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Brexit: a chance to fix the food industry?

The EU Food & Farming policy for the last 30 years has been to subsidise farmers, and the industry, to provide all EU consumers with cheap and plentiful food.

This has resulted in cheaper food but a MAD Food industry where:
– farmers on average only get 9p in every £1 spent on food in the supermarket
– milk is cheaper than water in some shops
– some children think chips grow in trees
– many small farms have sold up and even the most efficient would lose money without the £2.9b annual CAP subsidies.
– most consumers are buying cheap meat from factory farms and wilfully ignoring the low animal welfare and dangers of antibiotic reliance.
– More than two-thirds of UK adults are considered to be overweight or obese

False teeth by the age of 12?

False teeth by the age of 12?

– millions of tonnes of food are wasted
– over half the staples (grain, soya, maize) that could be feeding us, go to cattle, pigs, and poultry. By 2050, on present trends, the world’s livestock will consume enough to feed four billion people.

Perhaps Brexit is a chance to fix our, UK, Food Industry.

So what do we want? And how can we change a £120b industry?

First, in simple terms, the objectives.

We need:

1. Farmers to get a higher percentage of every £1 spent on food. This will encourage them to grow food for local people, for flavour, and the environment
2. Consumers to be enthused about food and where their food comes from.
3. Consumers to make healthy and responsible choices. We need to build on the Jamie Oliver effect!
4. Government to legislate and subsidise correctly

Yes. Legislation and subsidies because we have gone a long way in the wrong direction. Consumers have been disconnected with where their food comes from with marketeers constantly telling them to make the wrong choices. And 5 million years of evolution mean our bodies, via hormones, tell us to eat the wrong food, like more sugar and carbohydrates.

Tasty. And really good for them.

Tasty. And really good for them.

So, how do we achieve the objectives?
1. We must start with schools. Our children must be educated about food all through the school curriculum. Including growing food in a veg patch & cooking. They need to be enthused about good healthy food and influence their parents to change. Please read more and sign our petition click here
2. Provide tax breaks and subsidies to encourage farmers to sell direct to consumers, or to collaborate and sell direct. Therefore reduce the supply chain to give producers a higher percentage of the retail price and allow consumers to trace where their food has come from.
3. Tax unhealthy foods like sugary drinks, trans fats and fast foods
4. Subsidise community agriculture and community food programmes
5. Increase animal welfare standards
6. Tax the use of antibiotics in factory farming
7. Provide a level playing field for organic and non organic farming so that hidden costs such as removing pesticides from water are charged to those responsible
8. Make sure funding is directed towards future UK food & agricultural needs. This includes rare breed livestock to add diverse animals, that can thrive solely on grass, if required. Plant breeding and research to offer an alternative to laboratory GM crops.
Fresh salad crop at rogersparkgardengroup.org

Fresh salad crop at rogersparkgardengroup.org

We welcome more suggestions to add to this list so please feedback below.

If this issue is not dealt with and the food industry gets even worse the nation will become even more unhealthy.

The Brexit battle bus suggested that the current EU funds should be redirected to the NHS. In our opinion if the food industry continues its current trend much more than £2.9b farm subsidy will be needed by the NHS to deal with a very unhealthy population. And if farming is not supported our countryside will suffer and the nation will become heavily reliant on imports.

80% of people say they want local food so let’s get our food from our green, pleasant and fertile land, not imports, factory farms, plastic packets and fast food delivery mopeds.

Comments

  1. Hugo Pickering says:

    Great article and some good facts and suggestions in there, but where did the following statistic come from: “80% of people say they want local food”? Is this a government survey or one you carried out?

    Many thanks

    • bigbarnblog says:

      Hi and sorry not to reply sooner. The 80% figure came from an article I read when I set up BigBarn in July 2000. If you search Google there are a number of other surveys that back this figure up.

      When I started BigBarn the figure was 80% want to buy but only 20% were doing so regularly. BigBArn is about increasing the 20% figure.

