“People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped by influence, by power, by us.” (Wendall Berry) (1)
Supermarkets yield way too much power! Instead, smaller local stores and markets may be more ethical, more eco-friendly, and a healthier alternative!
The first reason for shopping at local greengrocers or farmer’s markets is that your money does count even though you are only one person. The small business or the major supermarket chain will be supported by your services. Supermarkets have a net worth of billions, as opposed to small businesses which would be a successful business if they earn 20k annually. Supermarkets “rake in a staggering £7 out of every £10 spent on the high street” (2), and “Tesco has nearly a third of the whole of the UK’s grocery market” (2). The wealth and power of supermarket chains cannot be denied!
This substantial amount of power can be used unjustly. Action Aid has researched “three countries (that) illustrates how the pressure on suppliers to deliver more for less is passed on to workers in the form of low wages, job insecurity, and a denial of their basic human rights” (3). In contrast, smaller sellers will likely have less pressure for cheap prices and efficiency, so, consequently, there will be less demand on suppliers. This would entail fairer treatment for workers in terms of price and working conditions. Maybe supermarket prices being cheaper is not the favourable option if you want to be an ethical shopper.
Also, buying local and seasonal produce is considerate and healthy for two main reasons. Firstly, it is more mindful because it is another step to protect the planet! In terms of carbon emissions, supermarkets not only fly lots of food from abroad but “the big supermarkets transport it around the country to be processed and packaged before it reaches the customer. Smaller regional supermarkets are more likely to source food, process it and sell it within the same region” (4). This means that less Co2 emissions are probably used by smaller stores, and even if you do want exotic fruit, this will probably not be processed and packaged across multiple locations around the country. Most small fruit and vegetable stores use minimal packaging, so another way to protect the environment is to use some reusable eco-friendly produce bags and kick out the plastic from your life!
The importance of buying local and seasonal produce also links to health. Toxic chemicals that harm health may be used less due to the shorter shelf-life of local and seasonal produce resulting in less likelihood of certain preservation methods. A synthetic product called “SmartFresh is now used on a wide range of fruits and vegetables in over 26 countries, including the UK, US and Australia” (5, 6). This may seem an ideal way to preserve vegetables, but the health effects suggest otherwise. SmartFresh contains 1-Methylcyclopropene which affects the visual system and requires protective clothing during handling (7). This chemical must only be detrimental to health!
The damaging health effects of the chemicals and the other factor of shelf life display that supermarket produce is less than nutritious. Their nutrient value decreases as fruit and vegetables are stored for a longer time.
“Keeping apples in storage for a long period of time is bad because antioxidant activity in apples fade away after three months of storage in the cold. Therefore, a one-year-old apple in the storage will have no antioxidants left in it whatsoever” (7).
It is not only antioxidants; research suggests that the nutrient value of many fruit and vegetables has significantly decreased over time which may be due to production methods.
“The evidence for nutrient declines began to accumulate in the 1940s with observations of (environmental) dilution effects on minerals in many foods and diverse other plants. Recent studies of historical nutrient content data for fruits and vegetables spanning 50 to 70 years show apparent median declines of 5% to 40% or more in minerals, vitamins, and protein in groups of foods, especially in vegetables. Although these apparent declines in individual nutrients may be confounded by systematic errors in historical data, the broad evidence is consistent with more definitive studies and seems difficult to dismiss.” (8)
Fruits and vegetables that are local, seasonal, and brought at the local greengrocers will have been in storage for less time meaning higher antioxidant levels, more nutrients, and a lower likelihood of the use of synthetic preservatives. It is also likely that fruits and vegetables brought in smaller stores will have had altogether fewer toxic chemicals on them than supermarkets!
“Foods from local growers may contain less (or no) pesticides. Farmers have to pay an extra fee to become certified organic. Some small-scale farmers use organic methods but aren’t certified because they simply aren’t big enough to be able to afford the certification fees. Even if they aren’t organic, small farmers tend to use fewer chemicals than large, industrialized farms.” (9)
The quality and the taste of the vegetables and fruit are often better at smaller stores due to the factors mentioned! I recorded my groceries from the local greengrocers over 14 weeks:
– Week 1: red potatoes, shallots, a mushroom mix, limes, bananas, oranges, kale, and squash.
– Week 2: oranges, bananas, broccoli, squash, herbs, mushrooms, pomelo, and romanesco cauliflower.
– Week 3: kale, leeks, red cabbage, sweet potatoes, bananas, mushroom mix, limes, apples, pomegranate, passion fruit, and tomatoes.
– Week 4: mangoes, celeriac, herbs, kale, red potatoes, beetroots, apples, broccoli, squash, and pomegranate.
– Week 5: bananas, carrots, swede, red potatoes, apples, beetroots, lettuce, celery, kale, leeks, chard, and cucumber.
