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A Lincolnshire crisp maker has been voted as a brand leader

Pipers Crisps from Lincolnshire has won a award for producing crisps voted by retailers themselves. Their award in the speciality food and drink category sold in farm shops, food halls and delis. The managing Director Alex Albone said their products have seen a 31% increase on year on year sales with new flavours already performing well.

Exciting Opportunity

We have an exciting opportunity here at Rookery Farm in rural Somerset. The last remaining 1200 sq ft unit on this busy site has permission for a farm shop and we are looking for someone wishing to open a business or expand an existing business with a satellite shop. Other businesses on site include an equestrian shop, a busy bistro cafe, pet grooming, crafts, antique clock restoration, photography and auction rooms. Please contact Richard or Fiona , Rookery Farm, Binegar, Radstock, Somerset BA3 4UL 01749 841464

Farming Minister admits he doesn’t know the price of milk

Dairy farmers have responded with incredulity to the admission by Farming Minister Jim Paice that he did not know the price of milk – because “my wife buys most of it”.

His comments came on the eve of a mass protest by dairy farmers over the latest milk price cuts announced by four major dairy processors, which the industry says means many farmers are making a significant loss on every drop of milk they produce.

The Office for National Statistics says the average price of a pint of milk is 46p, but it varies from shop to shop and is discounted if bought in bigger quantities.

Andrew Butler, acting regional director of the National Farmers’ Union in the South West, said: “It’s absolutely incredible that Jim Paice doesn’t know the price of milk, because he ought to, even more than any of his Cabinet colleagues. And it’s extraordinary that he actually admits it.

“He needs to do his homework by going to Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, the Co-Op, or Asda – the supermarkets that are evidently sometimes even selling milk for less than they bought it, and well below the cost of production, to steal trade from those other big retailers, who are trying to produce a sustainable price for their farmers.”

Mr Butler added: “Mr Paice needs to wake up and take more interest in this crucial issue. Farmers are amazed and appalled at his revelation – even though he was being refreshingly honest for a politician.”

In an interview Mr Paice said he supported the farmers’ decision to go to London for a summit at Westminster, although he warned against more “militant” activity by dairy farmers angry at the new cuts, which follow reductions earlier in the year.

Quizzed on BBC Radio 4′s Farming Today programme over whether he knew the price of milk for consumers, he said: “No, because my wife buys it, but I have checked with her where it comes from.”

He said their milk was bought from a local supermarket chain which was paying the higher price for milk, or from the corner shop in his village.

Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh said: “It turns out that it is not just David Cameron and George Osborne who don’t know the price of milk. The Farming Minister is completely out of touch with reality too. Farmers and consumers will be shocked that he doesn’t know the price of milk when people are struggling to pay for their weekly shop and there’s a crisis in the dairy industry.”

NFU vice-president Adam Quinney said Mr Paice’s lack of knowledge reflected what surveys by the union showed – that the average person pre-retirement does not know the price of milk accurately. What we’re after is making sure we can carry on supplying milk to consumers,” said Mr Quinney, who farms in Warwickshire.

Source: This is Somerset

UK: Northern Ireland Tesco goes local

A Tesco store in Northern ireland has become the first in the province to show off the store’s new look – Tesco Taste Northern Ireland.

The idea is to promote local produce by displaying the local people and the places behind what is on sale.

Tesco say the new look is a demonstration of their ongoing commitment to offering customers the widest possible range of locally sourced products.

Store Manager Nicola Finlay said the refresh has resulted in an even better shopping experience for customers and the opportunity to buy quality Northern Ireland produce from an increased number of local suppliers.

Finlay said: “We look forward to welcoming our customers to their new-look store over the coming weeks and we hope they will enjoy getting to know more about our fantastic array of local food and drink and the local producers who bring them to us.”


Is local food bad for the economy?

