Ethical Shopping with GOOSHING
Home » Ethical Food & Ethical Drink
GOOSHING Food & Drink
We recommend that you use local suppliers where possible - have a look at our producers list below. When you do use a supermarket try to support the most progressive ones:
  1. Co-Op
  2. Marks and Spencer
  3. Sainsburys
  4. Waitrose
more info on ethical supermarkets
Ethical Food & Ethical Drink
 

There are so many health and environmental issues which surround the production of food these days. In a world in which crops are genetically modified, sprayed with numerous harmful chemicals and forced to crop out of season, emphasis seems to have been placed on cost effectiveness as opposed to real quality.

However, GOOSHING is convinced that the future of good food lies in the hands of our small, local craft producers who tackle many of these issues. Many people argue that foods produced in modern ways are much cheaper than those produced organically or using non-GM methods. However, we end up paying a high price in terms of flavour. It is also important to consider the many ethical issues and environmental issues which accompany modern food production methods.

‘Seasoning’ is where fruits and vegetables are persuaded to crop out of season with the use of artificial stimulants. This method is also used upon animals – for example ewes are often forced to lamb early with hormone injections. Ironically, although this method means that we can enjoy our favourite foods all the year round, it inevitably results in a sub-standard quality of taste. For instance, lambs which are born early do not have the chance to feed on the fresh grass that lambs born under natural methods do. This greatly affects the taste of the lamb itself. GOOSHING therefore advises that you buy foods in season as this probably means that it has come from local suppliers - as opposed to being flown in hundreds of miles from other countries - and is less likely to have been farmed using artificial methods.

GOOSHING also recommends that you buy foods labelled as being non GM. Genetically modified foods pose a threat to bio-diversity which is incredibly important in maintaining a balanced environment. The production of non-natural species can affect the whole food chain. The threat to bio-diversity is evidenced by the fact that 95% of the world’s population is believed to feed on less than 30 plant varieties. The growth of GM grown crops may also affect local crop growers. For multi-nationals are the only ones who have enough money to spend on producing genetically modified crops. Therefore local growers may be forced to buy GM seeds from such multi-nationals, if GM food were in high demand.

It is also important, if you can afford it, to buy organic food as this ensures that you are not buying anything which has been sprayed with harmful pesticides. Also try and buy fair trade products such as this means that you are supporting companies which pay their workers a fair wage.

Modern means of farming have led to the extinction of breeds of animals and various varieties of fruit and vegetables simply because they do not suit such intensive methods. In the last century alone, we lost 20 native breeds of farm animal in this country on account of this reason. By being careful about which food products you buy, you can make a real difference. Avoid buying from the worst-offending multi-nationals such as Nestle and always try and buy from local suppliers.

ETHICAL SUPERMARKETS

Love them or loathe them, supermarkets are highly convenient and the majority of the British public uses them regularly. They hold a central place in the retail economy and have a great deal of power – over producers, consumers, and the way food is farmed and transported. While some supermarkets are a destructive influence, others are making significant efforts to use their power more benignly and conduct their business in an ethical manner.

A huge power

For every £1 of household expenditure around 49p is spent in supermarkets. And of this, 33p is spent in just the four largest supermarket groups (Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco). So, for the ethical shopper, the choice of supermarket is probably one of the most crucial decisions to make.

The first supermarkets as we know them today opened in the 19th century, when the Co-operative Movement formed a group of local retailers. Today the UK shopping landscape looks quite different, with 80 per cent of grocery shopping being done in supermarkets. As William Moyes, Director General of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Let’s be honest, life without supermarkets would be hell… What used to take all day now takes a couple of hours.’ With better value, more choice and more convenience, no wonder British consumers seem to be in love with supermarkets.

The cost of convenience

There can be no doubt that in some areas supermarkets have made a lot of progress, although this in no way excuses them for the problems they create. The four product areas below have increased in availability as a result of support from supermarkets, which have the selling power to move an alternative brand into the mainstream market. In each case, however, consumer demand has had a huge effect in getting the changes made.

