Category Archives: Food Sourcing
The Office for National Statistics confirmed last year what British beer drinkers have been complaining about for the past decade. Over the last ten years, the price of a pint has risen by more than 30%.
In May 2009, you could buy a pint for £2.81 and as of March 2019, the price was £3.67 on average. However, this varies from city to city: a beer in London was more than double in 2019 (55%) of the price of a beer further north.
A survey by St Austell Brewery’s Proper Job IPA also revealed that the perfect pint should:
- have a head of 9mm,
- be served in a ‘proper’ pint glass preferably at 5.30pm on a Saturday,
- with a partner or best mate in a beer garden accompanied by a bag of crisps and
- a singular lack of mobile phones!
However, this may all be academic in light of various issues encircling the brewing industry. The first is climate change: over the past few months globally we have seen severe drought, rising temperatures and epic floods. All have a substantial effect on barley yields worldwide impacting the supply used to make beer. They also affect all the other key ingredients.
Don’t think you’re safe if you drink wine…combining long-term records with global data, researchers have suggested that if temperatures rise by 2°C, the regions suitable for growing wine grapes could shrink by as much as 56%. Stoke that up by a further 2°C and 85% of those regions would no longer be able to produce good wine.
In addition, there has been an ongoing constant battle with the tax burdens facing the pub industry. UK Hospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls spoke about the issue of rising prices overall across the trade. She commented “costs continue to increase for businesses. So it is no wonder that the average price of a pint continues to climb. Even with the scrapping of the beer duty escalator, many businesses have no choice but to pass costs on to customers.”
Rise of Independents Affects Style
Also affecting British beer consumption is consumers shifting from mass-produced, low flavoured lagers from well-known, well-established beer companies to quality independent beers from craft brewers. A recent report points out a considerable growth of the no- and low-abv category. This registered a massive 381% sales increase compared to its market share only two years ago.
Traditional British beer styles such as mild, bitter and golden ale are experiencing challenges with overall production dropping from 14% in 2016 to 5% in 2019 and the percentage of featured producers brewing these styles decreasing accordingly, from 44% in 2016 to 31% in 2019.
Finally, the drinks trade has warned that the UK government’s announcement this week to deny visas to low-skilled workers is set to cause a massive challenge to the UK’s pub, bar and restaurant sector.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the points-based immigration system would present significant challenges for the pub sector. She commented “many pubs rely on workers from overseas. So it is hard to see how they will cope with such fundamental changes coming into effect in just ten months. Pubs will especially struggle with the costs and complexities of becoming a sponsoring employer in order to take on staff from outside the UK.”
With the ongoing debates on climate change and with plant-based foods on the increase in terms of both popularity and availability; the meat industry is being vocal in explaining the “vital importance of livestock farming” to the South West region.
At a recent seminar, stakeholders heard from a panel of industry experts and farmers. They educated visitors on a sector often unfairly blamed for its contribution to global warming.
The seminar focused on long-standing reports that livestock farming involved a choice between food production and caring for the environment. This has long been a contested issue. As Jonathan Foot, head of environment at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) pointed out, producing one kilo of beef takes a fraction of the water used to produce two pairs of jeans. He also highlighted the high nutritional value of meat.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “UK farming has some of the highest standards in the world both in terms of animal welfare and the environment…we need to encourage a return to whole foods.” The seminar also advocated the benefits of livestock resources to improve the quality of soil. This is becoming degraded but good soil equates to better crops. Livestock is also a source of natural fibres which will become more important in the move away from plastics.
Farmers in Wales are also having their say. This follows a statement by the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change hinting at the need for taxes on meat and dairy products to curb consumption by a fifth. There is also the suggestion of increasing UK tree cover from 13% to at least 17% by 2050.
According to the Farmers Union of Wales; even if all UK food production ceased overnight, the carbon emissions of the country would fall by just 10%. Farmers believe that introducing such measures will simply increase Britain’s reliance on food imported from countries with greater carbon footprints. This clearly defeats the object.
