Posted: 10/03/2020

“Food intellectuals are now asking: Is sustainable really sustainable?”

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I can’t keep up. The sustainability debate twists and turns like an primetime TV thriller. We’ve gone great guns (no animals harmed, obviously) with our green theatre content at this year’s Fine Food Show North only to find out that food intellectuals and twitter trolls are now asking an unexpected question:  Is sustainable really sustainable? 

Let’s unravel that. We’ve covered almond milk, bees and honey in this column before. Not straightforward. Palm oil has been similarly maligned on this page. But the latest rainforest anti-hero is soybean. Soybean as animal feed grabs all the headlines because we eat too much meat (I would actually argue too much badly sourced meat). But read the small print. It is also used in many plant-based and dairy replacement products.  

I don’t claim to know where the big fast food chains and supermarkets source their tofu dip or vegan fritters from, but I do wonder how genuinely good these things are for people and the planet.

Back to FFSN in Harrogate. Melissa Hemsley will give us some genuine steer on what eating green is, as she demos recipes from her new book and the Sustainable Kitchen session will certainly be able to answer retailers’ save-the-planet questions. I bet you’re getting a few from informed and ill-informed punters. Local can be sustainable and Steph Moon and Chris Bury will be serving up the best from Yorkshire and Lancashire respectively. For the sake of balance, we also have a full-on, full-fat blue cheese from the USA – a chance to taste the current World Cheese Awards champ, Rogue River Blue.  

Flicking through the show’s exhibitor listing there is still plenty of premium booze, coffee and charcuterie. Not obviously sustainable, I grant you. But I’d happily grab a Red Poll from a farm a few miles from the Yorkshire Event Centre and parade it around the show. If you know where it’s from, how it was fed and how it was killed, it is more sustainable than most things that claim to be. 

This story appeared in the March issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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