Consumers can choose – quality or cost?

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As a man who, on a bad day, struggles to get a clear view of his size 12s, it is fair to say that I know a thing or two about food.

And despite the odd aberration, I am pretty discerning when it comes to what I shove down my cake hole.

Unless it has a ‘Whoops’ sticker on it, I tend to like to know where my grub has come from, although there are limits.

A good pal is fond of rearing his festive bird before doing the deed days before December 25 – I will stick to the local butcher’s thanks. But, at least he knows where it comes from, which has over the past decade or so, become important for so many of us, for so many reasons.

For some a locally bought bottle of elderflower juice is a morally driven decision as it cuts down on food (or drink) miles, while to others it is supporting small businesses.

This county is proud of its reputation as the nation’s larder.

Despite the rise of giant out-of-town food stores, some are willing to pay that bit extra for quality food and are proud to support local producers, which is why the warning these islands are becoming less self-sufficient is all the more alarming.

The National Farmers Union has produced research which claims that just 60 per cent of the UK’s food needs are taken care of by our farms.

The outlook looks worse when you consider that, with a predicted population increase, we may produce a mere 50 per cent of our own food come 2040.

Of course, critics will accuse the union of over-egging the pudding, but there is a problem when you consider the amount of food we throw away each year – an estimated 100m tonnes in the EU. There is a tightrope to be walked here: we want to produce more of our own stuff but we don’t want to throw away even more food – the aim is to reduce this waste by nearly a third.

Surely more can be done to encourage retailers to stock more British produce and to get even more shoppers to buy it?

I am not calling for an end to free markets but maybe a bit more of a leg-up for our own producers.

While provenance is important for many of us, so is cost, which means a pack of four pieces of non-specific white frozen fish is far more attractive to some than anything caught in the English Channel costing the same, but for one fillet.

So, as always, the answer rests with us, the consumer. Do we put quality and the origins of what we produce before what we are willing to spend?