Slow food is important for UK food security

Slow food is important for UK food security as it reduces dependence on imported food and drink. By supporting local food producers we can improve our food systems, enhance our biodiversity and reduce our emissions, while at the same time preserving our food history and local traditions. 

The movement started in Italy in 1989. The UK branch has been active for decades but awareness of the organisation is still low. This may be due to the fact that it is a grassroots and voluntary organisation. Slow Food in the UK works with regional groups in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. They aim to raise awareness and lobby for change in the way we produce and eat our food.

Slow Food campaigns focus on healthy, locally grown foods that are prepared at home, rather than on unhealthy and processed fast foods. They encourage the use of local, seasonal foods. This reduces the amount of transportation, storage and artificial ripening required. 

The Soil Association’s campaign Food for Life aims to educate us on how to transform the way we eat. Their definition of good food is a healthy and sustainable diet, quality food and eating together. These are very close to the ethos of slow food. A healthy and sustainable diet includes more fruit and vegetables that are fresh and locally sourced. The Soil Association suggest we eat less but better quality meats that have been farmed with high welfare standards. They recommend eating together as a way to combat loneliness and build relationships and communities and they run programs for schools, hospitals and other public places.

Promoting slow food

Slow Food in the UK campaigns for the recognition and promotion of local foods. An example is Cheshire cheese, highlighted in an article by The Guardian called ‘Endangered foods’. “People don’t think of cheshire cheese being endangered, because they can buy it from Sainsbury’s,” says Shane Holland, CEO of Slow Food UK.

The article points out that we have a dizzying array of choices in our supermarkets with multiple brands on display. The trouble is that most of those brands use the same core ingredients. More than half the world’s cheese is made using enzymes and starter cultures from the same Danish company, says Dan Saladino, a food journalist. Only one remaining family concern makes traditional Cheshire cheese. They use their own cultures, milk from their own herd, and Cheshire salt. They cure cheese wheels in their own barns. The process they use dates back centuries.

It is important that we learn where our food comes from, how it is produced and what is involved in processing it. Slow food is better for the environment and has a lower impact. Local, small scale farmers using organic and biodynamic methods produce food that has a smaller carbon footprint and supports biodiversity. 

Buying from local producers also supports the local economy. This can reduce our dependence on imported foods and the huge carbon footprint that transporting food around the globe produces. Producing more of our own food also improves our food security, as we can feed more of our population without importing food.

The slow food movement competes against big brands that produce fast foods and have the money to advertise it. But, as consumers become more aware of the environmental impact of industrial agriculture, they can choose to support the slow food ethos and influence the big brands to change.
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Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.