FUW president Glyn Roberts commented: “as acknowledged by the Committee, switching away from UK red meat would increase the nation’s carbon footprint because we have some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of meat reared anywhere in the world.” In addition, farmers in the uplands of Wales argue that on windswept thin soils; only livestock rearing is suitable as crop production is impractical.
Moreover, the union stressed that plant-based foods aren’t necessarily more environmentally friendly. All manufactured food, it argues is very dependent on agricultural systems and available natural resources; as well as transportation and how far the product has travelled.
Give Us Your Food
Meanwhile, down in Devon, ‘imaginative’ stallholders and food sellers are being sought for the 2020 festival in Exmouth in May. The four-day event is the largest free festival in the South West and now in its 24th year.
An Exmouth Festival spokesperson said: “We’re looking for imaginative and customer-focused local food sellers, offering a wide variety of tasty choices for our hungry festival-goers to cater for their different tastes and diets”. Time to get your applications in!
The Birmingham NEC played host to the latest BBC Good Food Show Winter from 28 November to 1 December 2019. Hugely popular and one of the most attended shows at the venue, the show was a triumph for exhibitors and visitors.
As usual, the Good Food Show presented a huge range of activities, from the Big Kitchen and Festive Kitchen to the BBC Good Food Stage and BBC Good Food Workshop. Visitors enjoyed the Travelsphere presents: A Taste of Italy & Croatia; CAMRA’s Great British Beer Experience and La Cuisine de Maille Tasting Theatre. While the new QVC Kitchen, featured host Katy Pullinger demonstrating top tips and hacks for mastering Christmas Day lunch. Real inspiration for perfecting the ultimate seasonal desserts and party food.
Food demonstrations from the country’s favourite chefs took place every day. These featured Rosie Birkett, Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein, Michel Roux Jr, Nadiya Hussain, the Hairy Bikers, Ainsley Harriot and Mary Berry.
There were many innovative products showcased at the show, with Symphonia Gin making a big noise. Scientist Dr Ulrich Dyer distils his award winning gin in his County Tyrone distillery. The winner of the Irish Gin of the Year 2019 title, Symphonia No 1 Dry Gin was also awarded a silver medal in the prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition awards and got two stars in the Great Taste Awards.
Staying with the Emerald Isle, Irish Black Butter has also received a number of awards and went down a treat at the Good Food Show. Irish Black Butter was thought up by Alastair Bell. He comes from Portrush and put together the innovative use of Armagh Bramley apples, cider, brandy and spices. Vegan and vegetarian friendly, the product is also free from dairy and wheat. The new Irish Black Butter Peanut Spread is a brand new product featuring peanuts.
The Pished Fish booze infused smoked salmon selection was chosen as one of the Food Champions at the show. Described as a “fillet of salmon that has been cured with high quality alcohol and botanicals and smoked in small batches over wood” the company offers the most diverse range of flavours. These range from Aquavit cured smoked Scottish salmon with beetroot, star anise and juniper berries to Augustus Gloop smoked salmon cured with blueberries and raspberry vodka. There is also one called the Designated Driver, with no booze, just cherry and juniper wood smoke
For those visitors who like their food spicy, Mr Vikki’s passion for Indian food and culture has over thirty products. While the company has won over 110 awards. From XXX Hot Chilli Jam to garlic pickle and Hell Hot Habanero and King Naga; Mr Vikkis also presents a Scotch Bonnet Fudge, not for the faint-hearted.
The BBC Good Food Show Winter yet again raised interesting ideas. It will return to the same venue in the summer.
There is a school of thought that advocates eating seasonal produce , this is an interesting dietary and ecological idea. As it reconnects us with food and the land and alerts us to the reality that different crops such as pumpkins, are produced at different times of the year.
It also cuts down on the carbon footprint of importing and transportation. So for us in the UK, this represents a viable option.