The Locavore’s Dilemma, a controversial new book by two Canadian academics, is attracting its fair share of criticism

The North American farm is experiencing a cultural renaissance, or so say the stories of urban twentysomethings swapping the comforts of the city for overalls and buckets of manure, of municipal bylaw officials debating the merits of backyard chicken coops, to say nothing of the explosion of farmers’ markets, community gardens, high-end restaurants specializing in local food, and the home-delivery services of fresh produce from nearby farms.

The push for sustainable agriculture and local food trumpeted by everyone from Michelle Obama to the Canadian authors of The100-Mile Diet seems innocuous enough as a way for us to end our dependence on a corn-based diet of junk food and soft drinks, as well as curb rising rates of childhood obesity by teaching us to appreciate how our food gets from the farm to the table.

Know your farmer, proponents of local food say, and you’ll make better choices about what you put in your mouth, support the local economy and save the environment in the process. As Michael Pollan, theNew York Times writer and champion of the local food movement, is fond of saying, “Pay more, eat less.”


Enter two previously little-known Canadian academics with a controversial new book that argues that, far from making our communities healthier and more self-sufficient, the local food movement will destroy our economies, ruin our environment and probably lead to more wars, famine and incidences of food poisoning.

The Locavore’s Dilemma—the title is a play on Pollan’s bestselling The Omnivore’s Dilemma—by University of Toronto geography professor Pierre Desrochers and his wife, Hiroko Shimizu, who has a master’s in international public policy, argues that much of the gains the world has made in food security and standards of living have come from the evolution of our food system from small-scale subsistence agriculture to international trade among large and specialized producers, the corporate-driven agribusiness that so many food activists despise.

To Desrochers and Shimizu, corporations that control huge swaths of the North American food supply—the McDonald’s and Wal-Marts of the world—have made food safer and cheaper by creating economies of scale that can help support technological advancements such as more sophisticated automated farm equipment, safer pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified seeds that produce higher yields, and more advanced food-safety practices that have cut the rate of outbreaks of food-borne illness by a hundredfold in the past century.

Food activists, they contend, would rather turn back the clock on those modern developments, close the doors to trade and return to a world where families toiled the land, pesticide- and fertilizer-free, and then squeaked by on what they could earn from selling their goods at the local farmers’ market. It’s a recipe, the authors say, for economic and social disaster.

Today’s locavores—the term for those who support local food—“don’t ask the most obvious question, which is, if things were so great in our great-grandmothers’ time, why did things change so much since then?” Desrochers says in an interview. “If it was only an educational movement, I wouldn’t have any problem with it. But increasingly, it’s becoming a way to stick it to the man. What are activists going to do when Wal-Mart offers fair trade coffee and organic food? They will have to find another way to get back at corporations.”

Local food movements have a long history, as successive generations rediscover the romantic idealism of living off the land as their ancestors did, from Henry David Thoreau heading to the woods in Walden, to Depression-era policies to turn vacant city lots into urban potato patches, to wartime “Victory Gardens.” These movements were all popular for a few years and usually floundered when government funding ran out or farmers found living off the land too difficult. Today’s movement, which Desrochers traces back to the economic boom times of the 1990s, is all well and good, he says, until the tumultuous global economy eventually forces us to spend less on groceries. “The main message we want to send to idealistic young farmers is don’t count on charity to build your business. The movement might be popular right now, but I’m not sure it will last down the road.”

Desrochers’s and Shimizu’s argument is largely a treatise on the benefits of the free market and globalization, the belief that the only way to feed an ever-growing global population is to produce more food on less land with fewer resources, which means the family farm will continue to die a gradual death in favour of corporate agribusiness.

To understand just how far we’ve come, they argue, consider that in a “short” several thousand years we’ve gone from needing 1,000 hectares (nearly 2,500 acres) of land to feed a single person to just one-tenth of an acre in today’s globalized food chain. In the past 60 years, the world’s population has exploded from 2.5 billion to seven billion, and the percentage of the population going hungry on a daily basis has dropped from 40 per cent to less than 15 per cent. Desrochers and Shimizu argue that if we were still using 1950s technology to produce our food, we would need to plow an extra land mass the size of South America just to feed the world’s population.