1) More fair trade products

All supermarkets now sell some fair trade products – products which give a fairer price to farmers and producers in the developing world. Furthermore, most of them also have their own fair trade brands.

Supermarkets which sell own brand fair trade products: Co-op,
Morrison’s,
Sainsbury’s,
Somerfield
Tesco,
Waitrose

1) More organic products

The Soil Association says that ‘our health is directly connected to the health of the food we eat, ultimately to the health of the soil’. Organic farming refers to the growing of food crops without the use of synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilisers. Pests are controlled by cultivation techniques and the use of pesticides derived from natural sources. Organic farmers may use seven out of the hundreds of pesticides available. Moreover, animals are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers, common in intensive livestock farming.

In response to growing consumer concern about the quality of the food they eat, big retailers have made real efforts to provide a wider range of organic products.

Today the Co-op is considered the largest organic ‘farmer’ in the UK. Sainsbury’s has received its third award from the Soil Association for being best organic retailer. Both received Soil Association approval for their own-brand products.

3) Putting a stop to GM

Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods produced using plant or animal ingredients that have been modified using gene technology. The British public are anxious about the use of GM foods because their effects on human health are unknown, because releasing genetically altered organisms into the environment could disrupt ecosystems, and because genetically modified crops have been proved to be more harmful to many groups of wildlife than their conventional equivalent.

The major supermarkets have reacted to consumers’ opposition to genetically modified food and have taken measures to reduce the number of products containing GMOs. All major supermarket chains now store non-GM products, and Marks & Spencer have a non-GM policy on the whole range of their products.

4) More vegetarian products

Some people choose a vegetarian diet for religious, ethical or environmental reasons, or to save money. Others switch to a plant-based diet for health reasons. A vegetarian diet generally contains less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and includes more dietary fibre. Vegetarians have lower rates of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes. The vegetable kingdom provides all the vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fats needed for the human diet, although it is important to watch what you eat to be sure of getting the nutrients from vegetables that you miss from animal foods.

Most people become vegetarians out of concern for animal welfare. The green pastures and pastoral barnyard scenes of years past have been replaced by windowless metal warehouses, wire cages, and gestation crates in the factory farms of today. On factory farms, animals often spend their entire lives confined to cages or stalls barely larger than their own bodies. And death for these animals doesn’t always come quickly or painlessly.

Today, it is possible to find a good range of vegetarian products in our supermarket aisles. Compared to Europe, the UK has quite an advanced approach to labelling their products as suitable for vegetarians.

Local Problems

In 1985, there were over 23,000 high street butchers. By 2005, there were only 9,000. At the beginning of 2001, small newsagents were closing at the rate of one per day. Our love affair with out-of-town supermarkets means that town centres are shrinking, high streets are disappearing, and, as a result, community life is under serious threat.

It has been reported that the opening of a supermarket leads to an average loss of 276 jobs in local shops, despite claims by the supermarkets than an opening offers new positions to local communities. While Asda and Sainsbury both claim to have created 10,000 jobs during 2002, there is no getting away from the fact that the arrival of these stores led to local shops closing down. If that were not enough, supermarkets have now opened smaller stores on the high street, pitching themselves directly against independent shops. These developments are not always welcomed: the website http://www.tescopoly.org lists dozens of campaigns against proposed new Tesco superstores, including one in Sheringham, Norfolk, that has been going for over ten years.

Poor treatment of farmers and producers

In order to achieve their economic advantage, supermarkets promote industrial farming: mass production means lower prices per unit. Supermarkets use their power to knock down producers on price; so much so that farmers are frequently paid less that what it costs to produce their goods. It costs a small farmer on average 22p per litre to produce milk, but industrially produced milk costs 17.6p per litre, so supermarkets agree to buy only at this price. This induces losses for small farmers and extra profits for supermarkets who sell milk for 35p per litre on the shelf.