  2. PJ Lightning says:

    Unfortunately Brexit will be reducing the country’s income, not ‘freeing up EU funds’. I also take issue about the ‘wilfully ignoring’ part. Many people can’t afford to pay the prices for ethically raised meat. I certainly can’t. I either buy cheap or go without.
    THAT’s why so many people are obese: because the cheapest food is the unhealthiest, while the healthy (and ethically produced) food is too expensive. As you yourselves say, the EU has been subsidising farmers to provide cheaper food, but we are about to lose those subsidies and we haven’t ‘freed up’ ANYTHING to replace them.
    When we lose the subsidies, I can’t see things improving for farmers without also making things worse for the poorest. I agree about making it easier to sell directly to consumers and if we stopped wasting so much before it even reaches the shops, AND after it reaches them, then food prices could still reduce and things improve for farmers.
    As a consumer, when the price of something goes up, my consumption of it goes down. For example, I love your raw milk, but there is no way I could afford it more often than as an occasional treat, UNLESS it became possible to buy it in smaller amounts locally as needed, and even then, it’s very expensive per pint so I probably wouldn’t buy it often.

    • bigbarnblog says:

      Thanks you for your comment and sorry you take issue about the ‘wilfully ignoring’. This came from a professional food marketeer who counted this trait as one of the main reasons they managed to sell such high quantities cheap, low animal welfare, meat. I applaud your go without.

      I am afraid I take issue with your belief that the cheapest foods are unhealthy. I can buy fresh seasonal veg locally cheaper than the supermarket and cook a much cheaper meal than an unhealthy ready meal. Hence my belief we need to change the curriculum and get kids growing and cooking healthy food.

      I started BigBarn when I realised the onions we grew on the farm went from £110/tonne on leaving the farm gate, to £850/tonne (equivalent) on the Tesco shelf. In simple terms what we need is to shorten the supply chain, so that, in the case of our onions, the farm gets £200/tonne and the consumer pays £400/tonne. Both would be better off. The farmer encouraged to grow more produce and the consumer to cook using fresh local ingredients.

  3. Ruth Turk says:

    Yes, it amazes me how many people have no idea about where their food comes from and how it is treated (or not). I just spoke to my daughter’s boyfriend about antibiotics in meat and he was amazed, didn’t think it could happen! The big problem is that the food industry has so much money to spend advertising and fighting any criticisms – like the tobacco industry and drug companies. Could we start a petition to get the Government to implement your suggestions? I shop mainly at a local farm (I am so lucky to live near a biodynamic farm) and spent less per week on food there than I do when shopping at Sainsbury’s. The main difference is that from the farm I come home with enough food for a week of meals, when I go to Sainsbury’s I seem to come home with lots of stuff but not much to make into meals!

  4. Jacqui says:

    I would rather have less if a good safe food than that which is unhealthy and dangerous in larger amounts! If we buy locally we cut out the middle man and the producer of good foods gets more profit. Let’s get back to basics, stop poisoning ourselves and trust our local farmers!

  5. John says:

    Hello, just come across your very useful web site. It would be nice to think that something useful would come out of Brexit, rather than us just doing what the owners of most of our press have campaigned for 40 years for their own benefit. I would just like to add one comment on your article, I think most of what I hear negative about Europe actually refers to predominantly British or English problems rather than European ones. Based on my experience of working across Europe for 30 years I think your 4 items listed under “needs” are already met in many Eu countries eg very obviously in France and Italy. Every French village has local shops supplying local produce. A fee years ago I drove from bottom of France to top on the motorway once and every motorway stop had local produce and didn’t see one American fast food chain. From memory the first motorway stop I went into in UK (on the same journey driving to the North) had either 3 or 4 American fast food chains. I also believe we have highest penetration of chain supermarkets in Europe(?). My European friends all have much greater interest in food than is general in UK. I understand that the UK government has generally been the hardest one to convince in the EU re banning various insecticides etc. I also understand we have the highest percentage of obese people in West Europe. So it would be nice to think we would suddenly move from being among the worst in Europe on these things to being among the best but I can’t see any reason why it will happen as it was our choice to follow the route we have gone down.

    Irrespective I will continue to reference your web site and well done for starting it!

    • bigbarnblog says:

      Hi John I completely agree that we need to get as enthused about food as the French, Spanish and Italians. The Jamie Oliver generation are getting there and the number of food and cooking programmes on TV should get more people cooking and looking for better ingredients. And why we are constantly adding to our local food map and getting those listed to tell their story. I am convinced that we can get much further towards more people getting enthused and demanding local food if we get the curriculum changed to include food and every school to have a veg patch.

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