Friday, 23 April 2021

Food and climate — it’s personal

Food and climate — it’s personal

WHEN I was a girl, I used to return home from school on Tuesday with a sinking feeling. Because Tuesday was liver day — the day my mother served up grey lumps of tube-filled meat covered with thick, congealing onion gravy. I hated every mouthful.

When I left home, one of my biggest joys was crossing liver off my shopping list forever.

Food can produce strong reactions; George W Bush famously said: “I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat my broccoli.”

Climate-wise, food and agriculture is a big deal. And if we are to meet our emissions targets, both diets and farming methods will need to change. But none of this will be easy as food and eating are important social aspects of life and food habits, our likes and dislikes, are deeply ingrained.

Emissions from UK agriculture account for about 10per cent of all UK emissions and come mainly from methane from livestock and nitrous oxide from nitrogen fertiliser.

So how can you cut your carbon emissions from food? It has been estimated that by moving from a high- meat diet to a low-meat diet a person can reduce their dietary emissions by a third. Going veggie is an increasingly popular option with surveys now showing that one in eight of the population is vegetarian or vegan.

For meat-eaters like myself, going full vegan may not be an attractive option but eating a few vegetarian meals a week is easy and cheap. In lockdown we discovered a recipe for bean chilli, which has become a family favourite, and a luscious vegan peanut butter and tofu dish which never makes us feel deprived. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it

Reduce your food waste. There’s a huge environmental cost to wasting food. Gases are produced from food rotting in landfill and resources have been wasted to bring that food to your plate. If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest contributor of CO2 after China and America. Seventy per cent of the food that is wasted in the UK is wasted in people’s homes.

Henley resident Narelle Chadwick has minimising food waste down to a fine art. She became conscious of how much food she wasted three years ago while juggling a full-time job and feeding a family. She would opt for convenience and multibuys to satisfy her family of four and, despite spending a lot of money, there never seemed to be anything to eat.

She has been refining her techniques to prevent food waste ever since. Narelle now helps others to do the same and can be found on Instagram at @rellie101

Her top five tips are:

Use a three-day meal planning system to prioritise what needs to be used.

Store all your food items correctly to extend their shelf life.

Have regular fridge dives to create a curry, soup or frittata.

Look at every item as another ingredient.

Use your freezer regularly, not for the “just in case”.

Buy less and resist multibuys and supersized packs.

Meanwhile, a local farm is producing environmentally friendly beef. Regenerative farming is a nature-friendly way of farming that uses traditional crop rotation techniques and low-input ways to improve or restore soils, thus making them better able to retain water and store carbon.

Silas Hedley-Lawrence, estate manager at English Farm in Nettlebed, is passionate about regenerative farming techniques used at his farm, such as outdoor rearing of animals all year and use of a natural feed of flower-rich hay from a neighbouring farm that builds biodiversity and captures carbon in the soil.

“More and more farmers are converting to this method of farming, which works with nature to build healthy animals and soil,” says Silas.

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