Take local food to its most extreme conclusion, Desrochers says—grow only food that’s truly native to North America—and we’d all be eating a lot of blueberries, seeds, squash, and not much else. The most dramatic examples of economic and social destruction from policies to promote local food over international trade, he says, include the nationalist policies of Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, and Japan of the 1930s, when rice prices rose 60 per cent above the international rate as the country pursued agricultural self-sufficiency.

Not surprisingly, an argument that compares locavores to Hitler has attracted its fair share of critics, who mostly accuse Desrochers and Shimizu of either being in the pockets of corporate agribusiness—Desrochers says the couple’s only remuneration came from their publisher—or of harbouring a personal vendetta. Shimizu was born and raised near Tokyo and the couple wrote The Locavore’s Dilemma after they took issue with a Toronto speech by a visiting professor from the University of British Columbia, in which he said Japan was one of the world’s most “parasitic” countries because it imported so much of its food. Desrochers grew up in a farming community in Quebec’s St. Lawrence Valley and worked for a time at the Quebec Farmers’ Union ferrying new immigrants from Montreal out to the countryside to pick berries. Among his biggest supporters, he says, have been people who grew up on a farm and later left it. Two of his biggest detractors have been his brother, François Desrochers, a former Quebec MLA for the Action démocratique du Québec, who represented the rural riding of Mirabel, and his father, whom he describes as a “typical Quebec nationalist who wants Quebec to be self-sufficient.”

Local food supporters say the authors have painted an unfair picture of the locavore movement by focusing on its most extreme elements. “The book is very, very manipulative,” says Debbie Field, executive director of FoodShare, a Toronto community food program that sells about 4,000 local food boxes and feeds about 141,000 children in a school nutrition program. “It does not bring us light, it is throwing oil on the fire. It’s just making things more complicated.” Field says critics of the local movement too often assume that local food always has to cost more and that all locavores are against using modern technology on the farm. “I know a lot of young farmers in Ontario and they’re some of the most technically sophisticated people in the world,” she says. “They’re not about going back to some mythical slavery past. It’s about creating new, environmentally sustainable food.”

Most local food supporters take a more balanced approach between promoting local and imported fair trade food, she says. For instance, FoodShare, which is supported by private donations and government funding, bought $1.5 million worth of produce last year, with $500,000 of it from local producers. Only about half of the food in FoodShare boxes and 30 per cent of the food sent to schools is local. This year, FoodShare included imported strawberries and apples because unseasonably warm and wet weather wreaked havoc with local crops. “I don’t want a child eating potato chips from southern California instead of strawberries and apples from southern California if our strawberry and apple crops are destroyed,” Field says. “We’re not saying, ‘Don’t eat the mango,’ but they’re saying, ‘I’m not going to eat that local strawberry, even if it’s the same price.’ ”

Among the most popular and controversial aspects of today’s local food movement is the concept of “food miles,” the distance food travels from the farm to the table, which serves as a rallying cry for environmentalists concerned over greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Desrochers calls the food-miles argument a “misleading distraction” in the debate over food policy. Research from the U.K. comparing local tomatoes with those imported from Spain showed the U.K. tomatoes, which had to be grown in heated greenhouses, emitted nearly 2,400 kg of carbon dioxide per ton, compared to 640 kg for the Spanish tomatoes, which could grow in unheated greenhouses.

Other studies have found that food miles represent just four per cent of total emissions related to food, with most of the emissions coming from producing food and from consumers driving to the grocery store to buy it. Air transportation accounts for just one per cent of food miles, with much food transported in the cargo holds of passenger jets, while marine container ships are one of the most fuel efficient ways to transport large shipments of food, Desrochers says.

