Sadly, the answer would appear to be not much as two stories in the news this week paint a bleak picture of us as a nation – especially one that has supposedly undergone a food revolution.
It’s the way the stories connect that’s really interesting. First up is the crisis facing the dairy industry. The average price paid to farmers for a litre of milk has fallen by more than a quarter in the past year to just under 24p. Some farmers are receiving as little as 15p a litre. Farmers say it costs them an average of 30p to 32p a litre to produce. Meanwhile, supermarkets continue to use milk as a loss leader and you don’t have to look too hard to find a four-pint bottle for 89p.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to calculate that this is not sustainable – in any sense. Desperate farmers agreed to call off protests against Morrisons after it announced it was introducing four pint bottles costing 23p more, with the difference in price. 10p a litre, going direct to farmers. The supermarket chain says supply of this ‘farmer-friendly’ alternative will be driven by demand.
So will the British milk-drinking public, pay the difference or stick with the cheap option? A recent poll found that most consumers would be prepared to pay more for their milk, to support farmers. Only time will tell if they really will put their money where their mouth is. Farmers Weekly published a map of farms from which you can buy dairy direct.
Britain topped a European league table this week. Cause of celebration? Er, no. It turns out we food loving Brits waste twice as much food as any of our European partners – a shameful 153kg per year, or 400g per day, 80% of which was edible, according to the report by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.
Vegetables are the most wasted type of food, with households discarding 45% of what they buy. They also waste 41% of fruit, 29% of cereals, 23% of meat and 17% of eggs.
Lead author Davy Vanham, said British families spent a lower proportion of household income on food than in some other countries, meaning they had less of a financial incentive to reduce waste. The average household spent £59 a week, or 11 per cent of total expenditure, on food and non-alcoholic drinks in 2013, the Office for National Statistics reported. In Romania where it represents 34% of expenditure, each citizen wastes less than two-thirds of the food of the average Brit.
We’ve fallen for their fashion, their dramas and their food, why don’t we follow their example on food waste? Danish families waste only 16 per cent of vegetables and fruit and 7 per cent of meat.
Vanham told Business Green magazine that better consumer education was required including encouraging people to order less in restaurants.
What we need is for people who clearly do take a keen interest in food – more than 9 million watched the series opener of GBBO 2015 last week and we out 8 billion meals out of the home every year – to just stop and think about the environmental, economic and social consequences of their actions. Food waste would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases if it were a nation. Each British household is binning more than £500 of food every year and we’re in danger of putting thousands more dairy farmers out of business if we continue to pay rock bottom prices for their product.
Sustainable hospitality businesses that are committed to investing in UK food are a saving grace, helping Britons put their passion for good food into action. Communicating what you’re doing to the dining public is vital. Give your customers the tools to value food.