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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Nowadays there is much more awareness of environmental and ethical issues generally and this obviously has an impact on the foods that are available and make up our diet.
We find today that foods produced by organic means are available for purchase in supermarkets rather than only in specialist shops. Also, processed foods such as organic biscuits, sweets, wine, ready-made meals and baby foods, to mention but a few varieties of organic foods that are on offer. However, in the UK the majority of organic fruit and vegetables are imported, which is hardly considerate of the environment when one thinks of the fuel used in transporting the food over thousands of miles. Also, packaging is required for the maintenance of such foods in tip-top condition. Local economies hardly benefit from the importation of such foods and, in particular, rural producers of food may have to send their produce many miles.
With this in mind, there has been an encouragement of the concept of sustainability in food production whereby the overall environmental impact is examined. This encourages local foods to be used by families, caterers and in food production. Such an initiative means there is a reduction in the amount of fuel used. Also, foods can be used according to the season when they are harvested so that there is an ever-changing menu, reflective of the foods that are in season. Additionally, less packaging is required and local economies and employment is supported.
The concept of “provenance” is about the knowledge of where foods are obtained from including how they are grown, produced and processed, (if any processing has been done). Thus, the term “provenance” which was previously used mainly for antiques and art, has entered the world of food.
Many restaurants are profiling such local produce as a particular benefit on their menus, with chefs visiting farms to talk to farmers about the benefits of different types of species of vegetables and animal breeds for their culinary purposes.
There has also been a Government initiative to encourage caterers in the cost sector who provide foods for hospitals, prisons, schools and care homes to embrace the concept of sustainability when purchasing foods. Thus, caterers are making strides in purchasing local foods and local factories have been helped to produce food portions suitable for the cost sector. Indeed, some schools have now started to offer menus based entirely on locally-produced foods.
It is encouraging to see such initiatives occur but for most individuals, families and caterers the overriding factor that dominates their purchase is cost, with a continual demand for inexpensive foods being to the forefront of most people’s mind.