Studies on food miles need to be taken with a grain of salt since many are industry-funded, says Don Mills, president of Local Food Plus, which certifies local organic and sustainable farms in Ontario. Those studies also assume that produce shipped to Canada in the winter hasn’t been kept in cold storage elsewhere, he says. Critics willing to dismiss the food-miles argument also ignore the tax dollars spent building the infrastructure to ship food long distances. “An awful lot of public infrastructure and public policy goes into food no matter how you shake it out, and that’s why you see huge money being spent lobbying by large agricultural producers to get some policy outcome,” he says.

A better measure than food miles or even food prices, he says, is the amount of energy, in fuel, put into growing food compared to the energy, in calories, that people get from eating it. By that standard, Mills says, research shows large, highly automated farms use more fossil fuel energy than small farms that use manual labour. “Small subsistence fallow farming is incredibly productive from a [fuel] calorie perspective,” he says. “There’s lots of ways to measure the world, and we may have to balance the predominance of economic measurement with a notion of energy balance.”

Like it or not, Mills says, the debate around food policy is here to stay, mostly because food represents a core part of society’s value system that eclipses the traditional economic arguments of industries such as manufacturing. “I would argue that food is different. It has a more important place in humanity and in culture than widgets,” he says. “If we can figure out issues around food transportation, around energy, around how we treat our produce with pesticides, around how we treat our [farm] labour, we’ll be well on our way to sorting through a number of other spheres as well. If we get food right, we’ll get a lot of other things right.”

Such arguments are one of the biggest dangers of the local food movement, counters University of Manitoba agricultural professor Ryan Cardwell. It’s one thing for food activists to want to spend more on groceries at their local farmers’ markets. It’s another when they push governments to use tax dollars to support local agricultural production, either through direct subsidies or through programs that require public institutions such as schools, prisons and military bases to buy and serve only local food. “My concern is when advocates of local food try and influence policy and government money and regulations to address a policy objective,” he says. “If you want to address an issue like urban poverty or greenhouse gas emissions, then you should pick the policy that best addresses them, and local food really doesn’t answer any of them.”

Another argument of the local food movement that Desrochers disputes is that local farming is inherently healthier and safer than the mass-produced counterpart, since farmers tend to use fewer pesticides and they have a duty to their local community. In contrast, he says, large corporations have brands to protect and budgets to devote to scrupulous food safety practices, compared to small farms, which usually aren’t worth suing if they cause outbreaks of food-borne illnesses like E.coli or salmonella. He cites Jensen Farms, the family farm in Colorado whose pesticide-free cantaloupes were linked to an outbreak of listeria last year that killed at least 30 people.

Large farms and food processing plants are also susceptible to outbreaks of food-borne illness—Maple Leaf Farms paid $25 million to settle claims from a 2008 listeria outbreak—but Desrochers argues they’re easier to trace and correct than illnesses caused by small farms since they generate more media coverage and government oversight.

“You see young organic farms grow their stuff in manure and bring it to the barn where all the doors are open and wash everything with a hose, all the various vegetables together,” he says. “As [Loblaw executive chairman] Galen Weston said, farmers’ markets are beautiful places, but eventually they will kill people.”

Getting to know your farmer is a noble aim, but most visitors to farmers’ markets have very little understanding that the food they buy from local growers is often not produced under the same conditions as those they can find at the grocery store, says Mary Shelman, director of Harvard University’s agribusiness program. “Most people assume you can take it home and eat it out of the bag before they wash it,” she says. “That’s actually frightening to me because people don’t respect that it actually came out of a field full of rabbits and deer and birds who aren’t too discriminating about where they take a bathroom break.” Larger commercial farms tend to have fewer problems of animal contamination because they’re required to fence off animal pathways.

One of the advantages of the decline of the family farm has been to move agriculture away from the large population centres, where diseases can easily spread back and forth between humans and animals, Shelman says. “If everyone had chickens in their backyard and there was an outbreak of bird flu, that would take care of every chicken.”

