How far has the food in your fridge travelled to get there? Increasing numbers of people care about the origin of the food they eat and, indeed, more than 70% of respondents to an AO survey said buying locally sourced products is important. In fact, more than 60% of people are prepared to pay more for this.
This interactive delves inside a typical fridge to look where our food is from to help you understand the journey it has taken.
Click to see inside
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Milk is a must-have in every fridge. We couldn’t have a proper cup of tea without it. It’s such an important part of our diet too – it’s a rich source of calcium and protein, and it’s hydrating as well. This means it helps prevent weight gain, keeps your bones strong, plus it’s great for muscle repair. You can even enjoy sheep, goat and buffalo milk, although this isn’t as easily bought in our supermarkets.
The UK supplies most of the milk it sells, so it doesn’t have the biggest journey from farm to fridge. But, because we rely on cows for our milk, it’s not too environmentally friendly – cows produce methane, which has a worse impact on the planet than carbon dioxide.
One cow produces around 200,000 glasses of milk in its lifetime.
Cows are more valuable for the production of dairy products than for their beef supply.
More than 60% of Brits told us they’d be happy to pay more to buy British.
Because so many of us cannot, or choose not, to eat dairy, almond milk has become super-popular. Really, it’s just ground almonds mixed with water, but it’s delicious in cereal, coffee and smoothies. If unsweetened, it’s low in calories and sugar, making it great for losing weight. It lacks vitamins though – calcium, vitamin D and E is often added to help make it as nutritious as cow’s milk. But, you shouldn’t give it to babies as an alternative – it can be quite dangerous for them.
Although the milk can be produced in the UK, almonds are mainly grown in the US and Australia. In fact, the LA Times say 82% of them are found in California. They also use loads of water, in fact one almond needs over four litres of water to grow.
Believe it or not, almond milk has been around since the Middle Ages.
It takes 72 almonds to make just one cup (262g) of almond milk.
Butter isn’t actually too bad for you. Although it can be high in fat and calories, you’re not getting all the trans-fats you’d find in margarine. It’s packed with vitamins that are great for your eyes, skin and hair. It’s available all year round, you’ll be pleased to hear, because we love using it for everything – from baking and frying to spreading on a freshly toasted crumpet.
Not only do we bring butter in from abroad, it’s also not particularly great for the environment. The Carbon Trust says that butter production creates 10 times more carbon dioxide than margarine and don’t forget the methane produced by cows.
Ancient Greeks and Romans used butter as a beauty product – they put it in their hair to make it shiny.
Vikings loved butter so much, they often requested to be buried with tubs of the stuff.
Whether you like yours fried, scrambled, boiled and poached, there are plenty of reasons to love eggs. Many eggs in our shops are labelled as free range, which means the chicken has had access to the outdoors. They come in different colours too, and that tends to show the breed of the chicken. Whichever you choose, eggs are all bursting with vitamins and minerals, and the yolk contains Vitamin D as well.
According to British Lion Egg Processors, the UK was 87% self-sufficient in egg production in 2018 - we imported the rest. We could supply all our own eggs though, we produce enough. So, it’s best to buy British when you can and this will cut emissions from transporting imports.
One chicken can lay between 290 and 320 eggs every year.
About 50% of all the eggs produced in the UK are free range.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and we can certainly see why. Not only are they packed with vitamins and nutrients but some research even suggests they can reduce the risk of some health conditions. Thankfully, then, apples have become permanent residents on our supermarket shelves. And now they’re a national favourite – everyone loves a mouth-watering crumble or tasty pie. British apples start appearing in August if you want to pick home-grown fruit for your desserts.
We have apple orchards dotted all over England and Wales. But Gro Intelligence says local apples only made up 31% of our supply in 2017. We import the rest, usually from Europe, which isn’t great for the environment. So, it’s best to buy locally, if you can.
Apples are 25% air – and that’s why they float in water.
There are more than 8,000 types of apples – it’s the biggest fruit family.
Cheese, glorious cheese. We love it. A report on Mintel says 92% of British adults eat it. And, we produce more than 750 different types of it. Sadly for our nation of cheese lovers, it’s not great for greenhouse gas emissions – it’s made using milk and cows produce lots of harmful methane. But, certain types, like mozzarella and cottage cheese, have less of an impact – and, they’re better for you too. So, they’re perfect for those refreshing summer salads and barbeque side dishes.
