Food consumption

I think it’s the way I’m wired – the geographer and social activist in me (I assume also the Holy Spirit!) keep prodding the rest of my conscience to confront ethics issues regarding food production and food consumption. Also my geographer/envrionmentalist friends. There’s really no escape anymore!

I’m still struggling with the complexity of it all. Ethical food production and consumption intersects with so many enormously difficult issues that the world has been trying to get its head around for years – including climate change, the pros and cons of globalisation, the pros and cons of capitalism and best practice in environmental management. On top of all this I have been working on a project about food insecurity among low income Australian households at work. The few people I have spoken to so far are in dire straits – and the situation here is nowhere near as bad as what is going on in the horn of Africa!

It’s hard to know what to do, so since the start of the year I’ve been taking little baby steps. I have been making slow and subtle changes to what I eat and where I buy my food. At the moment I’m trying my best to:

– avoid all Coles and Woolworths branded products
– buy food from places other than Coles and Woolworths where possible
– buy as much locally sourced fresh food as possible
– cut back our meat consumption
– avoid imported seafood

Maybe someday I will have enough of a grasp of things to be a better advocate of ethical food consumption. In the meantime I am very thankful to Luci, who has recently finished a sweet series of blog posts on Voting with your fork. (That link will take you through to all of her “food” posts). I have also found a couple of neat resources that I think you should check out if you want to explore this issue yourself:

Oxfam’s GROW campaign provides a helpful and simple summary of the different issues contributing to global food insecurity.

GoodFishBadFish is a quick reference tool where you can select any fish available in Australian shops and restaurants to see whether it is at risk of being overfished. It’s a great tool for finding out the most sustainable types of seafood to eat, and it also suggests alternative species if you are really hankering after something that it endangered. (Good news: Octopus is a “better choice”!)

Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a Yiayia who grows her own vegetables and gives the extras to me!

Yiayia with lettuce and her new broccoli plant


6 thoughts on “Food consumption

  1. ringsandcoffee

    I kind of skimmed the voting with your fork articles. Good thing I don’t like seafood anyway, which was interesting on my Massachusetts vacation. Anyway, I mentioned this to my roommate, and said that I personally have to start with trying to eat healthy. If I think about food production ethics, I might go crazy.

  2. Anonymous

    Unfortunately, even if you avoid Coles and Woolies, most independent groceries are supplied by the one wholesaler, Metcash (%16 share), who are pretty nasty too. Once you take out Aldi, whose parent company in Germany has all sorts of accusations against it. There isn’t much option.
    Hooray for your yiayia and all like her!
    I think people who have never lived in an apartment don’t know what a privilege it is to have a vege garden
    Mike W

  3. Anonymous


    Ethical food consumption- More of it I say! But then again you knew I’d say that.

    I just spammed your/Matt’s twitter (in response to him saying he was reading this) about checking out a talk I went to at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Opera House the other night. They filmed it so it will surely be up on their website soon. It was by American author Jonathan Safran Foer about the ethics of eating things from factory farms- it was coming off of his book, Eating Animals, written a few years back about the struggle he went through after his son was born to reconcile ethical eating especially as relates to factory farming (ultimately he became a vego- though he hates people labelling themselves). He advocates not that people necessarily become vego/vegan (though he thinks that is the best reponse) but that people be more aware of farming practices.

    The avoidance of Woolies and Coles, and ethical supermarket shopping is VERY hard! Especially as many of the small supermarkets (in particular Aldi) have their own ethical issues, and you suddenly have very limited food options as Woolies/Coles have monopolised all the good food options (GRRRRRR! very the difficulty).

  4. birdienl

    Very interesting post about a subject I’m also thinking about a lot recently. I’ll definitely try to read the ‘Voting with your fork’ articles when I’ve got a little bit more time, they look very good.

    I think a lot of the food problems we (the Western world) have (or have made) come down to how industrialized food has become. How many steps there are between food production and food consumption. Many people don’t think about where their food comes from because they have absolutely no idea how it is produced. So education on that subject is, I think very important to make people more aware of the problems we’re creating with our style of food consumption.

    1. Alison Post author

      I agree with your comments about education – I think many people would eat differently if they were aware of where their food came from and how it arrives on their plate.


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