Have you ever wondered how we got to a place where we have little idea of how the products we consume come to be on a shelf at our supermarket? How many underpaid hours contributed to its production? What would it look like to understand where our food comes from?
Coffee is a great example, the Fair Trade versions don’t cost much more than their less ethically friendly counterparts. Fair Trade tea is also easy to come by. But when I went to a large local supermarket yesterday, I couldn’t find Fair Trade cocoa! I wanted to bake ethically friendly cookies to go with the Fair Trade tea, coffee and chocolate I offered as part of the Oxfam’s Biggest Coffee Break that I hosted on behalf of my church. I settled for Fair Trade drinking chocolate in place of cocoa (it is mostly cocoa and a bit of sugar).
But if I, who cares (and thinks and reads) about social justice and am firmly on the ethically friendly bandwagon, cannot find the simplest of products in the Fair Trade variety, how will any normal shopper? Don’t we want to make it easy to buy, because the more people buy it, the less they have to charge for it?
Free-range eggs are no longer so prohibitively expensive that almost anyone can afford to choose them over the others. (Please don’t get me started on free-range vs factory farming, I have this notion that if I must steal an animal’s produce then they must be able to frolic and be treated humanely, I can’t stand that I share a country with people who think it is ok not to treat an animal humanely!)
However, these lines of thought have led me to question how society came to a place where we don’t know how an item on our supermarket shelf was produced? A society that used to farm, garden and cook our own food! Did you know that there are people (way underpaid people, who have no other means for survival) that have to hand peel the coffee beans? I can imagine the pain in their hands after long hours doing this task—thirty year old, sun-browned fingers twisted with premature arthritis.
Possessing the opposite of a green thumb and not being allowed my own chickens, my solution is to try to eat more locally. Ideally, I will find a farm to buy my produce and eggs from directly. I also plan (eventually) to phase out meat completely.
In the meantime, here are five small things we can do to make a difference to our planets, our animals and ourselves:
- Buy only free-range eggs
- Buy only Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate
- Buy local—at a farmers market or local farm
- Stop buying meat that is not free-range (I admit that this is much easier in New Zealand)
- Get informed: Read about the impact that factory farming has on our planet and the stress levels and antibiotics in the animals (that we then consume); read about the health benefits of eating whole, local foods; read about Oxfam’s work; my guess is, if you really know what is going on, you will probably rethink many of your choices. You can get a headstart on reading about simplictiy here.
picture of freerange or happy cartoon hen and a nice looking cup of coffee