamins, minerals and protein and is lower in fat than most meat. The Dept. of Health recommends we eat one portion of white fish and one portion of oily fish each week and there are many recipes on this site to help you do this. Eating a wider variety of fish can save you money against the most common bought fish. Look out for suggestions for cheaper alternatives in the recipes.
In order to ensure that fish stocks are properly maintained, it is important to choose a wider variety of fish than those we have traditionally been used to and only buy fish that come with the Marine Stewardship Council label. This label ensures that the fish have been sustainably sourced and that stocks are not dangerously depleted. Visit the Marine Stewardship Council website for more information.