Whilst I get bogged down in the details of finding routes across the North Sea and Skaggerak, and simultaneously attempt to contact some friends who I can potentially stay with on the journey home, I will continue the food topic on low transport/sustainable foods.
From my food map, there was quite a significant portion of the total food items from the UK, and this was partly skewed higher than the norm because I look out for local foods a lot of the time. However there are many processed items where it is not possible to find out the source of the food because it simply is said in very ambiguous terms. They could have the logo of an EU agriculture badge, be the produce of more than one country (I think this means they don’t really know themselves) or simply not state anything.
And this pile is quite big!
The categories are produce of EU in the top left (with the romanesco broccoli at the centre), the pile of spice bottles on the right which are the produce of more than one country and bundle of products at the bottom which do not state the country of origin. This may initially seem surprising as everyone knows Lindt chocolate is a proud Swiss company. But I think you’d find it difficult to source a commercial quantity of cacao trees in Switzerland! So in that particular case I’ve classified it in unspecified as the primary ingredient (at least in dark chocolate) is not geographically identified.
The second thing that is common to many of these products is that they are comprised of ingredients from different parts of the world sometimes such as muesli. However much of the top left EU produce is also organic as it was bought from the daily bread cooperative. Often the only indicator of it’s continent of origin is through a logo that looks like this:
With a small section of text stating either EU or Non-EU Agriculture. Hardly very useful in terms of narrowing down food miles but this is not an easy process for many of the companies. Think of the difficulty of assuring conflict free rare earth metals in a particular electronics product and perhaps it’s similar in some of these mixed processed products. The seasonal variation may cause headaches in terms of packaging with a country of origin so it may just be left out.
So overall I’ve ended up with perhaps 50% of my food footprint from the UK, perhaps 25% from elsewhere in the EU and the last 25% from far flung regions of the globe. It is difficult to eliminate the long travelling items of food from a varied diet though. If I want to eat Asian foods, then many of the key sauces and noodles come from China (although you will find upon a little research fun facts like Kikkoman soy sauce is made in the Netherlands). However the fresh produce from these regions is what I am mostly attempting to eliminate.
Bananas are already off the agenda as I mentioned (I’ve found pears to be a similarly sweet fruit that’s locally available currently). Luckily most of the bananas are not air freighted as their value would be too low for that to be profitable, and they are harvested quite green but ripen slowly on the sea journey across to the UK. A large part of the information I’ve found on bananas is from a Norwich based not-for-profit called Banana Link. They are seeking to promote fair trade banana production and state their facts very clearly on the website. Currently the supermarket price competition on bananas as 68p per kilogram makes them seem like a not very profitable item. However Banana Link claims they are the single most profitable item in supermarkets. Which must mean?
That the workers of the banana plantations are getting paid a pittance. 75p for an 8 hour day in the plantations in Nicaragua is hardly a reasonable amount given the resale value in Britain. Of course boycotting the product doesn’t usually resolve issues either so don’t copy my actions if this concerns you. Fair trade bananas may pose the simplest ‘halfway solution,’ but I believe that this is not likely to meet the outcomes that this particular organisation is seeking. They recommend that you get to understand bananas first and they make you realise that bananas:
- are the world’s most popular fruit
- have been eaten in the UK for well over a century
- are consumed at an average of 10kg per person per year in the UK
- amongst many other things then your appreciation for this humble fruit can begin.
I will look in more detail at the consumption patterns for food throughout the UK later and perhaps make a comparison to Australia which has a very different breakdown on the basis of agricultural import restrictions. The Netherlands is also an interesting country to make mention of because of their large exports of sub tropicals like tomatoes and capsicum from a very densely populated, wealthy and urbanised part of Western Europe. Such places will be compared and contrasted next food post. And hopefully before then I will have made progress on my travel plans!
Nom nom nom!!! My daily breakfast.