Neither, says Desrochers, is local food inherently more secure than that from commercial farms or foreign exports, as many food activists argue. Historically, societies that relied solely on their own agriculture were more susceptible to famine than those who opened their doors to international trade, mainly because if one country had a poor harvest it could always import food from a country that had a good season. Advancements in transportation—first the railway and later the airplane—have only helped eradicate food shortages and famines in developed countries by ensuring that fresh food can always be readily shipped anywhere.

Rather than closing borders or encouraging more local agriculture, Desrochers and others argue, food security requires encouraging economic development, so consumers can spend less of their incomes on food. Already the amount of disposable income spent on food has dropped from 23 per cent in 1930s America to 9.4 per cent today. By promoting less productive, small-scale agriculture, Desrochers says, locavores are encouraging a type of farming that will require huge tracts of wilderness to be destroyed to create farms in order to accommodate an anticipated doubling in the global food supply needed to feed the world’s population by 2050. As it stands, he says, each year more agricultural land is reverting to wilderness than is consumed by urban sprawl.

True North American food security, says Shelman, would mean converting large parcels of urban land to agriculture use. “If you look at all the land that is devoted to huge houses and driveways and pools in the backyard and beautiful landscaping, you can make the argument that ultimately for food security we have to be willing to give up other parts of the way we live,” she says.

Ultimately, though, Shelman says the local food movement is driven less by nationalism and more by consumers’ need to connect with their food and have confidence in how it’s produced, whether locally or abroad. That will keep the movement a potent force for years to come. “Local could mean it has to be in my backyard, or it could be local in the same sense that I have confidence in my food even if I’m eating artisan cheese that’s been produced in Ireland and Italy,” she says. “As long as I know the story, that is local. That’s really what people are looking for, somebody to put a face on agriculture and farming. We’re more confident in people than we are in faceless institutions.”


Scottish Government under fire as Hall’s meat factory looks set to close just a year after workers were told jobs were safe

A MEAT factory is set to close with the loss of 1700 jobs just months after the First Minister said jobs at the firm were safe.

In a devastating announcement, Dutch firm Vion Food revealed they plan to shut their Hall’s of Broxburn plant in West Lothian.

Last night, a multi-agency taskforce was launched to try to save the pork processing factory, whose closure would be disastrous for the local economy.

Finance secretary John Swinney said the taskforce would “look at all opportunities” for the plant and provide full support for workers.

The announcement was a cruel contrast to the last jobs news from the factory.

Only last September, Vion said they were creating 250 jobs at the Hall’s plant as part of a £20million investment. This was to be backed by £2million in publicly funded grants.

Alex Salmond hailed the package, including a training centre, as “fantastic news” at the time, saying: “The new jobs and safeguarded positions are fantastic news for West Lothian and for Scotland as a whole.”

It was confirmed last night that the company had not touched any of the grant cash.

But furious Labour politicians rounded on the SNP, who they accused of sleeping on the job.

Michael Connarty, MP for nearby Linlithgow, said: “There are serious questions here for the Scottish Government.

“They were happy to talk up the investment and make a big show of winning it. But somewhere along the line, they have dropped the ball.

“I need to know what’s gone wrong in the interim.”

Vion UK said the factory was losing nearly £80,000 a day despite heavy investment over the last four years.

Read more…


Oliver slams new school food review

Jamie Oliver has hit out at a fresh review into school dinners, warning it is time for action and not more “costly reports”.

The TV chef said he feared that the Government-commissioned inquiry is “destined to be ignored” by ministers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, the men behind the Leon restaurant chain, are to lead a review into food in England’s schools. It comes amid concerns that many youngsters are still being served unhealthy meals, and that more needs to be done to boost food standards in all schools.

Oliver, who led a campaign seven years ago to improve school lunches, raised concerns that ministers are dragging their feet over taking action.

