Every time you’re spending money on something, you’re making a vote. If you favour organic produce you’re voting for environmental sustainability. Maybe you buy fair trade and by doing so you’re voting for human rights.
Do your research about the businesses whose products you buy and withdraw your support from the ones whose ethos you don’t agree with. Every little purchase counts, so here are some words to look out for to be an ethical food consumer.
Fair trade aims to provide better working conditions and fair prices for farmers and farm workers. The most common products are bananas, coffee, tea, chocolate, cotton and sugar.
Organic is supposed to mean that the produce has been grown naturally without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilisers. Sadly, there are loopholes when it comes to labelling produce as organic. A lot of organic nurseries can use chemical pesticides and still be called organic. Vegetables grown in vermiculite rather than soil can’t be labelled as organic even if no chemical pesticides are used to grow them. If you want to buy pesticide free, make sure that pesticide free is specified on the produce. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean free range either. They can be raised on an organic diet and still be factory farmed. Look out for the Soil Association logo, which is one of the organic standards offering many welfare benefits exceeding standard industry practice.
Choose foods that are in season and grown/produced locally as it reduces food miles and supports your local community. Look out for the Red Tractor logo, the scheme, run by Assured Food Standards, certifies the food was produced in Britain and to certain quality standards for food safety, hygiene, and the environment.
It’s important to produce food in a way that preserves the worlds natural resources for future generations so look for produce that are sustainably produced.
Free range means farming where animals are allowed to roam freely. As with organic, there are loopholes with labelling produce as free range. It can be misleading. The farms can cram animals into sheds and just let them out for a small amount of time a day, and still be allowed to label the produce as free range. You can also look out for the Lion Mark logo on eggs, and the Freedom Food logo when shopping or eating out, which is the RSPCA’s labelling and assurance scheme dedicated to improving welfare standards for farm animals.
Genetically modified food
People have very varied opinions about food grown with genetic manipulation technology. If you worry that it might be a risk to the environment or your health, choose GM-free products.
Now go out there and be an ethical food shopper!
If you want to learn more about labels and what they mean, visit Compassion in World Farming’s website.
Chiaki L’Argent and Chloë Owens