Sunday, 8 January 2012

CHALLENGE: Best of British – Eat Local

It began with a debate
My family were eating dinner. My sister and father had fish, whilst my mother and I had vegetable fingers. I pointed out that their cod stocks are being heavily overfished and commercial fishing had a devastating impact on the environment.

My Dad said that was all very well, but what about the damage caused by the Mediterranean chickpeas and American haricot beans we were eating? The food miles would be in the thousands for each item on our plates!

Food miles
How much of what is on your plate is actually local? We eat food from all over the globe without a second thought; bananas from India, sugar from Brazil, peanuts from China. It travels thousands of miles, often by air, to reach shops while it is still fresh.

The government estimates that food transport to and around the UK accounts for around 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. That's more than the entire carbon output of several small countries!

The Challenge
I decided that for a week I will eat only British produce. This means no cane sugar, no tea or coffee (even Tregothnan tea, grown in Cornwall, is blended with imported Indian leaves), no peanut butter and a whole lot of label checking. Only things that are grown in the UK or made of 100% British ingredients are allowed.

I started on Thursday and found the challenge to be a lot harder than it sounds! I'll write more about the difficulties of it tomorrow!


Scarlet said...

I buy British meat and cheese, and eat seasonally - it's the best that I can do, particularly on a limited income. The meat and cheese is produced locally so few food miles are involved. I enjoy tomatoes, salad leaves, courgettes and soft fruits from my allotment, but once they are gone I don't eat them again until we grow them the next year - I refuse to buy imported ones as the taste is inferior. Eating seasonally makes you appreciate the taste of things much more - it's how things were when I was young, and we didn't see a stawberry from one Summer to the next. You can get British sugar - I bought it in the supermarket, but can't remember which brand it is. I can imagine that only eating British would be very limiting - no olive oil, tea or coffee, bananas,pineapples,peaches,nectarines, chocolate, most things containing sugar, lots of nuts, dried fruits, rice and those are just the things off the top of my head. I look forward to reading about your endeavours.

Bryallen said...

You are right, Silverspoon makes sugar from sugar beet, rather than sugar cane, which grows in the UK. :) This discovery was the highlight of my day! Haha!

lizzie said...

I am quite confused about all this. I grew up in England in the 40s and 50s and we had NZ lamb, bananas and oranges which always came into the shops around Christmas time. Also sugar and tea which were imported and Fray Bentos corned beef was a staple in our house. It is true that we only really ate seasonally - certainly no strawberries at Christmas but I would say about half our food was imported. My favourite was South African tinned cling peaches !

cumbrian said...

Think you'll struggle, but best of luck, looking forward to a full report next week.

Meanqueen said...

It will be interesting to read how you get on. I try and eat British and whatever is in season. Sometimes I might get peaches or nectarines if they are cheap, and grapes only if they are cheap. There is always english veg available so not a problem there.

saving for travel said...

I think it's about doing as much as you can.

This is an interesting challenge and i'll read it with interest.

Good luck.

Sft x

Anonymous said...

Wow, that definitely is a challenge! I imagine I'd probably just live on cheese for a week :)

Linda said...

Be careful that the beets are not Round Up Ready, from Monsanto. The beets will be full of Round Up. Plus, beet sugar has an off taste in coffee, tea, or in, all the time. I never buy beet sugar even though it is much cheaper than cane sugar. Of course, I live just about 200 miles from sugar cane in the US. Do you have pecan trees in the UK?

Bryallen said...

The sugar beets are grown in the UK, and we don't currently grow any GM crops here, so they won't be round-up ready.

Don't think we have pecan trees, no. We have hazelnuts!

Pamela said...

Wow, this sounds like quite a challenge!

Frugal Down Under said...

Don't forget to try and urban/country forage on your aim for local. So many "weeds" were eaten in the past. Maybe some elderly folk in your region may have some old stories of what they ate back in the past.

When I go to France my mum shows me some items that they ate when they were poor. To me it's all good local nutrient rich foods. Even stinging nestles are a good food source. But none of them would eat it now. They all buy products from other countries at the supermarket.

The worst thing is countries are starving while we eat their foods that are exported to our lands for a pittance.