The Real Cost Of Unethical Food

Posted On
June 25, 2012
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While most of us realise that we are fortunate to live in New Zealand, the extent of that good fortune can sometimes be difficult to comprehend. There are many ways in which sourcing food for ourselves can harm others – even if we may never know who they are until we delve further into the matter. This unethical food is a difficult issue to navigate safely, as the world’s food production and agricultural industries are steeped in exploitation and harm. Here in New Zealand, however, there are ways we can do our part to help restore the balance and make the world a more ethical place.

What Constitutes Unethical Food

  • Unfair treatment of local workers. Many of the third-world countries that produce popular food products such as coffee and chocolate have no means of contesting the conditions and prices they are offered.
  • Damage to endangered habitats. Products like palm oil – used in common brands of chocolate – are sourced by felling the habitats of native, endangered animals such as the orangutang.
  • Cruelty to animals. Even in our own country, animals are needlessly hurt and abused to get the quickest, cheapest product.
  • Excessive energy expenditure to produce. Agriculture requires an enormous amount of energy and pollution to produce something that ends up only benefiting those who can afford it.

How You Can Make Ethical Choices

It is difficult to ever escape the system of unethical food completely, but fortunately there are some simple choices the average New Zealander can make if they would like to create a more ethical lifestyle.

  1. Buy locally sourced food. Many cities and towns in New Zealand will have weekly farmer’s markets, where you can pick up both raw produce and handcrafted food items that have been made and grown ethically – also helping the local economy.
  2. Utilise organisations such as Trade Aid that offer a range of products that have been produced under fair conditions. In particular, chocolate and coffee can be bought to ensure the farmers receive a fair price for their crop.
  3. Seek out and support local cafes, delis and restaurants that make a point to sell ethical food. Ethical food is typically more expensive than non-ethical (to cover the labour at non-exploitative prices) but think of it more as paying what that food is actually worth.
  4. Only eat free-range animal products, if at all. Most farms that produce ethical meat and eggs will now say so on the packaging, so it’s fairly easy to make an informed choice. The farming of animal products requires a huge energy expense however, so for those serious about an ethical life style, it’s worth considering giving them up entirely.

Identify and boycott unethical food. For people who cannot afford to buy ethical products but still wish to make a difference, boycotting a brand that uses harmful ingredients such as palm oil sends a good message to the manufacturer.

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