We live in a temperate climate but with the assistance of technology; we can grow many exotic crops in the UK which would otherwise perish in the climate.
It’s easy to follow this in summer as we can feast on a wide range of fruits and vegetables. We can literally eat the rainbow with a broad spectrum of colourful fruit and vegetables as possible. Think strawberries, tomatoes, radishes, blueberries, summer leafy salads; but as we enter autumn, much of the more delicate foodstuffs start to disappear. This is when the roots come into their own, with carrots, beetroot, potatoes, swede and parsnips; as well as the leafy brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.
Going Back to Our Roots
And that brings us to pumpkins! It’s very nearly pumpkin time and luckily for those planning to spend hours of frustration carving a hideous and unrecognisable face out of a solid block of fruit for Halloween, the fruit is now well and truly in season!
Although the UK doesn’t have as much history with pumpkins as in the Americas, where pumpkins actually originated over 9,000 years ago, there is no doubt about the value of the fruit. In fact, worldwide, the production of pumpkins exceeds 27 million tonnes, with China and India the main producers.
Pumpkins are part of the squash family. When cooked, the whole pumpkin is edible from the skin to the pulp and seeds. The nutritional value is undisputed; a great source of potassium and beta-carotene, and containing minerals including calcium and magnesium, as well as vitamins E, C and some B vitamins.
Another root vegetable that has accelerated in UK popularity in recent years is the sweet potato. This is also about to come into season. With a creamy texture and sweet-spicy flavour, this food has become the norm on menus to replace the humble chip. And its nutritional value is also high, as it is rich in fibre, vitamins A, C and B6, and an excellent source of carbohydrates. There are two varieties and the orange-fleshed one is also rich in beta-carotene.
Other fruits and vegetables reaching their peak in autumn include apples, aubergines, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, dates, figs, turnips and marrow.
Pronounce It Keen-wah
October is harvest time for quinoa! Quinoa is fast becoming a staple food among vegans and vegetarians for its incredible health benefits. This is a bead-shaped grain with a slightly bitter flavour and firm texture, and unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is a complete protein.
It contains all nine of the essential amino acids and has been recognised by the United Nations as a supercrop for its health benefits from dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also gluten-free. Initially grown in the Andes in South America, it was known for thousands of years as the ‘mother grain’. High in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, it is potentially beneficial for human health in the prevention and treatment of disease.
All of the above-mentioned foods are now grown successfully in the UK. Once considered exotic and relatively rare, they are now acceptable commonplace foods. At the risk of mentioning the B word, who knows how self sufficient we will need to be in future? The rewards of a seasonal food supply are exciting, especially with the contemporary emphasis on health and environmental benefits. After all, variety is the spice of life!
There’s been constant activity in the global media over the past few years regarding climate change and the effect that it is having on the food we eat. We may be in danger of losing some of the food we are familiar with; due predominantly to the changes that are taking place in our climate.
This year, the British brassica has been affected by unusually heavy summer rains bringing flooding to the UK’s main growing region for cauliflowers, Lincolnshire. Elsewhere, the record-breaking heat-wave wilted fields of cauliflowers across the whole of Europe. This left a shortage in not only cauliflowers, but also cabbages, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
America’s organic apples, mostly grown in Washington State, are also in trouble. As is coffee, with at least three-fifths of current coffee species facing extinction, according to a recent study. More worryingly is the decline in wheat crops, a staple global food which is sensitive to temperature changes. Places like India could see a reduction in wheat harvests of between 6% and 23% by 2050.
Even the humble sushi roll is under threat. Japanese farmers are blaming warmer, cleaner seas for a decline in nori seaweed production. The nori production fell to its lowest level in 2018 since 1972, pushing up prices and decimating supply.
The 2019 maple syrup harvest has also been affected. According to The New York Times, 2012 saw production of maple falling by 12.5% overall due to an unusually warm spring. This impacts negatively on syrup production because the process depends on specific temperature conditions.
