Being Better

Sustainability is fast becoming one of the key issues of the 21st century, not just in terms of food but in every aspect of life. The huge amount of waste and emissions society currently produces has been heavily linked to climate change, and to significant damage being done to the planet itself. Though we have not yet reached the point of no return, the rate at which polluting means that we could well reach that tipping point within our lifetime.

The food industry plays a noticeable part in this. Food air freighted for overseas, the massive waste involved in many forms of food packaging, and the fairtrade movement.

To really understand the implications of fair trade, we have to face up to some uncomfortable truths, namely that both child labour and slavery are still incredibly prevalent in many areas of the production world. Workers have no choice but to agree to these horrendous terms, and any attempt to unionise or question their rights is often met with swift punishment. These underhanded methods are used to exploit workers and create cyclical poverty, ensuring that very little of the money paid for these goods ever reaches those that grow them.

 

*up to 40% of workers during the harvest season in Honduras are children*

 

Fairtrade aims to break this cycle by ensuring a clear and highly transparent chain of production. You can see the origin of your goods, from their creation to the moment they end up in your hands, and as such every party involved is recognised and paid appropriately. Not only that, but Fairtrade is committed to ensuring that all those working under its label are guaranteed freedom from discrimination

 

*25% of workers in Fairtrade are women*

 

Organic produce is quite a controversial area, with its advocates often overexaggerating the benefits. In truth, there are small nutritional and environmental bonuses to eating organic food, but the exact extent has yet to be fully explored.

 

*Organic Milk can contain 71% more Omega 3 than conventional milks *

 

Organic produce does however, tend to produce a lot of good by proxy. Livestock grown in an organic manner is often treated better than on average for example, as extreme factory farming conditions are not possible without the use of strong chemicals. In countries like the UK, access to outside pasture and sufficient space is actually a mandatory aspect of earning the Organic certification, and diets consisting mostly of high energy “concentrates” are banned.

 

*At most, 40% of an Organic Cow’s diet may come from concentrates *

 

The production and transportation of meat is a huge global industry, and one that has a number of very serious issues attached to it. The environmental impact is one of the primary concerns, as the amount of resources needed to feed, house and transport animals is substantial. The animals themselves also produce a sizeable amount of greenhouse gases, which are directly related to global warming.

 

There is also an ethical issue, as the majority of livestock are kept in conditions that would shock the average consumer. Cramped cages, mutilation and severe emotional distress are a common sight in the world of meat production,

 

Animals kept as livestock are often subject to absolutely brutal conditions in the name of efficiency. In many cases, a factory like approach is taken to their rearing and slaughter, where the main concern for producers is making as much meat as possible. This often leads to seeing the animals in question as assets in a business, rather than living beings.

 

Viewing animals without compassion in this manner often leads to logical but ultimately dubious practices. Chickens kept in incredibly cramped conditions for example, will often become distressed and aggravated, lashing out at one another. Many producers “solve” this issue not by increasing the standard of the chickens’ living but by declawing and debeaking the birds. This might stop them from hurting one another, but it doesn’t change the incredible emotional trauma suffered by these animals, and such an approach is overwhelmingly common in the meat industry.

 

Despite the best efforts of activists to work with restaurants on this issues, they’ve often refused to cooperate, which puts researchers at a major disadvantage when it comes to identifying them. When the restaurant is of particular note, they can conduct as much independent investigation as they can but in many cases, they will simply accept their refusal and focus their energy elsewhere. Please note that a declined comment listing does not necessarily indicate low ethical standards. Still, it’s frustrating to see.

 

The amount of work involved in researching the ethics of restaurants is immense. Take this relatively standard dessert from the menu of Silk and Grain: “Frozen white chocolate parfait, strawberry coulis & pecan praline”

 

A dish as simple as this could easily contain no less than 20 ingredients, each one of which needs tracing back to source. Once the source has been established, multiple factors need to be considered. Let’s look closely at just one of them -the strawberries- and see the sheer complexity of the issue. Is that strawberry a GM crop? Is it sourced locally? What are the food miles associated with it? Has it grown organically? How are the workers producing the crop treated? Etc etc etc. The list goes on and on. We’ll leave you with the list used by the SRA to determine its ethical rating for animal suppliers. Hopefully it’ll help you see why this is an issue that everyone needs to help with.

 

General Animals

Where are the animals kept?

Do they have access to the outside world, and room to roam?

Do you dock the cows tails?

If so, is any form of pain relief used?

What method of milking do you employ?

How long do the animals spend in transit before being slaughtered?

What do you feed the pigs?

Where are the animals kept?

Do they have access to the outside world, and room to roam?

Do you trim your chickens’ beaks?

What do you feed the chickens?

Do you make any efforts to adhere to seasonality in your menus?

Do you consider the carbon footprint of the fruit and vegetables that you use, particularly in the case of so called “diva” products

Do you use any Organic products?

Do you use any sustainable methods on your farm? If so, can you specify them?

How are your vegetables usually transported to the supplier?

 

Pigs

Where are the animals kept?

Do they have access to the outside world, and room to roam?

Do you use farrowing crates as part of your process. If so, for what length of time do you use them?

Do you dock the pigs’ tails?

If so, is any form of pain relief used?

What method of slaughter do you employ?

How long do the animals spend in transit before being slaughtered?

What do you feed the pigs?

 

Cows

Where are the animals kept?

Do they have access to the outside world, and room to roam?

Do you dock the cows tails?

If so, is any form of pain relief used?

What method of slaughter do you employ?

How long do the animals spend in transit before being slaughtered?

What do you feed the cows?

 

Veal

Where are the animals kept?

Do they have access to the outside world, and room to roam?

Do you dock the calves’ tails?

If so, is any form of pain relief used?

What do you feed the calves?

What method of slaughter do you employ?

How long do the animals spend in transit before being slaughtered?

 

Lambs

Where are the animals kept?

Do they have access to the outside world, and room to roam?

What do you feed the lambs?

Do you dock the lamb’ tails?

If so, is any form of pain relief used?

What method of slaughter do you employ?

How long do the animals spend in transit before being slaughtered?

 

Chickens

Where are the animals kept?

Do they have access to the outside world, and room to roam?

Do you trim your chickens’ beaks?

What do you feed the chickens?

What method of slaughter do you employ?

How long do the animals spend in transit before being slaughtered?

 


January 5, 2018

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