Supermarkets provide us with a wide selection of groceries from around the world. Thirty years ago the chances were that if you were watching cookery programs on TV that you were going to find it hard to get hold of some of the ingredients.
Now there are fresh groceries, spices, wines and specialist products from all over the world, right at your fingertips.
The cost of food has also fallen dramatically over the same period. In 1980 the average family spent twenty eight percent of its income on groceries, now the average family only spends eight percent.
We all want cheap food and we would all like to have fresh produce, but are the underlying costs too high?
Britain was once famously referred to as a nation of Shopkeepers. I wonder what they would call us now?
The largest supermarkets weald a kind of power that can only be likened to that of Kings. They have changed the face of British agriculture and in turn the shape of the countryside.
They have all but done away with the practice of trading locally to the point where some small rural towns have been killed by them.
So why should we worry about it? Is it just progress that we should accept, or are we allowing ourselves to become totally at the mercy of the Supermarkets? I think that it is the latter and I think that if we do not change our ways we will bitterly regret it.
Just consider for a moment, if the supermarkets closed their doors because of some unexpected event. Day one,a bit of upset, a few people wandering around, scratching their heads because they had run out of milk or fags.
Day two, a bit of flapping. Everyone descends on the local Spar or the Indian mini market and clears them out.
The big one would be day three. The doors would be smashed in and the supermarkets cleaned out and absolute pandemonium would descend upon Britain, because by day three, most people would have run out of food at home.
Okay, I know that sounds a bit extreme but it does demonstrate the fact that most people are totally dependent on Supermarkets for everything.
What makes them so dangerous is their power over producers. You can almost blame them entirely for the decline in traditional farming and growin methods. A subject which deserves it's own blog and will get one soon. Meanwhile, here are just a few things to consider..........
This is how most of us would imagine chickens. Nothing nicer than to see a few hens scratching around a farmyard. Thanks to the likes of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall & Jamie Oliver, we now know that it is not how our table poultry is reared.
They are instead, kept in cramped conditions as in the picture above. The mortality rate is very high and their entire life, (which is usuall less than twelve weeks), is spent like this.
I live in the countryside & I pity the Farmer of today. Gone are the days of the Smallholder. The farmer of today has become an over worked, under paid Agri Businessman, jumping through hoops for DEFRA & the Supermarkets.
The price that Farmers are paid for milk is around 16p per litre. The average cow grosses around £1000 per annum. Take off the cost of rearing and keeping the animal and it is barely in profit. That is why dairy farmers have to have such large herds. The only way that they can survive is to play the numbers game.
I will come back to the cow, but meanwhile lets look at the pig. Take a look at this link. It is horrifying. The implications of intensive pig farming are extremely far reaching. I am not a Veggie or a tree Hugger, so I am not sourcing my info from a biased perspective. This is for real and it affects us all. http://www.pigbusiness.co.uk/
A very honest piece of Video Journalism by Molly Dineen helps understand the problems facing modern day farmers. It points the finger directly at the Supermarkets for a range of ills that have befallen the people who live & work in the Countryside.
A cautionary note for anyone easily upset. The film contains some strong images of animal suffering and also deals with Foxhunting primarily.
Lie of the Land
Another video for you to watch is ‘Farm for the Future,’ a wonderfully filmed and passionately presented comment on the state of British agriculture by former wildlife camera woman Rebecca Hosking.
Some people are very clever at putting across the message. I take my hat off to this lady. When you have watched this film you will come away a different person.
Farm for the Future.
Interview with Joel Salatin
If you are interested in making a start on surviving the future there are lots of things you will need to change.
A good place to start is by growing your own vegetables.
Everyone can think of an excuse not to bother and the most obvious one is the fact that vegetables at the moment appear to be cheap. Well as most gardeners will tell you, they are even cheaper when you grow them yourself and they certainly don't come any fresher, but most of all, the road miles are zero.
Another famous excuse is time. The simple answer to that one is, make time! I know that initially preparing a piece of ground can be quite labour intensive, but once that is done and you start to become organised, there need not be more than about twenty minutes work per day for the average sized family veg plot.
If don’t have a garden then there are still options open to you. Container gardening is very easy and can be extremely rewarding.
Allotment gardening is gaining in popularity. Many local authorities are now making land available for people to get together and grow their own veg. The good thing about that is that people can inspire and help one another and it can promote a healthy sense of friendly competition, whilst helping to develop a sense of community as well.
One of the most exciting schemes of late has been Landshare, which is helping to put people with land in touch with people who need land for growing and more.
SHOPPING LOCALLY OR PERHAPS MORE ACCURATELY, ‘TRADING LOCALLY!’
For many of us nowadays, it is easier said than done to shop locally because the Supermarkets have almost won the battle for our custom outright.
There was never any real need for that to happen. Small shops have always had to get a lot of their groceries from large wholesalers. They were just offering us a service by using their knowledge of local people to decide what to stock.
When I was a child living in Yorkshire my parents would send me with a note to the shop, then on Friday morning a box would arrive with everything in. If there was something that they couldn’t get, there would be a note to say that there was something else as a replacement.
There are I am sure, plenty of shops that would be only too willing to do the same, but it is going to be hard work getting people out of the habit of going to the Supermarket where everything is under one roof.
I suspect that one of the reasons for the success of supermarkets was that some shopkeepers simply took their customers for granted and were not prepared to step up to the challenge when the Supermarkets started to gain momentum.
I have to admit that the shop in my own village is one such business. The sign on the shop window says, “Happy to see you, Happy to serve!” and it couldn’t be further from the truth.
The proprietor looks as though someone has pinched his dinner and can barely be bothered to look up when he takes your money.
His vegetables are sad & wizened & a lot of the so called ‘Fresh Produce’ is out of date.
The proprietors van has a sticker on the window blaming the ills of his trade on the Supermarkets. Well take it from me. It’s people like him who have given it to the Supermarkets on a plate.
I know it isn’t easy to completely avoid Supermarkets. There are people who do, and good luck to them but they can be cutting their nose off to spite their face.
In the next village to me there is a nice little grocery shop. Very friendly people, but not stupid either.
Often as not if I have to go into Tesco I will see the lady from the shop getting her shopping at the next checkout. I wish I had the money and the contacts to give Tesco a wide birth altogether, but I am not quite there yet.
By the way, the lady from the local shop is Scottish so that might explain it.
DIFFERENT BREEDS OF ELEPHANT
There are several species of Elephant, not just Supermarkets. Elephant dodging can become a bit of an obsession.
DIY Superstores are a favourite ‘pet hate’ for me. Because people are so gullible, these stores have managed to take business away from an array of, once familiar small businesses, from Builders suppliers, Gardeners supplies, hardware shops, Timber Merchants, decorators supplies to name just a few.
The worst thing about these Superstores is that they are so keen on trimming away quality to increase profits that a lot of the things people come away with are sub standard, imported rubbish.