More recently, in 2018, production of maple syrup fell by 21.7% throughout Canada. The culprit was Canada’s warm weather during the winter with later than normal snow. Sugar content is determined by the previous year’s carbohydrate stores with sap flow depending on the freeze-thaw cycle.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has even had to tap into its strategic reserves this year to avoid any shortages or price spikes for maple syrup. Quebec has put in place additional harvest areas to meet with high demands, and they are now being used widely.
From High to Low
In Vermont in America, sugar maple harvest has witnessed a renaissance in the 21st century following decades of decline. The revival comes as many Americans are turning their backs on refined sugars for natural products such as maple syrup, agaves and honey. Production of maple is now one of Vermont’s pre-eminent industries. In 2018, the value of Vermont’s maple syrup production exceeded $54.3M. This accounted for 38% of the maple syrup produced nationwide.
Producers are doing what they can to avoid any shortages; such as collecting the sap later in the season and introducing technological advancements. These cut down on traditional collection using buckets and replace it with miles of vacuum pump-operated tubing.
As Keith Thompson of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation says: “It’s not just about keeping the individual trees healthy, it’s about keeping the entire forest healthy.”
The maple syrup industry is currently keeping abreast of the problem. It’s initiating solutions to combat the inevitable changes in climate. It urges other industries to follow suit in order for our favourite foods to remain available. At AC Services, we thoroughly commend that approach.
In a week that saw the highest temperatures ever recorded in July not only in the UK but in other parts of Europe, talk has turned to peanuts and other crops that might be at risk.
Global peanuts consumption has grown at the rate of 2.53% and expected to grow further during 2019-2024. China and India are the largest consumer and exporters of peanuts in the world, accounting for more than 36% of the global consumption.
But according to reports, peanuts might be extinct by 2030. The reason is that peanuts are considered “fairly fussy plants”, and need five months of consistent warm weather, along with 20 to 40 inches of rain. If there is not enough rain, the pods won’t germinate. If there is too much rain, the plants will wilt making the peanuts inedible. We know from America’s peanut production that droughts and heat waves can destroy entire peanut crops. With the weather getting record-breakingly warmer, this is a worry.
Last week, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands recorded their highest ever temperatures. Several cities in France broke previous temperature records with Bordeaux and Paris exceeding 40 degrees. Here’s the science: the latest heatwave has been caused by an omega block which is a high-pressure pattern that blocks and diverts the jet stream, allowing a mass of hot air to flow up from northern Africa and the Iberian peninsula.
All of this climate change is putting crops at risk in harvest yields worldwide. It’s not just the heat however, crops are affected by unusually cold nights, weeks with no rainfall and storm-driven precipitation. All of which account for up to 49% of yield losses for maize, rice, spring wheat and soy beans.
Extensive studies have been carried out in Europe, the US and Africa to measure the cost to the grains, pulses and tubers that feed 7.7 billion people. These now have the aim of isolating the factors within climate change that might affect harvests.
Researchers have found that the maize yield in Africa is in a dire situation. Africa’s share of global maize production is not large, but the largest part of that production goes to human consumption. When compared to just 3% in North America, it is clear why maize is critical here for food security. Consider also that in the UK and Europe, maize is a key foodstock for cows, milk and beef and so indirectly human consumption.
Crops at Risk
The climate is crucial to most growth with food items such as avocados and chickpeas needing an awful lot of water to be produced. 72 gallons in fact to make just one pound of avocados. More than 80% of America’s avocados are grown in California, where there’s a drought. Similarly, chickpeas need almost the same amount of water. Global production of these legumes has gone down 40-50% due to worldwide droughts.
And what about coffee? The unimaginable could happen. Most coffee comes from Arabica beans, which grow best between 64 F and 70 F. If the temperature rises above that, the plants ripen too quickly, which affects the quality of the yield.
The bottom line is that climate change is happening and will affect the food we grow and eat. The extremes of British weather over the last week emphasises our vulnerability and allows us to reflect.