Therefore, only farmers producing in large quantities can survive. Farmers are in an extremely weak bargaining position, having to accept prices lower than the costs endured. Supermarkets can dictate how, where, when and for how much their food is produced, packaged and delivered. According to Corporate Watch, supermarkets ‘employ researchers to discover precisely what the average cost of production is for a particular product world-wide, then conduct auctions, buying only when the price has fallen to the lowest’. This behaviour forces farmers and producers to sell at a low price, as they do not know what price other producers are offering. This particularly threatens producers of perishable goods, who have to sell before their products go off.

In short, supermarkets are killing off many small-scale British farms by forcing them to sell animals, crops or produce for less than they are worth. They are displaying anti-competitive practices, and are linked with the closing-down of livestock markets.

In his book Captive State, writer George Monbiot illustrates this point with a case study of farmers in Brecon. He argues that, while supermarkets offer ‘improved choice’, turning nine local butchers into one big out-of-town supermarket definitely is not an ‘increase in choice’. He also refers to the underhand behaviour of supermarket chain owners when dealing with local mayors or opposition campaigners, describing them as ‘experts at the art of strategic payment’.

Food miles

Environmentalists have long been concerned about food miles – the distance food has travelled to get to your plate. Now there is greater awareness of this, and today’s shoppers are confronted with the ‘food miles dilemma’: do you choose a packet of organic beans imported from Africa, helping a local farmer overseas, but which came to England on an aircraft emitting tons of CO2 into the atmosphere? This transportation also leads to extra packaging, and means the food has been chemically treated to keep it fresh during the journey. What is even more nonsensical is when, thanks to tax-free aviation fuel, we import food we could easily grow ourselves.

The oddities of the global market, and our demand for exotic foods, can lead to ridiculous situations. In 1997, 126 million litres of cow’s milk was imported into the UK at the same time as 270 million litres was exported. Animals suffer from our desire to have all products available everywhere; they often have to be carried alive for hundreds of miles before they are slaughtered.

Another economic issue linked with food miles is ‘just-in-time’ food management. It is an operations approach whereby food is rushed to superstores only when it is needed, to save on expensive storage. This leads to refrigerated trucks doing frequent daily return journeys to farms, only collecting some of the merchandise, with a resultant increase in pollution.

Sustain, an organisation campaigning for ethical farming, warns that as road freight increases and more and more people drive to out-of-town supermarkets, is even more important to reduce the number of miles travelled by our food. It would like to see the end of air-freighted food altogether.

8 tips for your next shopping trip

  1. Only ever support the supermarket whose ethical practices you believe in – some are much better than others
  2. Reuse carrier bags
  3. Use local shops such as fishmongers and butchers as much as you can
  4. To reduce food miles, buy local produce from your local market – and go on foot or on a bike!
  5. If you are buying from a supermarket, buy locally-produced goods wherever possible
  6. Join co-operatives, which help you buy healthy food and improve community life
  7. When in a supermarket, look out for the good brands as identified on this site
  8. Choose brands that are members of the Ethical Company Organisation Accreditation Scheme, fair trade and organic goods.

The well-travelled Sunday lunch

Chicken from Thailand10,691 miles by ship
Runner beans from Zambia4,912 miles by plane
Carrots from Spain1,000 miles by lorry
Mange Tout from Zimbabwe5,130 miles by plane
Potatoes from Italy1,521 miles by lorry
Sprouts from Britain125 miles by lorry
  
Total26,234 miles

If you choose products that are in season and purchase them locally at a farmers’ market, you could reduce the total journey from 26,234 to just 376 miles!

EGGS

It is important to buy organic free-range eggs as this means that not only has the hen been fed on organic corn, but it was also able to roam around and was not cooped up in small cages as in factory farms. Organic free-range eggs also taste much better than their factory farm counter-parts. Click here for a list of local egg suppliers

CHEESE

GOOSHING also recommends that you buy organic cheese. Organic cheese is made from the milk of cows that have been fed on organic food e.g. Grass not sprayed with pesticides. Click here for a list of local cheese suppliers

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

It is important to buy fruit and vegetables which are in season as this way they are more likely to have come from a local supplier and not been flown in hundreds of miles from other countries. Buying from a local supplier also means that you will be getting your fruit and vegetables at peak natural freshness. You should also try and buy organic produce as organic production encourages clean, rich soil which is sure to enhance the flavour of the vegetables grown in it. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables is also important for staying healthy. Click here for a list of local fruit and vegetable suppliers

