Do you grow or produce any of your own food? Do you mainly buy your food in a supermarket, or in local shops? Would you rather buy beans grown using pesticides from the farm up the road, or beans grown organically and flown in from Kenya? And what about packaging; do you pick the Irish apples wrapped in styrofoam and cellophane, or the loose apples from Portugal?
These were among the issues that came up during a discussion I took part in last weekend. A friend of a friend is carrying out research for her PhD, and she gathered a few of us together to talk about food, our buying practices and the importance what we eat has in our lives.
As a very like-minded bunch, the general consensus was that everyone does their best to eat well, to shop in local shops and to buy Irish, but that busy lifestyles can hamper the best intentions. It was also observed that it can still be difficult to determine the real origin of food in supermarkets – ham that claims to be Irish for instance could only be packaged in Ireland. Also, some supermarkets – not naming names – don’t always stock Irish produce. I had a fruitless (excuse the pun) search for Irish apples in my local shop back in September, when orchards around the county must have been groaning with fruit.
I think that things are heading in the right direction, with people demanding more clarity on the origin of what we eat and slowly coming around to the wisdom of eating seasonally for freshness and taste. However I also think that more could be done in larger shops to promote Irish produce - not just fruit and veg, but also cheese and yoghurt and so on. They already have ‘organic’ sections, so why not a ‘local’ section, selling food that is truly guaranteed Irish?