While we make some of our cheese our home, our continental cousins are responsible for a lot of the cheese we consume too. As well as the transport emissions, cheese isn’t great for the environment – with methane emissions from cows a big issue. To meet our demand for cheese, we imported over 14,500 tonnes of cheddar in March 2019 alone, according to AHDB Dairy.
Some cheeses are illegal in America, including Roquefort and Camembert de Normandie, because of bacteria-related safety concerns.
Believe it or not, mice don’t actually like cheese.
For many of us, summer hasn’t started until we’re enjoying strawberries and cream on a sunny afternoon. They don’t just taste great though, these fruits are full of Vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and antioxidants that are great for your health. For juicy local berries, the British season runs from May to September. Thankfully we import them all year round, but be careful - strawberries don’t ripen once they’ve been picked, so they might be a little hard and tasteless in winter.
We really love our strawberries. According to Statista, us Brits munched 83,600 tonnes of them in 2018. The CBI says the UK is among the highest consumers in Europe. For the seven months outside the British season, we tend to import them from countries like Spain, Morocco and Israel.
Romans used strawberries to treat illnesses and even used them as a teeth whitener.
The largest strawberry ever was grown in Japan in 2015 – it was 250g and 8cm tall.
71% of Brits told us they’d stick to foods when they’re in season – so most are happy to eat strawberries between May and September.
Perfect for a refreshing snack on a summer afternoon, everybody loves a bowl of sweet cherries. You can get them all year round from the supermarket but local ones are always the tastiest. They’re grown in the UK throughout July and they come in over a thousand varieties. They’re thought to be great for aching joints, and there’s even some research to suggest they can help you sleep.
Before WWII, there were almost 40,000 acres of cherry trees in England but, as of 2010, there were just 1,000 left. This means that we now rely mostly on imports from Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain. They are rarely flown over though, so they’re not too bad for the environment.
There’s a World Record for cherry-pit spitting – 93ft. Could you do better?
Only 10 of the 1,000-plus varieties of cherries in the United States are produced commercially.
There’s nothing quite like picking blackberries on a lovely summer stroll – and they’re even better baked into a delicious pie or crumble. Each fruit is made up of 20 to 50 small drupelets, and they’re best eaten totally fresh because they’ll still have all their nutrients. In fact, they’re a great source of iron, Vitamin C and antioxidants and are good for your heart and teeth.
Although wild blackberries grow all over the place in the UK, their season only runs from August to October. But you may have noticed that supermarkets stock them all year round and to do this we import them. EuroNews says Spain is our top berry supplier, providing 37.5% of imports.
Juice can be extracted from blackberries to make an indigo dye.
Tea made from blackberry leaves is a great remedy for diarrhoea.
Tomatoes were first introduced to Europe in the 16th century and in the last 200 years we’ve gone from thinking they’re poisonous, to absolutely loving them. In fact, they’re of the most popular fruits in the UK (yes, they’re a fruit). They come with a warning though – Medical News Today says they are one of the top 10 fruit and vegetables that contain pesticides, so remember to wash them before you eat them.
Tomatoes are super-easy to grow, and their season runs from June to October, so you’ll find lots of home-grown ones in gardens and greenhouses. But, Countryfile reports that 55% of the tomatoes we sell are from other EU countries. The pesticides used to protect them from bugs aren’t great for the environment either.
The Latin name of tomato - Lycopersicon lycopersicum - translates as ‘wolf peach’.
They’re often called vegetables because the US Supreme Court labelled them as veggies for tax purposes.
Talk about a superfood. Broccoli is rated as one of the healthiest vegetables, and there seems to be no end to its benefits and, in fact, it gives you lots of nutrients in very few calories. As an added bonus, it even promotes healthy complexion and hair. If you’re keen on sticking to the British stuff, our season runs from June to September, so supermarkets will be bursting with it during the summer school holiday period.
Even though we grow it, the UK imported more broccoli than anywhere else in 2018, according to IndexBox. Lots comes from Spain so, as you can imagine, the air miles don’t do the environment much good. It’s better to buy locally and freeze it, if needs be.
There’s no sign for ‘broccoli’ in American Sign Language – you just have to spell it out.
Johns Hopkins University tried to patent broccoli sprouts because they’re so full of potent anti-cancer compounds.
