Brits Want UK-Sourced Organics

A few of us have debated, even argued, over the sustainability of organic produce that comes from halfway around the world (or even halfway across the country), but it doesn’t look like they’re arguing much in the UK. According to trade journal Supply Management, Brits want their organics to come from Great Britain:

Consumer power is forcing UK supermarkets to source the majority of organic produce from domestic producers.

According to the Soil Association‘s annual supermarket survey, five of the eight main food retailers now source over three-quarters of key organic foods within the UK, compared to just two of the eight in 2003.

Waitrose, which has topped the association’s league of best organic retailers since 2003, buys 89 per cent of its potatoes, apples, carrots, onions, pork, beef, chicken and lamb from UK farmers, as does Marks & Spencer. Sainsbury’s sources 86 per cent of these products locally, Tesco 78 per cent and the Co-op 76 per cent.

Tesco now buys 74 per cent of its organic pork and 71 per cent of its organic beef from UK producers, compared to 58 per cent and 52 per cent respectively last year. Asda also sources 74 per cent of beef from the UK.

The report found the average availability of UK grown seasonal organic food staples had also risen from 72 per cent two years ago, to 82 per cent currently.

According to Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, positive consumer pressure is driving changes in purchasing patterns.

“Most, but not all, of the major supermarkets have raised their game in sourcing more seasonal, UK produced organic food thanks to persistent, public scrutiny from our supporters,” Melchett said.

In a relatively small country like Great Britain, this is a very positive step forward. We’d certainly lower the energy footprint of our food if we did this in the US, too, though California produce sold in New England still packs quite a CO2 punch. It’s also great to see this level of consumer awareness about organics in the UK, something sorely missing over here. The downside, of course, is that farmers in some of the world’s poorest regions lose access to huge markets. Thoughts…?

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