Sustainability is a huge factor in any food business and includes discovering ways of reducing waste and finding better practises to protect the environment.
Just as when going to the supermarket on a domestic level to do the weekly shop, being on the lookout for favourite products and bargains being the core concern, commercial kitchens take stock of their inventory and make food orders accordingly. Ways to reduce waste and increase sustainability probably aren’t the first things on the list of priorities. Food items are generally chosen based on particular tastes, the menu being creating and the costs involved.
Understanding more about food sustainability could help us to make more informed decisions.
Sustainability has become a buzzword lately and is still a massively important concept - here we look at why.
Why is sustainability so important in the food business?
Sustainability is a way of developing and incorporating methods to help the environment by reducing waste products whether during use or through the manufacturing process. It is the way we utilise our resources to prevent them from running out.
Nowadays, we are more aware of how the way we live affects the environment. Tackling the decline in our planet's natural resources is paramount with social trends indicating that people are becoming more attune to the products they are using and their impact on the environment.
It has been proven that over three-quarters of consumers would choose a business with sustainable processes over one without. This makes it not only a morally and socially responsible act but also a profitable one.
Sustainability isn’t just about the food
Believe it or not, sustainable food isn’t just about the food itself. There is a whole host of combinations to consider, such as where the food comes from, how the food is prepared, how it is distributed, how it is packaged and also how the food is consumed.
There are many factors at play when considering food sustainability.
How the food is used, the impact it has on the environment and agricultural factors all have to be considered, as well as the economic and health impact. Other factors include:
- Sustainable farming practices
- Low environmental impact
- Upholding animal welfare
- Protection of public health
Sustainable farming practices
The production of food needs to leave the farmer with a profit, otherwise, they would go out of business.
Profit, however, doesn’t have to come from huge sales to be measured in monetary gain, as that may also have a negative impact on the environment through over-farming. Profit can come in other forms such as benefits for the environment and also the end consumer.
Sustainable agriculture avoids the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides as well as genetically modified organisms. Sustainable farming also practices crop rotation and avoids the use of mono-crops.
When considering the effect on the environment and sustainability, the aim is to not damage the earth’s natural resources, minimising contribution to climate change – a massive global issue in the modern world.
The surrounding flora, fauna and waterways are also taken into consideration in order to minimise any negative impact whilst still producing food in a cost-effective way.
Sustainable farmers treat their animals in the most humane way possible. Allowing pastures for grazing and pens for protection, they take every animal’s welfare very seriously. These farmers aim to remove any pain and suffering from the animal, making better tasting (and higher quality) food as a result.
Public health protection
Sustainable food is nutritious and produced without using chemicals or pesticides, being healthier overall for the end consumer.
How sustainability affects employment
Sustainable employers offer employees hygienic and fair working conditions as well as a living wage - as opposed to the minimum wage. They support local businesses and build stronger relationships within the community. This, in turn, attracts a degree of loyalty from staff and customers.
How can food services such as catering and hospitality industries implement sustainability?
It is important that each individual company has a plan in place to help preserve products and reduce food waste. Food waste reduction has a positive impact on the environment. The most obvious way to reduce food waste is to ensure that every ingredient is used up completely or as much as possible, whether that’s fruit, vegetable or animal. There has been huge popularity for devising new methods to make use of elements that would normally be thrown out, such as using bones to flavour stock.
Many businesses within the foodservice industry pride themselves on being environmentally aware and the goal is to continue reducing waste wherever possible, whilst still maintaining high standards. While many kitchens already implement waste reducing processes, it is vital that others are continued to be made aware that sustainability in the food industry has a positive impact on the decline of resources.
Choosing energy-efficient catering equipment is also a crucial part of adopting sustainable practices. With advancements in manufacturing and technology, efficiency has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and will continue to do so. Many manufacturers are also addressing the methods in which their equipment is manufactured such as using recyclable materials.
How can you make sustainable food choices?
Whilst the prospect of changing your menu may seem daunting, with the right education you will see just how important food sustainability is. You do not need to make drastic changes like renewing your whole menu, but consider making slight adjustments where possible, by revising suppliers, revisiting kitchen procedures or creating specials boards.
Think about supporting local farmers where possible, reducing food waste, using as little plastic as possible, choosing sustainable sources for your meats, fish and dairy products or even growing your own fruits, vegetables or herbs.
Sustainability is an ongoing mission that will continue throughout people's lifetimes, not just in the foodservice sector but every aspect of life. With both businesses and the public, in general, becoming more educated on the effects that sustainability has on the environment, you can guarantee that sustainability will still be a buzz word in 2020 and for many years after that.