Not only is it tasty, but British beef is full of protein and packed with essential vitamins and minerals too. Whether you’re going for mince or steak, you’ll find the flavour of the meat is affected by the breed of cow and what it was fed with. So, you can enjoy experimenting with different types and cuts to discover your favourite. It’s advised you eat it in moderation though – some studies have suggested that too much can contribute to heart disease.
British beef has a short farm to fridge journey to make – and most of the non-British beef comes from across the Irish Sea.. However, despite low transport emissions, cows produce a lot of methane - one animal produces between 250 and 500 litres of it a day, according to International Business Times. And, it’s worse for the environment than carbon dioxide.
Because they eat so much, cows move their jaw more than 40,000 times every day.
They also produce between 50 and 75 litres of salvia each day.
Salmon is another food that’s become pretty trendy – did someone say brunch? It’s Scotland’s biggest food export – and it’s so sought-after that it’s sold at 10% above the world price, according to the BBC. The fish like both fresh and salt water, so they’re farmed at sea and in lochs, and they usually reach supermarkets during summer. But, depending on their growth, they can be farmed at various times during the year, you’ll be happy to hear.
Salmon is the UK’s most popular sea food, with one million meals including it every week. Sadly, wild fishing isn’t done any more because there aren’t enough fish, while farming can cause pesticides, waste and bacteria to get into the water. We do import a lot too – but sticking to Scottish salmon allows you to cut your ‘farm to fridge’ miles.
Scottish salmon was the first foreign food to get France’s Label Rouge quality mark.
'Salmon' comes from the Latin salmo or salire, which means ‘to leap’.
More than a quarter of Brits (25.7%) say it’s ‘very important’ to buy locally-sourced produce and only 8.64% feel it’s ‘not important at all’.
Chicken is the most consumed meat in the country. Whether you’re preparing it for a summer barbecue or a tasty Sunday roast, there’s always plenty on the supermarket shelves. We tend to prefer the white meat though, so producers often export the dark meat – that’s why our fridges are full with chicken breasts and wings rather than thighs and drumsticks. Not only does it taste great, but it’s a lean meat with lots of protein and calcium.
The BBC reported that in 2018, we only supplied 60% of the chicken we ate – the other 40% came from other EU countries. Obviously the travelling isn’t good for the environment, but slaughterhouses can create lots of waste too – this can pollute land and surface waters and affect our drinking water.
Every year, 60 billion chickens are bred for their meat.
They have pretty cool ancestors – they’re the closest living relative to the T-Rex.
Lamb is a wonderful summertime meat – just think of those delicious lamb chops sizzling on the barbecue. It’s good for you too, and is full of essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, that can help to reduce tiredness and fatigue. Lambs are at their most tender in May and June. It has a relatively mild flavour, but is delicious when it’s made into kebabs, burgers or simply cooked as chops.
It’s best to buy British if you want to cut the journey your lamb takes from farm to fridge. Some of it also makes it to the UK from Australia and New Zealand. Sheep also produce methane, which negatively affects the environment. And, a bowl of Welsh lamb cawl produces 5.9kg of carbon dioxide, about the same as driving 31 miles in a car.
The UK has a quarter of all sheep in the EU.
Sheep meat will be classed as lamb if the animal is under a year old.
Brits believe it’s better for the economy, important for the environment and is patriotic to buy British.
Fennel is packed with Vitamin C, which is great for keeping those sniffly colds at bay. It can also help to reduce inflammation, so sipping it in tea might actually help those stiff joints too. Fennel is really popular in French and Italian cuisine, where its aniseed-like taste gives meals a fresher flavour. It’s perfect when tossed in a salad, paired with chicken or added to pasta. In Britain, fennel season runs between July and August.
Though fennel can be grown in Britain, it can be tricky, because it doesn’t like cold weather. It’s popular with home growers though, and is often found in local farm shops. Us Brits tend to import fennel so we can enjoy it all year round.
Fennel is great for digestion and the immune system, so is often used for medicinal purposes.
In the Middle Ages, people thought fennel was magic. It was hung on doors to keep out witches.
There’s nothing quite like barbecued corn on the cob. It’s pretty good for you too, until it’s smothered in melting butter. It’s rich in vitamins A, B and E, and high in fibre and protein, so it’s good for your digestion and can stop you feeling hungry, which is great if you’re trying to lose weight. Thanks to corn, we can have a fun summer day out too – some farms let you pick your own, and don’t forget all the maize mazes.
