Today’s blogpost is a challenge for us all.
Take a long, hard look at your breakfast this morning.
What are you eating? Where has it come from? Whose hands has it gone through? How long is the chain between farm and fork, between soil and spoon?
This is what I’m having for breakfast this morning:
- Two chunky slices of white bread, baked two days ago in the basement of my local Co-operative store. Unfortunately I don’t know where they get their wheat from, and I have no real idea what preservatives are.
- Two hen eggs. Laid three days ago at Stepney City Farm. Collected myself. Fried in vegetable oil. I don’t really know how that’s made or where it comes from. Nor have I the faintest idea what’s in the feed the chickens eat.
- Benecol light ‘proven to lower cholesterol’ - a spread full of lots of mystical words…
- Peanut butter. I am informed it is ‘made in the UK using Peanuts from Various Countries for Co-operative Group Ltd.’ It is made from peanuts, brown sugar, palm oil and salt.
A clear conclusion from my experiment is that I don’t know a huge amount about where my food comes from. I am privileged to be able to collect my own eggs, and am glad I went to the effort to ask where my bread was baked, but apart from that I am pretty ignorant of the food I am eating. This means that I don’t know whether the flour used for my bread was grown with the help of pesticides and artificial fertilisers. I don’t know if the workers who harvested the sugar for my peanut butter were paid fair wages. I don’t know if the cows that provided the milk for my Benecol spread were treated with respect and dignity.
As it is boldly said on the sign above, if you eat, you are involved in agriculture. I would add that if you eat, you are involved in global food economy. And if you eat, you are involved in environmental issues. When we buy and eat food, we invest in systems that have the capacity to empower or to enslave, to liberate or to oppress, to respect or to squander. The food industry wields a great influence over millions of people across the planet, as well as over the health of our planet itself. The more we know about our food, the more we can ensure that we are driving this industry towards gentleness and care, and away from abuse.
So, what did you have for breakfast?