Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

An unhealthy attitude to food is behind nation's bulging waistline

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

The recent revelations concerning dodgy practices in the food industry are hardly surprising given the manner in which supermarket chains have been driving down the price of farm produce for decades.

There comes a point where you cannot continue to grow quality produce if the price keeps falling and I feel that supermarkets must share a lot of the blame for putting undue pressure on producers to deliver ever cheaper foodstuffs.

The entire horsemeat scandal is probably one of the best things to have happened in recent decades for it just might wake up the public to the benefits of eating fresh, wholesome, healthy food, sourced locally and without being bulked up with additives and preservatives.

Fresh food does not cost more if one shops wisely and wastes nothing.

Those of us who grew up on farms in the 1950s and '60s learnt from an early age the habit of never throwing away food or, indeed, anything else that could be reused for another purpose.

Perhaps it is because we were only a few generations removed from the threat of real hunger and that at least some of our great grandparents would have seen the tragedy of the Great Famine of the 1840s.

Or maybe it is just an inherited bit of rural wisdom that nothing that could be reused should ever be wasted.


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Nowadays this practice has been dressed up as something new and is called recycling but most of my generation learnt in our childhood that items like string and paper should always be put aside for later use and surplus food fed to chickens, dogs and pigs.

There were never many leftovers anyway, other than some potato and turnip peelings and such like.

Leftover meat from a roast chicken or joint of beef or lamb was eaten cold later or recycled into pies and casseroles.

Children's clothes were handed down from generation to generation, as were the more costly items such as prams and bicycles, along with basic goods such as cooking utensils and simple furniture.

Nowadays, regardless of one's income, it is almost considered shameful to push an old but serviceable buggy or have one's children in "hand me down" clothes.

Wilful waste makes woeful want and when we consider that 40pc of food sold nowadays ends up as waste, maybe it's time that saying was also recycled.

When next in a shopping centre take a look at the hugely expensive new buggies that are being wheeled around and at the wasteful packaging that surrounds almost every product.

Take a good look also at the food items that are being purchased and how so many of them could be had for less by sourcing the individual ingredients locally and maybe also grow some at home.

There is widespread public alarm concerning the safety of processed food but whatever became of home economics and the basic skill of cooking? Doesn't anyone bake bread anymore or cook a stew?

The cheaper cuts of meat from the local butcher are now ignored in favour of readymade meals that go straight from the packet to the oven.

The result is that obesity has become the new Western disease as overweight children and their parents waddle from shelf to shelf and then heave themselves and their purchases into their cars to go home and watch TV while the supper is being heated up.

And this is supposed to be an era of austerity.

It would appear that the people who buy those expensive readymade meals with all their additives and preservatives are the very ones who then complain the most about the cost of living.

They don't seem to realise that if they visited their local butchers and veg shops they would be sure of the source of the ingredients and could cook a healthier meal at home for a fraction of the cost.


A friend told me of a conversation he had recently with his niece who was living on the single mother's allowance in a flat courtesy of the Irish taxpayer.

She was complaining about the difficulty of making ends meet and especially the price of one of those sugary cereal concoctions that her child liked.

My friend suggested she try making porridge which is perhaps the healthiest and cheapest breakfast going.

"I wouldn't eat that muck," she replied in an instant.

This sums up the attitudes of the younger generation who seem to have no idea of the value of money or the health benefits of eating fresh wholesome food.

Irish Independent