Corn is one of the most popular grains in the world, and the UK season runs between July and November. We still import though – Statista shows we got 1.2 million tonnes of maize from the EU in 2016/17 and sweetcorn reaches these shores from France, Spain and Africa. Transporting this is bad for the environment, so buy locally if you can.
There will always be an even number of rows on each cob.
Corn is also a key ingredient for making fireworks, glue, paint and laundry detergent.
New potatoes are basically baby potatoes. They tend to be sweeter than fully grown ones, making them perfect for a tasty potato salad. They’re packed with vitamins which can help support all kinds of health conditions. New potatoes can also be great if you’re trying to lose weight, as they’re naturally low in fat. However, they’re often paired up with calorific cheese or mayonnaise in salads – so be careful if you’re watching what you’re eating.
We love our new potatoes, and the Guardian says there are more than eight varieties being grown in the UK. Those on our supermarket shelves can, however, be imported from Egypt, France, Israel or Spain. So, look out for fresh stock and take pride in buying British – they’re in season until July.
On average, people told us they’d pay 21% more to buy locally sourced produce.
Jersey potatoes are often grown using seaweed as a fertiliser – it makes them extra tasty!
Jersey Royals can only be grown in Jersey – they were awarded a Protected Designation of Origin in 1997.
Courgettes, or zucchinis as they’re called in the United States, are delicious sources of potassium – they have more of it than bananas do. On top of that, they’re low in saturated fat and sodium, and they’re very low in cholesterol. That means they’re great for your health. Spain is the largest producer in the world, but they’re really easy to grow, so there are loads in UK gardens and allotments where growing food is popular. Indeed, 40% of Brits wish they had the facilities to grow their own food.
The UK grows a lot of courgettes, and their season runs from June to October. But, only 33.69% of the ones we buy are grown in the UK, according to The Food Foundation. For the rest, we rely on imports from Spain and southern France.
One courgette has just 25 calories.
The flowers are edible, and they’re often used in French and Italian cooking.
It’s true – carrots help you see in the dark. Well, kind of. They’re bursting with Vitamin A, which helps your eyes work in low light but they won’t let you see in total darkness, sadly. Carrots have become a bit of a favourite with budding gardeners though, because they’re relatively easy to grow. You can get them from supermarkets all year round, but their main UK season runs from late July to October.
We manage to produce more than 700,000 tonnes of carrots each year (around 100 carrots for each member of the population) according to the British Carrot Growers Association. And, Anglia Farmer claims that 97% of what’s on our shelves is supplied by British farmers, making them really environmentally friendly for us.
In WWII, people were told pilots ate carrots to see bombers at night – so began the myth.
Surprisingly, Mel Blanc, who voiced Bugs Bunny, didn’t like carrots at all.
We’ve started to get a bit of a soft spot for runner beans – they’re super-easy to grow, they produce a lot of vegetables and they don’t take up much room. As a result, they’re becoming a bit of a favourite in our gardens, greenhouses and allotments – and our survey showed that only about a quarter (27%) of Brits don’t want to grow their own food. These veggies are in season between June and September. They’re good for you too – packed with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, while being low in fat.
When they’re in season, most runner beans being sold are grown in the UK. Only serious weather issues would force sellers to import them. In this case – and outside of their season – they can come to the UK from Africa. But they’re really easy to get straight from the producer – most farm shops have them readily available, and some farms even let you pick your own.
They’ve been a favourite in South America for more than 2,000 years.
We only started growing them for their flowers – Brits initially thought the veg was poisonous.
Avocados are the ‘in’ thing. They’re a superfood packed with vitamins, protein, fibre and healthy fatty acids, which can be great for relieving stress and lowering cholesterol. We can’t really grow them here because of the climate but, luckily for us, they’re available all year round, so you can enjoy guacamole for brunch to your heart’s content. But, because we love them so much, it’s sadly causing drought and deforestation elsewhere. Be careful with the peel as well – it’s toxic for cats and dogs.
We get avocados from California, Florida and Mexico – that’s a super-long way to travel. There’s a region in Spain lucky enough to get the great weather needed to grow them, with a season between December and May. So try to buy those instead if you want to cut your carbon footprint slightly.
Avocados ripen faster if they’re in a paper bag with a banana for a couple of days.
In Brazil, people add avocados to ice cream.
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