Read more…

Source: Fulham Chronicle

Ban food waste from landfill for renewable energy, warns thinktank

The government should ban all food leftovers from landfill by the end of the decade to boost technology which can turn it into energya study from thinktank CentreForum suggested on Tuesday.

Councils should be given financial support to help them bring in separate food waste collections for households and businesses to ensure a steady supply of organic waste for anaerobic digestion, a renewable power source.

The process could create enough biogas from green waste and purpose-grown crops to power more than 2.5m UK homes by 2020, the report said.

But barriers to increasing energy from anaerobic digestion need to be removed if the technology is to be scaled up significantly from current levels where it produces enough energy to power 300,000 homes, the report found.

Currently, getting an anaerobic digestion scheme going was like “trying to win a cycle race with the brakes on,” the report’s authors warned.

Anaerobic digestion plants use micro-organisms to break down organic material without oxygen to create biogas that can be burned to producerenewable energy or injected directly into the gas grid.

But the study said the schemes often struggle to secure long-term contracts to ensure supplies of the feedstock such as food waste.

The report said that only 13% of homes in England had separate food waste collections, compared with 82% of households in Wales.

Read more….

Source: The Guardian

Scottish government awards local food scheme

The Scottish government has allocated almost £775,000 to a scheme that aims to promote fresh, seasonal, local and organic food. The Food for Life scheme will benefit from a government grant, which was announced by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead during a visit to the Royal Highland Show.

The Scottish government has supported Food for Life Scotland, administered by the Soil Association Scotland, since 2008. A major strand of Food for Life Scotland’s work is to support caterers in Scotland to achieve the Soil Association’s Catering Mark, a UK-wide certification scheme recognising a caterer’s commitment to serving good, healthy and sustainable food.

The scheme also certifies schools, local authorities and other institutions, encouraging them to source healthy, local produce and increase the focus on sustainability.

A study by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England last weekrevealed the value local, sustainable food networks have to rural region, supporting healthy diets and growing the rural economy. The report, which showed local food networks serve an estimated 16 million people each week in England alone, also revealed local food outlets support on average three times as many jobs as supermarkets, and that money spent in these outlets circulates for longer in the rural economy.

On announcing the grant, while visiting the Soil Association, Mr Lochhead said, “The Royal Highland Show is always a great opportunity to showcase Scotland’s food and drink sector. I am delighted that the Soil Association’s project focuses on health, education and the environment whilst also promoting quality fresh seasonal produce.

“Food and drink is one of Scotland’s greatest success stories thanks to our amazing raw ingredients that are produced from our natural larder. Scottish food and drink exports are at a record high and this investment will help this important industry to continue to grow and enhance our reputation in overseas markets.”

The grant is part of the Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation (FPMC) award, which has allocated support to over 130 Scottish food projects. The money was awarded to the Soil Association, one of the partners in the Food for Life initiative.

Source: Farming Online

Rapeseed’s relentless march across the country as farmers cash in after price of crop’s oil soars

Record numbers of farmers are cashing in on the soaring price of oil from rapeseed by turning over more of their fields to the crop.

The vibrant yellow flowers are now coming to dominate many parts of rural Britain.

Oil from rapeseed is commonly sold as the main ingredient in vegetable oil and used both in the home and in food production.

Demand for the oil, known as Canola in the US, has rocketed as frosts have destroyed crops in other European countries. However, it is also benefiting from the fact that it is seen as a healthy home-grown alternative to imported olive oil.

Healthy: Rapeseed oil has less saturated fat and far more omega 3 than olive oil, and contains vitamin E

Rapeseed oil contains less saturated fat and has far more  omega 3 than olive oil, and contains vitamin E. Its versatility means it can be used in to produce biodiesel, which is favoured by climate change campaigners as an alternative to crude oil.

Trade magazine The Grocer reported that the impact of the frosts on the Continent earlier this year had led some observers to predict European yields would plummet to a five-year low.

Read more…

Source: The Daily Mail



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