– Week 6: mushrooms, carrots, cranberries, kale, tomatoes, squash, apples, oranges, herbs, leeks, beetroots, and avocado.
– Week 7: mushrooms, red potatoes, apples, squash, kale, pineapples, watermelon, red cabbage, mangoes, satsumas, bananas, and limes.
– Week 8: satsumas, chard, kale, herbs, squash, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, apples, and tomatoes.
– Week 9: mushrooms, mangoes, red potatoes, satsumas, avocadoes, zucchini, apples, pineapple, watermelon, kale, and herbs.
– Week 10: Red potatoes, mushrooms, avocadoes, leeks, squash, tomatoes, kale, oranges, and apples.
– Week 11: lychee, cherries, limes, pomegranates, apples, sweet potatoes, pears, satsumas, zucchini, and peppers.
– Week 12: apples, mangoes, satsumas, papaya, grapes, tomatoes, red potatoes, sweet potato, limes, mushrooms, avocado, broccoli, and pineapple.
– Week 13: chard, kale, zucchini, broccoli, peppers, pomegranates, avocadoes, mangoes, cauliflower, and kiwi.
The price each week was between £15 and £25, but the last 2 weeks at an only organic store was £35. I also ate grains, legumes, nuts, and some extra fruit. I highly recommend getting plastic-free bulk foods from websites like https://www.realplasticfree.com/ or zero waste refill stores.
In terms of nutrients, I tried to include a range of greens, a range of starch-based foods, and lots of mushrooms with vitamin D for healthy balance during the winter months. Greens are full of essential micronutrients like calcium, iron, and vitamin K. Meanwhile, starch-based foods like squash and potatoes help you to feel satiety whilst also providing key nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins. During the winter, starch-based foods are also warming. An (unsponsored) app that I highly recommend is ‘Meal Planner’ which allows you to create a meal plan for each day and a shopping list for each week.
This was before I did a fruit detox which I also highly recommend!
“The devil ain’t got no power over me.” (Bob Marley) (10)
(1) Woodiwiss, C., 2012. Wendell Berry’s Earth Day Speech: ‘People Who Own The World Outright For Profit Will Have To Be Stopped’. [online] Thinkprogress.org. Available at: <https://thinkprogress.org/wendell-berrys-earth-day-speech-people-who-own-the-world-outright-for-profit-will-have-to-be-stopped-5bb42709abd1/> [Accessed 28 April 2020].
(2) Savage, M., 2007. The Big Question: Have Supermarkets Become Just Too Powerful In Britain? [online] The Independent. Available at: <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/the-big-question-have-supermarkets-become-just-too-powerful-in-britain-403010.html> [Accessed 27 April 2020].
(3) Hearson, M. and Eagleton, D., 2007. Who Pays? How British Supermarkets Are Keeping Women Workers In Poverty. [pdf] London: ActionAid, pp.1-80. Available at: <https://www.actionaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/doc_lib/actionaid_who_pays_report.pdf> [Accessed 27 April 2020].
(4) Hickman, L., 2004. Fruit And Vegetables. [online] The Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2004/jun/24/ethicalliving.ethicalmoney> [Accessed 27 April 2020].
(5) Lockhart, S., 2017. Mad Diet: Easy Steps To Lose Weight And Cure Depression. 1st ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
(6) Get The Gloss. 2018. The Ugly Truth Behind ‘Fresh’ Fruit And Vegetables. [online] Available at: <https://www.getthegloss.com/article/the-ugly-truth-behind-fresh-fruit-and-vegetables> [Accessed 27 April 2020].
(7) Robinson, J., 2017. 1-Methylcyclopropene — Toxicity, Side Effects, Diseases And Environmental Impacts. [online] Naturalpedia.com. Available at: <https://www.naturalpedia.com/1-methylcyclopropene-toxicity-side-effects-diseases-and-environmental-impacts.html> [Accessed 27 April 2020].
(8) Davis, D., 2009. Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence? HortScience, [online] 44(1), pp.15-19. Available at: <https://journals.ashs.org/hortsci/view/journals/hortsci/44/1/article-p15.xml> [Accessed 27 April 2020].
(9) Honeycutt, E., 2017. Why Buy Local Food? It’s Healthier For You And Better For The Environment. [online] Food Revolution Network. Available at: <https://foodrevolution.org/blog/why-buy-local-food/> [Accessed 27 April 2020].
(10) McIndoe, R., 2020. Bob Marley’s 30 Most Memorable Quotes On What Would Have Been His 75Th Birthday. [online] Inews.co.uk. Available at: <https://inews.co.uk/culture/music/bob-marley-quotes-lyrics-songs-75th-birthday-death-1390257> [Accessed 28 April 2020].