What is Sustainable Food?

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What do you mean by 'sustainable food'?

Organic? Free range? Fair trade? Outdoor Bred? Low on air miles? British-grown? If you're anything like me the list of labels on food can seem as endless as it is confusing. That's why I like to use the word sustainable for me it signifies that the food is good in as many ways as possible and I like this definition on the Sustain website (The Alliance for better food and farming) and I follow the principles they have identified for choosing good food.

"Good food - should be produced, processed, bought, sold and eaten in ways that provide social benefits, contribute to thriving local economies that create good jobs and secure livelihoods, and enhance the health and variety of both plants and animals (and the welfare of farmed and wild creatures), protect natural resources such as water and soil, and help to tackle climate change."

Read on to find out more about Sustain's good food principles.


1. Aiming to be waste-free

It's a hot topic right now, cutting down food packaging, buying just what is needed (not too much) and composting the bits you can't use all help to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. That's a good thing because the energy used to produce food and food packaging creates a carbon output and it makes no sense to throw them away, not to mention the human effort put into growing that food in the first place. In addition, when that food and packaging hit the landfill they give off harmful gasses as they decompose, contributing yet again to environmental problems. 


2. Eating better and fewer animal products

Eating less meat and dairy products is better for your health. Meat and dairy aren't unhealthy but if you're eating less of it you're likely eating more vegetables to compensate and that can only be a good thing.  

In terms of the environment, it takes a lot more land and energy to produce animal products than it does to produce vegetables. With a growing population and a planet under strain, a meat-rich diet is unsustainable. Cows in particular also produce methane (when they fart) which is a greenhouse gas that is about 21 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide in terms of it's ability to trap heat into the earth's atmosphere.

The animal industry is also associated with, over-medicating and animal cruelty. Buying organic or welfare-certified meat is a no-brainer for me. Spend more money on good quality animal products but buy them less often. It really can make a difference. You might even end up spending less money in the long-term.

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3. Buy local, seasonal and environmentally friendly food

This benefits wildlife and the countryside, minimises the energy used in food production, transport and storage, and helps protect the local economy.


4. Buy fairtrade products

Ensuring a fair deal for producers will make you feel good about what you're eating. It will also help to sustain smaller producers and stop larger companies monopolising the market, which will be better for you in the long run too. It doesn't have to have the fairtrade symbol on it. If there is another way of ensuring that the supplier adheres to fairtrade principles, then use that instead. 


5. Choose fish from sustainable sources

Fish stocks around the world have been hugely exploited and are dangerous low. Many species of fish are at risk of becoming extinct. Choosing fish that have been approved by the Marine Stewardship Council is a good place to start.


6. Getting the balance right

I have a feeling that a lot of people in the UK, don't really know what a real balanced diet looks like. It's likely that most of need to cut down our sugar, salt and fat intake. Even if we pay attention to these things, it is easy to miss added sugar as an ingredient in processed foods. 

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7. Grow your own

If you've grown it, then you know where it comes from! There's also something about gardening that's just great for the soul :)