A Christmas Consumer Guide to Ethical Food

Talking Turkey: A Christmas Consumer Guide to Ethical Food

Green Bean Galaxy

[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]T[/dropcap]here’s a lot to think about during the season of goodwill, family, presents, food, friends, spending and tempers but doing any of these things with a little extra thought equals more goodwill surely?

It struck me recently when ordering take away recently that in many cases it’s probably more ethical to choose meat options that come from animals that can’t be factory farmed as easily; lamb over chicken, beef over pork as in many cases the take away establishments don’t give you more information on where they source their ingredients.

In fact, in the coming convenience wars of Hungryhouse versus Just Eat or similar – there has yet to a food delivery aggregator that allows you to choose based on ethical considerations – an idea that would surely pull in more customers from its rival even on the basis that it is offered let alone utilised.

With all this in mind and coming close to the point where people are considering purchasing their stores for their huge festive spreads here’s some things to think about when voting with your shopping list.

Consumer Guide to Ethical Food

Organic foods
info on organic foods from the soil association.  

Sustainable farming
Info on sustainable farming. 

Local produce
The local product company in the UK provides information for households and restaurants alike. One of the benefits of local produce is that has spent less time in transit to get to you which reduces your carbon footprint considerably.

Seasonal Produce
Eat Seasonably provides information on what foods are seasonably available in your area. Remember seasonality affects prices so this could be a good way to eat cheaper as well as healthier!

Occasional Vegetarianism
– Not relevant if you’re a vegetarian but for the rest of us – it can be an interesting culinary adventure – moreover the environmental benefits of a couple of meat free days a week have been championed by organisations like Meat Free Mondays.

Product Labelling & GMO
The UK law on product labelling.
-The issue of food labelling is fairly complex
– GMO labelling – a list 

Humane Farming
– US : The Human Farming Association – http://www.hfa.org/
– UK : World Society for the Protection of Animals – http://www.wspa.org.uk/helping/animalfriendlyliving/foodshopping.aspx

To put why this important in context Ronnie Cummins, National Director of Organic Consumer Association in the US said earlier this year: 

Green Bean Galaxy“We have the technology to save the planet, by abolishing factory farms and industrial and GMO crop cultivation, and transitioning back to carbon ranching and organic farming, we could potentially sequester the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gas emissions, and bring the CO2 level back down to the safe level of 350 parts-per-million. That’s the number scientist say we must achieve in order to avert a climate crisis.”

Industrial agriculture spews greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere at the rate of 3,700 pounds of CO2 per year per acre. Compare that with an acre of land farmed using organic methods, including composting and cover crops. The organically farmed acre can naturally sequester up to 7,000 pounds per year of CO2 back into the earth, according to research carried out by the Rodale Institute and others.

To facilitate this transition, OCA advocates boycotting products that come from factory farms, eating more local, organic produce, and consuming less meat; requiring mandatory labeling of all factory farm-produced meat, eggs and dairy; and empowering food and farm workers, local communities, and family farmers – the people who experience the harsh realities of factory farm abuses, pollution and economics first hand – to have a greater say in how we create a green, sustainable farming system.”

Available Consumer Guides

In the US buying guides like these can lead you to making for informed purchasing choices:
Organic consumers buying guides. (Free)

In the UK sites like this provide some excellent information:
Ethical Consumer (Pay site not endorsed by Trebuchet – though they are quite completist) 

Books like these also provide a good insight into what which companies are up to.

Often the best way to make your purchasing decisions more resonant is to write an email to your local supermarket or have a word with the manager of your local store and let them know what feeds your purchase decisions and what you’d like to see more of. Everyone likes to feel that their job is meaningful and the idea that in some the products that are being displayed are helpful to their customers and the environment is appealing – especially now. It goes without saying though that this is irrelevant if no one actually buys the products so if you find an ethical winner tell your friends.

What to look for when buying ethical turkeys:

soil association

Soil Association

“ORGANIC standards offer significant welfare benefits compared with standard industry practice. The Soil Association organic standards performed particularly well in our survey, achieving the highest scores of all the schemes analysed for both turkeys and salmon.

For turkeys these standards mean free-range access, prohibition of beak trimming, provision of perches and the use of slower growing breeds. For farmed salmon, Soil Association organic standards mean low stocking densities, prohibition of mutilations and use of humane slaughter methods.”


RSPCA - label

RSPCA – label


RSPCA FREEDOM FOOD standards for turkeys cover both indoor and free range systems. These standards offer a number of welfare benefits compared with standard industry practice, including lower stocking densities, provision of indoor enrichment and a restriction on transport duration to six hours. For salmon, these standards also offer a number of welfare benefits, including lower stocking densities, prohibition of mutilations and use of humane slaughter methods.”


Label notes from: Onekind.org

Have a very merry festival season and hope you make it to the other side with good cheer and full bellies!

Photo:  SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images




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