The complex food systems of modern life have a massive impact on the health of the planet as well as our individual health and the health of communities around the globe. In the UK the food we eat accounts for around a fifth of our total green-house gas emissions and the majority of this is from the meat and dairy industry. Large scale farming, predominantly mono-crops and factory livestock farming contributes to loss of biodiversity, deforestation and soil degradation that can be irreversible. It relies heavily on fossil fuels for the manufacture of agro-chemicals that pollute the lands, rivers and oceans upsetting the natural balance of ecosystems. Our food systems are hugely wasteful – with much edible produce thrown out at every stage of the chain from production, storage, transportation, retail and consumer. Transportation of food, especially air-freight and road, contributes to global warming and this over-reliance on cheap oil impacts on future food security as oil prices increase. Highly processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt are cheap and readily available contributing to a global obesity epidemic and associated chronic diseases. The way in which food is produced and sold is often not equitable with workers doing long hours for low pay and poor working conditions and farmers not being given a fair price for their produce. Globally we produce a surplus of food per capita, although millions living in poverty suffer from malnutrition and starvation.
What is Sustainable Food and Farming?
A process of building alternative systems of food production, processing, manufacture, distribution, retail and consumption that:
- Are less energy-intensive, using energy and resources more efficiently and minimising pollution, waste and carbon emissions
- Reduce damage to the natural environment and enhance biodiversity
- Are socially equitable ensuring fair trade and decent working conditions
- Support animal welfare and protection of species
- Promote healthy and nutritious food
- Provide security through increasing local control and boosting local economies
Key tips for low-carbon, healthy and sustainable eating:
1) Eat more plant-based food – especially seasonally grown, local and organic fruit and veg, whole-grains, nuts and seeds, and pulses.
2) Waste less food and reduce packaging – up to 30% of what is brought home is wasted so only buy what you need. Learn useful recipes for making use of leftovers.
3) Eat less meat and dairy – grazing livestock are ruminant, producing large quantities of the greenhouse gas methane, and factory-farmed beef are fed on soya resulting in mass deforestation. This is an inefficient way to produce food as more energy is used to feed and maintain livestock than is provided as food. A healthy diet can be maintained by reducing the amount of meat eaten per meal and the frequency of meat meals.
4) Eat less processed food – as they tend to be more energy and resource intensive to produce and often contain high levels of sugar, fat, salt and artificial additives.
5) Where available, buy food that meet a credible certified standard– such as Marine Stewardship Council for fish, Soil Association Organic Standards, free range meat, ‘wholesome food’, Fair Trade or RSPO for palm oil to ensure products meet a high standard.
See the Livewell Campaign on WWF www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/campaigning/food_campaign/livewell_2020/
See Sustain www.sustainweb.org
The alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.