Grocery Shopping in Australia – 5 steps for a healthier and more sustainable industry

As a country we have a very rich history of farming, with over 130,000 farms covering almost 61% of Australia’s landmass. Each year we produce enough food to feed our fellow Australians, but also export to many countries worldwide.

This is sadly an increasingly difficult industry to be involved in, as the lure of cheaper produce sends our retailers chasing the higher profits to be found in imported food.

This guide will aim to educate you on several easy ways to support Australian farmers and get the freshest produce on your plate.

There are many arguments as to why people should endeavor to buy locally sourced, locally produced food. The first being that we should all endeavor to support our economy wherever possible, importing produce for it’s higher profit margin is ultimately a step backwards as it throws away the demand for the produce already grown by Australian farmers. It has been estimated that if we redirected just $10 per week to strictly Australian owned and made products, it would create over 100,000 new jobs and save us around $4b.

The importing of fruit and vegetables uses a massive amount of resources. The carbon footprint of a locally grown product is far lower than that same amount of product, which has been shipped across the world in refrigerated storage.

The further these supermarkets go to get unsustainably low priced food, the more dependent we become on those prices. It is much harder to switch back to regular priced items once the customer is trained to expect the lowest possible cost. We need to realise that what Coles and Woolworths is doing to the food industry is not only greedy, it’s doing damage that will be very difficult to repair once the farmers have been destroyed whilst trying to facilitate this unsustainable demand for cheap food.

 

1. Be aware of the origin of your food.

Checking where a food item was grown/produced is an incredibly easy exercise that simply promotes thinking – thinking about where your money is going and which industry you are enabling. This doesn’t mean that all foreign food should be avoided; there are always exceptions. This simply means taking the time to find out the details and make your own responsible choice. Australian grown produce is always clearly labeled as such, so buy locally whenever possible!

 

2. Think twice about buying from the big two supermarkets.

Coles and Woolworths have had a questionable relationship with Australian farmers, and a worrying impact on the health of our local food industry. Be mindful that although they are convenient, they are focused on profit, not the state of the food industry in Australia. Together, they share more that 70% of the Australian market.

They have come under fire in recent years for their ruthless buying strategies. Using their overwhelming market dominance to demand lower and lower prices from the Australian farmers, many of which claim is unsustainable.

 

3. Investigate Farmers markets in your area.

These are a great celebration of health in the Australian food industry, many of these farmers markets are popping up all over the country. This is a great way to buy direct from farmers – excluding any third party from driving up the price of the food.

A lot of this food is grown organically, and nearly all of it is locally grown. Although this generally does require a small element of travel to and from the market, this is the most effective way to ensure what you are getting is in fact locally grown.

 

4. Look into getting your groceries delivered.

This is a brilliant way of ensuring you are participating in a healthy food industry. One of the reasons that Coles and Woolworths are so successful is that they are very convenient. For a lot of people, buying at other grocery stores can be difficult because of location or transport constraints. This removes all of those constraints. Not only are they very competitive with their prices, it is made even easier than supermarket shopping. These delivery places are very vocal about the origin of their food, and provide more information about the growing standards and conditions – this makes it very easy to ensure that the food you are buying is grown in an ethical way. This is also an easy way to buy certified organic food too.

 

5. Remember – price isn’t everything.

Although this field guide to change has given advice on sourcing locally grown produce, it is important to remember that sometimes buying the cheapest produce is creating a market for an unsustainably produced product.

 

Consumers in Australia must realise that they are the key to a healthy industry. Each dollar they spend is another vote for either the dangerously profit-driven market we see today threatening to take over our food industry, or for a sustainable and healthy sector for all of those involved. Following at least one of the 5 steps outlined in this field manual does not demand much effort, but the benefits are great for our fellow hungry Australians. We have one of the most self-sufficient food industries in the world, it benefits us all to keep it that way.

 

References:

1. Why buy Australian owned (n.d) retrieved June 10th 2013, from http://www.dicksmithfoods.com.au/why-buy-australian-owned

2. The Beast files – Woolies and Coles (2010) retrieved May 4th from http://www.abc.net.au/tv/hungrybeast/media/beast-file-woolies-and-coles/index.html

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