This week a study ‘finally’ proved how much of one English supermarket’s fresh food goes straight into the rubbish tip – read the Independent‘s article here for the lowdown. Tesco might have made it into the headlines, but they represent every single supermarket chain out there, which represents every household that ever visits a supermarket.
The real surprise and disgusting fact is why this is still a surprise to everyone, and is newsworthy for all the wrong reasons. The UN ambitiously and frantically (or so they’ll have us believe) have been trying to feed the poor third world, but the problem is almost too big now, and has sprawled all over almost every sector of society, because food production is, believe it or not, tied up in everything you touch every day, without going near a meal.
Artist Christien Meindertsma created an interesting compendium of sorts called PIG 05049 which explores in pictures all that is derived from a pig. The fascinating book is devided into sections: skin, bones, meat, internal organs, blood, fat and miscellaneous. It covers everything from fine bone china to peppermints to insulin. I think this makes the pig just about the most versatile inhabitant of planet earth, but of course this work also points to other interesting issues. Check out what the amazing artist does here.
It’s a dirty chain of us wanting more, the supermarkets creating more enticing products (at increasingly lower prices), us buying more stuff (but we don’t need it), and in the case of fresh food, us then throwing it away because we bought with our eyes, and it has a short sell-by date (it didn’t cost us anything anyway).
The above paragraph of course applies to you if you live in the first world, or in a developed country – because this chain of events is, as we commonly see things labelled on Twitter, a #firstworldproblem. If you had no money, this isn’t what your life looks like, and the irony here is, no redistribution angel hands that which those with means don’t care for, to those who desperately need it, but can’t afford it.
Which ties in with a brilliant article I read in the latest issue of the Swedish food magazine FOOL.
It delivers a wealth of information on a topic where there is so much arguing/debate and conflicting information, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction from the stuff world governing bodies and corporate moneymakers want us to believe. Some of the most poignant (courtesy of the FOOL magazine article):
- the world has forgotten how unique agriculture is – it can be compared to no other industry, because it produces for basic human need, but also shapes society, culture, eating habits and of course landscape – but is now treating it like any other industry. This is killing it.
- To most people it represents a small part of industry in their countries, but the areas we cultivate our food on cover more than 50% of liveable earth.
- What the farmer in the check shirt and muddy work boots actually represents is not slight – it is our future and how we are meant to survive on earth.
- Around the world, enough food is produced for about 14 billion people (world population is currently around 7)
- But 1 billion or more people go hungry, and 1.5 billion are obese.
- Europeans chuck x10 more food than Africans do, even though a large proportion of Africans do not have fridges or proper food transport logistics.
Why are we throwing so much food away? Too much of it is too cheap. Food is now cheaper than it has ever been.
And so on and so forth. Its pretty sickening. And there’s not really a light at the end of the tunnel. The only thing that communities can do on a small scale is shun supermarkets and grow your own, or buy at farmers markets and veg markets, which I know is hard to do in practice.
But if you’ve read this far, you care a little, so try and do one thing that will help. Its going to take a lot of people to care a little, because Tesco and buddies don’t give a toss.