Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Hormones, chemicals, equity in food prodction #foodsecurity #foodquality #foodequality

Amplify

Picture from here - click to enlarge

Some primary producers complain about Coles requirements for beef free from growth hormone but there is support as well..  Coles suppliers must also phase out sow stalls - again with a mixed response from primary producers. There is more in store (pardon the pun). Coles will also introduce growth hormone free pork - and there are complaints from the industry.

The point is that somewhere, sometime the practice has to stop.  Perhaps, in Australia, health problems have been kept at bay. Perhaps.  However, if Australian consumers want to look at really adverse scenarios take a look at Tom Philpott's article.
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The demand for ethical food is increasing among consumers.  We are not there yet.  People have to become aware of what is happening to their food whether it is highly manufactured, moderately processed as with fresh meat products, or fresh from the soil.  

Mass production of food, in the main, is not what it used to be. Chemicalised 'food ingredients' in processed food - and this can include products which consumers might consider simple.  The antibiotics and hormones which may be inserted in the meat food chain.  The chemicals in our soils and the sprays food plants are treated with.  Then there are the genetically modified and patented plant species which are detrimental to the long term interests of our food and our food security.  

And if we decide that we want food products which don't damage our food chain or ourselves, we must sit down with our knives and forks and be counted.  At this time, by and large, organic food costs more.  If consumers take more interest and express preferences for healthy food; support Coles in its attempts to deliver a better product, then consumers should be able to see some reflection in price - in spite of the warnings of farmers that hormone free meat will be more expensive.  And, if there is no reflection in price, we can ask why.  

There will need to be an economic bonus as well as a health bonus so we don't have a situation where there is a better quality food made available to the upper echelons of our community while low income families raising children find the cost of quality food prohibitive.

Price and quality must be linked to provide food equality for everyone.

I give as an example Fair Trade Coffee.  

While the use of Fair Trade Coffee has increased it still remains outside the mainstream. Its take-up rate is attributable to factors other than price.  We live in an age where many people treat their coffee like their wine.  They know where it comes from, its attributes, and which side of the hill it is grown on.  This transfers across to Fair Trade Coffee and boutique suppliers and coffee retailers.  Then there is the moral context - so the warm inner glow is not attributable to the coffee only.  Fair Trade Coffee - as well as many other ethical food products - and the demand for it has been driven, in the main, by the twenty-thirty something middle/professional classes.  Such people are in higher income brackets (often they do not have children let alone large families) and can ignore the price differential/premium price for an ethical product.

Again, I stress that this has to change.  I realise that incremental steps have to made in educating consumers and prevailing upon the manufacturers and agricultural companies.  We owe a debt to the professional/middle classes for penetrating difficult market situations.  However, if we don't take into account pricing mechanisms to make quality food available to all in terms of food equality, then all we are doing is introducing yet more high-end products to the market; adding another top drawer product that low income families cannot afford.
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