Many times I have written and commented about my perceived need for food labels that go beyond nutrition “facts”, beyond even labels like organic, to include other aspects of what some parts of the world call “Ethical Food”. Ethical Food is a concept I described in this article from August of last year, and it is something that comes up frequently in my writing here on this site, and other places. The knowledge of ethical food is highest in Great Britain, New Zealand, and Australia. Unfortunately ethical food does not seem to get much publicity in the U.S. When it does, the publicity often comes in the form of humor, not as a serious discussion of what it is and why it is so important.
Fair, clear, labeling that allows the consumer to make educated buying decisions is sorely needed in the U.S. This can be to disclose the ingredients in products. Labels can indicate adherence to requirements not only for organic food production, but could also be used for humane animal raising methods, where the food was produced, and packaged, and social issues like Fair Trade, or child labor.
I discovered recently that my concerns and desires on this issue are shared by more people than just the few of us that write about it. When random consumers are asked about the ethical and humane production of food, they almost uniformly say that it should be more available and clearly labeled. They also indicate that they would pay more for food if they could be sure it was adhering to an ethical food standard. In fact there has been a study done that asked that very question of 1,000 households. Unfortunately, like so many research studies, the entire article summarizing the study is not available to normal folk. An abstract can be found here, but to read the entire article, you must buy access from the Blackwell Synergy article database. However, it costs $40.00 for 24 hours of access to the article, so it is unavailable to most of us. I don’t know if this particular study was done with even a small amount of government support. But, if the research was done with any tax money at all, I believe it should be freely available for all of us to read.
In any case, it is good to know that when asked, almost everyone supports not only the production of ethical food, but the clear, regulated, labeling of food produced ethically. Maybe the U.S. can now begin to catch up to some of the European and Down Under countries on this issue. If this is to happen, we need to have wider coverage. The article referred to above is not new, it was published in September of 2006. I don’t remember any main-stream news media coverage of it. If the only discussion of ethical food is taking place on small websites like this one, progress will be slow, at best.
So, if the idea of ethical food seems reasonable to you, shout it from the rooftops. Do your best to buy ethically raised food whenever you have that choice. Find websites talking about ethical food and humanely raised farm animals and submit those urls to Digg, Stumbleupon, or other sites whee the issue will be discussed. Publicize this in any way you can. If you write or have a blog yourself, even if your normal area of interest is far removed from this issue, you can help. Write a short post including links to posts like this. Spread the word in whatever small way you can. It will make a difference.
A few more links:
A UK Market Research Report on Ethical Food.