Ethical eating a global food trend

It's time to think about the ethics of your eating habits.
It's time to think about the ethics of your eating habits. Ingram Publishing

IF YOU love fast food, fast cars and fast women, you can probably skip this story.

Then again, maybe it's time to get up with the 21st century and one of the world's biggest food trends.

It's called ethical eating and it's already seeping into a hamburger chain near you!

That's because more people want to eat eggs, meat or chicken that was raised or killed humanely or to know that the people who grew the coffee they buy were fairly paid.

Think words like organic, fair trade, free range and more.

One ethical trend that is apparent in several communities around Australia are people who prefer to shop at farmers' markets.

They are locavores, people who eat locally grown foods and support local businesses.

Locally grown food uses less packaging and there is no need for shipping, airfreight or cold storage, says Sarah Johnson, Green Home program manager for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The fewer kilometres food travels, the lower the greenhouse emissions, she says. It also generates income for the local economy.

We also have plenty of vegetarians and vegans, people who don't eat meat, or who shun animal products including eggs and dairy altogether in our shires.

Meat is the agricultural product with the greatest impact on climate change by far, says Angela Crocome, author of Ethical Eating.

Grazing and growing crops to feed livestock now consumes 30% of the earth's land surface, according to the Environment and Development Initiative, and it is also water intensive.

Fair trade fans are the ones who want to know that growing the coffee beans for the latte they are drinking hasn't meant destruction of rainforest or exploitation of Third World workers.

According to Fairtrade Australia New Zealand, fair trade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.

Fairtrade certification standards also prohibit the use of forced and abusive child labour.

Shoppers around the world spent $6.75 billion on Fairtrade certified products last year, according to figures recently released by Fairtrade International.

If you're an aquatarian, a vegetarian who eats fish, or an omnivore who doesn't eat meat but only fish, you may already know about sustainable seafood.

It's all about eating species that are in good supply and avoiding buying and eating others.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, a quarter of global fish stocks have been overfished and a further 52% are at maximum capacity.

Eating farmed fish may seem a better option but farmed fish eat large quantities of pellets made from small wild fish, stressing wild populations, says Angela.

The Marine Stewardship Council for Asia Pacific recommends you go to and look at the fisheries status reports which list overfished species.

Fish to avoid include several types of tuna, warehou, silver trevally, redfish and orange roughy.

If you're concerned about "dolphin-safe" tuna, or endangered turtles, look for the council's certification label on canned fish you buy too.

Organic can mean lots of different things although it is supposed to mean that things have been grown without the use of chemicals.

But if you are an organic eater, and want pure products, you really need to look for some certification such as NASAA Certified Organic - see

Right now, the definition of free range is in flux.

The Choice consumer group has asked that there is one, standard definition of free-range for chicken so consumers are not confused.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also taking submissions on the standard and is also considering a definition of free range for the egg industry.

Sarah says the best idea is to have your own chickens for eggs or meat, buy them from a neighbour or get them from a local food co-op.


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Topics:  food lifestyle

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