Currently, supermarkets control a whopping 95% of the grocery market and their business model is based not on seasonality, locality or nutrition, but on the profit-driven choices of large food corporations.
This system is heavily dependant on fossil fuels and responsible for at least 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s not even that efficient – we currently put in 5 to 10 calories for every 1 calorie we get out of the food we eat, wasting a huge amount of food.
The food system is fundamentally broken. The science is clear. We can’t continue producing food like this if we are going to tackle the climate crisis and feed our communities. We need action.
That’s where Better Food Traders come in.
Why the current food system is bad
Humans are being exploited
Multinational food companies’ profits are built on low wages and insecure work, creating a system where food producers and suppliers are not paid a fair price for their produce and local small-scale food retailers are priced out of business.
This economic exploitation is faced by millions of small-scale farmers and workers in food supply chains. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The global food industry generates billions in revenues every year, but the rewards are increasingly skewed towards the powerful. Oxfam’s research report ‘Ripe for Change: Ending human suffering in supermarket supply chains’ highlights how buying from organisations that encourage short transparent supply chains where people are paid fairly can create a food system that works for everyone.
We are causing irreparable harm to our soil and the planet
Whether through resource depletion, the impact of pesticide use, industrialised monocultures, transport pollution, loss of habitat and species or through waste, the impact of our food system is devastating our environment.
Destroying our soil
More than 95% of what we eat draws its existence from soil yet we continue to encourage a type of farming that damages the earth we rely so heavily on. Soil erosion and degradation has increased dramatically due to the human activities of deforestation for agriculture, overgrazing and use of agrochemicals. Globally, 20% of land is now considered to be degraded and is not able to support us in creating the food we need.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time and agriculture has a lot to answer for. Greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector are huge, contributing to climate change and causing mass deforestation.
In addition to being a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture is also among the first sectors to suffer from the impact of climate change: many farmers, especially smallholders, have already been affected from harvests being destroyed or damaged by the changing climatic conditions. By 2050, land degradation and climate change together are predicted to reduce crop yields by an average of 10% globally and up to 50% in certain regions.
In terms of food, the way we eat, shop and farm globally and nationally has an enormous impact on the climate whether that is the carbon emissions generated by food flown thousands of miles around the world, food grown in hothouses or the new analysis that shows that globally, meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories whilst using 83% of farmland and producing 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. We need to switch to diets that include more plants as well as committing to local, seasonal eating.
Killing our species
The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report published in 2019 showed that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, largely due to land-use change driven by the food industry.
Communities are being eroded and manipulated
The real cost of our current food system is borne by households and communities who are losing touch with ‘real’ food and have become passive consumers in a top-down system from which they expect unlimited ‘choice’ but over which they have little control.
This is leading to a health crisis. Over half of adults are overweight and obese, 5% have diabetes and one third of 5 year olds have tooth decay. The UK has the 3rd highest rates of obesity in the EU.
The Food Foundation Broken Plate report, released in 2019, showed that the poorest 10% of UK households would need to spend 74% of their disposable income on food to meet the Eatwell Guide costs. This is compared to only 6% in the richest 10%.
Meanwhile 46% of food and drink advertising goes on confectionery, sweet and savoury snacks and soft drinks; while only 2.5% goes on fruit and vegetables.
We believe we can create sustainable, resilient food systems that feed us well if we work together as communities and food producers to take back control of the way food works.
By working collectively as Better Food Traders, we are able to offer a real alternative to people seeking to address the climate crisis through changes in their diet. By using our principles as guidelines, we can support those farmers, growers, organisations and businesses committed to a more sustainable food system. And feed people really well too!