Do you really know where your food comes from and the impact it might have on our environment and UK (United Kingdom) farming?

On International Mother Earth Day, Law Course Director, Sallyann Mellor discusses the impact food marketing has on the planet and UK farming.

When undertaking your weekly shop, do you ever consider where your food comes from and the impact your purchase may have on the environment?  Are you influenced by food branding when making your purchases?

You may be surprised to read that food packaging can be misleading and influence your purchase which in turn negatively affect the environment.

Whilst shopping you may be drawn by the name of a product and the pictures in belief that you are buying a product that is British, however the small print tells you the origin of the product to be somewhere far away from the UK, but do you really know the impact your purchase makes on the environment?

Why is this a problem? It is a problem because it misleads you as a consumer but wider than that is the impact this has on our environment and our UK farmers. 

Lockdown has taught many of us the importance of buying local not only to support our local businesses and the economy but also our local farmers. It gave us the time to really consider where our food came from and the impact on the environment and animal welfare.

UK farmers adhere to strict animal welfare regulations which ensure animal welfare standards are adhered to not only how they are kept on the farm but also how they are cared for during transportation. 

Current Regulations –there are few regulations that specifically state what can and cannot be used as branding images. This means that manufacturers can use misleading branding that influences the consumer to believe that products are from the UK where animal welfare standards are high, when in fact the products origin depicts a different reality.

Environmental Impact-How do we define the word environment and what that means, for some it may mean how we live, the world around us, for others it goes far deeper and encompasses the natural world which is affected by human activity.

Where our food comes from affects the environment in many ways, carbon footprint, climate change, animal welfare and our farming community. If you buy local, you reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact and support our British farmers and our economy.

Carbon Footprints-some products are manufactured in different countries.  We measure carbon footprint by assessing how much carbon is used in the production and transportation of a product. The lower the carbon footprint the better for the environment.

Reducing Food Miles- consider the distance where your item is produced to where it is sold. Where an item is produced may be different to where it is packaged and then sold. For example, strawberries may be produced in Egypt, transported to the UK to be packaged and then transported to supermarket depots for distribution. When taking this into consideration, miles are added to the journey of an item of food, increasing pollution. 

How Does Farming Support the Environment? –It is no surprise that our climate in the UK is most suited to growing grass, in fact 65% of farmland in the UK is best suited to growing grass rather than crops. Farmers are looking at other methods to become more sustainable as a nation but if we did not use the grassland, we would be wasting a natural resource in feeding livestock, which in turn provides us with nutrient rich meat that has not been transported across the world to feed us. Land is protected and cared for by the farmers to support their business but in doing so also supports the habitats of many animals.

Contrary to what you may have read, British beef and lamb is among the most sustainable in the world due to extensive, grass-based systems. Emissions from beef production in the UK are about half the global average, according to the Governments Committee on Climate Change

Emissions are lower than you would think, see the below infographic in part due to sustainable farming solutions.

What can you do? When shopping, closely read the food labels and look beyond the packaging to find the place of origin.  Buying British products will lower carbon footprint and support climate change and our British farming. Look out for the Red Tractor symbol on all products not just the British flag as a product could be packaged in the UK and state it is a UK product when its place of origin is not the UK.

The Red Tractor symbol certifies that high standards have been adhered to and provides traceability from the farm to the plate. You can be sure that when you are buying a product with this symbol that food standards, food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection are protected.

Think about buying fruits and vegetables that are in season and buying from local farmers markets which are increasing in the UK.

Small changes made by us all can make all the difference.

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