FISH

At the moment the main issue concerning fish is over-fishing. Therefore you should try to buy from a fishmonger who buys local fish from boats that only go out to sea for a day at a time as day boats are considered one of the more sustainable ways to fish. Click here for a list of fishmongers who endeavour to do this

POULTRY AND MEAT

Buying organic produce means that you will be buying meat which has been reared on organic food and not been injected with the growth hormones or anti-biotics that can be prevalent in factory farming methods. GOOSHING therefore recommends that you buy poultry and meat which has been labeled as being organic. We also recommend that you buy free-range products as this ensures that the animal was allowed to roam around freely as opposed to being kept in a tiny cage. Such conditions are sure to enhance the quality of the meat which you buy. Click here for a list of good local suppliers

GAME

For non-vegetarians here is a list of local suppliers who can tell you exactly where they got their game from, so no more need to worry about your game coming from dubious or confusing sources. Click here for a list of good local suppliers

FRUIT, DESSERTS, CAKES AND BREAD

When buying bread, GOOSHING recommends that you buy a brand whose parent company has a proven ethically sound background such as Warburton’s. You can find out this information by buying a copy of The Good Shopping Guide from www.thegoodshoppingguide.co.uk. When making fruit desserts you should also try to buy non-GM produce. Sugar is an important ingredient for any cake or dessert and although we would normally argue in favour of locally-grown produce over imports, a special case can be made for sugar cane because of its importance to the poorer economies of the world. It is worth buying a fair-trade brand such as Traidcraft to ensure that workers are being paid fair wages. Click here for a list of good local suppliers

DRINK

As well as being careful about which food products to buy, we can also take care when buying drinks. Not many people realize that there are many organic drinks on the market. Organic wines, beers and spirits can now all be purchased. Vintage Roots Ltd. is a company which specializes in these drinks. Fair trade drinks are also readily available.

Wine

When it comes to wine, GOOSHING recommends that you buy the organic variety. Organic wine is wine that has been made from organically grown grapes. This means that the grapes have been grown without pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Organic wine is therefore better for the planet as well as being better for us as we will not be consuming grapes which have been sprayed with harmful chemicals. Pesticides sprayed directly onto the grape skins or which end up in the grape pulp having been absorbed by the vine roots, end up as residue in the wine. Only by buying organic wine can you ensure that you are not consuming such chemicals. Good organic wine companies include Vintage Roots Ltd. (www.vintageroots.co.uk) and the Organic Wine Company (www.ecowine.com).

Other Drinks

As well as wine, you can also buy organic spirits such as Juniper Green Gin (www.junipergreen.org) which is made from organic botanical herbs. You should also try to purchase drinks from fair trade companies. By buying fair trade you will be showing your support for companies that ensure workers get a good basic wage and welfare provisions. The Cafedirect company group produces both fair trade tea and coffee. It is also important to buy from companies which have a good ethical record such as Innocent Ltd. which has signed up to E.C.O.’s Ethical Accreditation Scheme.

 

 
Get Involved
You can show your support for GOOSHING and ethical shopping by displaying our buttons, banners or text links on your own website.
more

GOOSHING Giving
To further help less fortunate peoples, animals and the environment, you can donate tax efficiently here direct to any one of our partner charities.
more

Buy the Book
Click here to buy a copy of The Good Shopping Guide - the world's leading reference book on the real ethicality of the companies behind over 700 everyday consumer brands. Get it here direct for £14.95 and with free delivery.
Ethical Shopping
Click here to see the ethical childcare code of practice featuring in The Good Nanny Agency Guide and listed at:
Nanny Nanny

Join
We encourage all our users to join the GOOSHING worldwide community - to help with the common purpose of encouraging the world's biggest corporates to behave more responsibly towards the environment, animals and less fortunate peoples.
more
Terms and Conditions - About GOOSHING - Contact Us - Sign Up - © 2004 The Ethical Company Organisation Ltd