84% of our critically polarised nation agree that our high-quality, high-welfare food matters and is worth celebrating – something post-Brexit trade negotiators, government and retailers need to listen to.
It’s easy for those of us working in the food and farming industry to criticise the general public as being detached from where their food comes from and surmising that price all too often trumps provenance.
But did we actually ask the public what they think? Well, we have now.
The British Guild of Agricultural Journalists asked over 2,000 people if they would purchase food they knew had been imported, that fell below British quality standards. An overwhelming majority of 84% said no.
The will is there, and it seems to me the responsibility lies with those with the power behind what appears on our supermarket shelves to help people defend the choices they say they want to make, rather than trying to turn heads with a race to the bottom on price.
The power of a little retail encouragement is not to be underestimated. Just look at what happened when an inconsequential 5p charge was introduced on plastic bags – the accompanying media coverage, peer pressure and changes to the bag choices available to shoppers has changed habits for life.
But mixed messages about what we eat and its impacts adds to the confusion. Reducing meat consumption may have its benefits but taking an anti-farming, anti-livestock production stance, penalising British farmers operating predominantly grass-fed livestock systems and reverting to food types from the other side of the globe (from an environmental perspective) makes no sense at all.
It’s also at odds with almost 80% of adults who are proud of the British countryside and the rural communities which sustain it. I don’t think the correlation between the countryside and food and farming in Britain has escaped their notice either.
Now’s the time to back the quality of British food and promote the link that quality food has with the care our farmers take over their stock, crops and the land that carves our great British landscape – and doing it all without the air miles.