These thoughts are brought to you after digesting “The virtues of the table, Julian Baggini” and my own research.
- McDonald’s isn’t such a baddy
- Michelin-star restaurants love Nespresso
- Tea is the new coffee
Interdependence and independence
Based on my pop-knowledge I was interested by the argument that organic or local are not necessarily superior to their counterparts. Baggini proposes an interdependence of food systems that goes against the ‘community selfishness’ that can pervade solipsistically minded local food projects. For example, is rhubarb picked 200 miles in Lincolnshire less local that tomatoes picked 200 miles away in France? And nor are the nutritional benefits of organic any better, “organically and conventionally produced crops and live-stock products are broadly comparable in their nutrition content”, so says the Food Standards Agency.
Specialisation and diversity
There is also a case for stick to what you do best. Whilst it may be possible, growing Swedish bananas in poly-tunnels is a waste of resources. Far less impactful to ship them over from Cameroon. The argument becomes more interesting when you look beyond traditional uses of land. The Wee Tea Company are Scotland’s first tea business, with a tea plantation in the Highlands. Conditions are comparable there to the tea gardens of the Himalayas and demand is going through the roof for their product. In Scotland there is a chronic age problem within agriculture with a young farmer somewhere in his/her 40s and an average of 70+ common on many farms. Diversification of traditional practices is key to making farming attractive for newcomers and if Scottish why not French or Irish or Portuguese tea too?
Corporate food tech
The big R&D budgets of multi-nationals can have benefits at all ends of the food chain. McDonald’s has invested in its ‘Range Enrichment Programme’ which has been backed by research to provide superior welfare than organic farms for chickens. And its eggs have been free range for 15 years.
I was also surprised by the popularity of Nespresso by top foodies worldwide. Over 100 Michelin-star restaurants use the capsule coffee machine worldwide. Apparently it’s all in the consistency and ease of use. Nestlé’s global footprint from coffee smallholders to espresso-tech has been put to effective use.
The future tech of food faces the challenge of adapting to a shrinking world and a growing population. Exciting times ahead!