Price and Predjudice

I was speaking to someone last week who tells me his brother in law has been ploughing vegetables back in because the supermarkets won’t pay him enough to make it worthwhile to harvest them.

It seems wrong, but where does the fault lie? The farmer has to take the most cost-effective route because he has a business to run. By ploughing he’s also saving the emissions that go with harvesting and he’s also incorporating organic matter into the soil.

The supermarkets? Along with farmers and the European Community they are one of our favourite villains. The French Government has just started to do something about supermarket food waste, but to be fair they are driven by the customers and if the customers want cheap food the supermarkets have to provide it. It’s like the Free Range Egg thing again. There was a time about 25 years ago when around 80% of people said they wanted non-cage eggs because of welfare considerations. Then for years they carried on buying the cheapest (battery) eggs.

So if it’s not the farmer and it’s not the supermarkets who is at fault.?

Looks like it’s me. I like parsnips, and I particularly like cheap parsnips. It suits me to buy a bag for pennies. Having said that, I made a lot of soup last year from the carrots and parsnips we bought for pig food. Those were really cheap and in soup you can’t tell the difference. I was taking them off the stack, by the way, not wrestling the pigs for them!

In other ways I’m quite responsible. Sometimes I look enviously at the more exotic or out of season veg and I admit I do buy sweet potatoes. I do, however, try to avoid Guatemalan asparagus, Kenyan beans and (in summer) Moroccan tomatoes. Although I try to base my buying decisions on air miles and nutrition these days I have previously based decisions on politics and xenophobia (as in refusing to buy French apples) when we had plenty of good apples ourselves.

So, to sum up, I compost, I grow organically and I buy cheap food from supermarkets if it’s reasonably local, seasonal and not politically abhorrent. I’m doing my best on a limited budget, though I’m not entirely logical.

The average politician, it seems to me, isn’t that bothered about sustainability and gets paid a sum roughly equivalent to the riches of the Indies (look up their multiple jobs in the Register of Interests).

No wonder they can’t formulate a logical food policy if it has to be based on me.

8 thoughts on “Price and Predjudice

  1. beatingthebounds

    It’s a thorny issue this one. Sometimes the local choice is also the best – especially at this time of year: local tomatoes, strawberries and asparagus in the shops. Three of my favourite things to eat and they actually taste like they ought to (waste of money buying them for the rest of the year). But, I’m never going to buy local avocado to add to my tomatoes to make guacamole. What do I do?

  2. Helen

    Interesting piece of writing. Food is one our very basic needs but so much of it is controlled by economics.

    It’s also hard to resist a good deal, in spite of one’s best intentions. Our local co-op sells own brand Weetabix for £1. The biscuits are plastic-wrapped. True Weetabix biscuits are paper-wrapped. So next time I need some, which am I going to buy? (By the way, I haven’t decided yet.)

  3. Julia Davis-Coombs

    Sounds like you’re doing your best to eat sensibly, with a view to how it affects the planet. I go with ‘seasonal eating’, in so far as I can, but like you, I’m not perfect at it. 🙂


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