My favourite sideswipe at those who question the ethical provenance of all they consume is provided by the TV series Portlandia. Super-earnest couple Nance and Peter demand the life story of the chicken on a restaurant menu. Eventually they head for the farm to find out for themselves.
I’m more laidback about fish, because I trust seafood eco-labels. Policing some 3m vessels across the globe is not easy but we have some accountability, including GlobalGAP, the label for certified aquaculture, and the blue tick (awarded by the Marine Stewardship Council to 281 sustainable fisheries across the world).
The MSC system means that those who flout scientific advice on sustainable catch levels will be penalised. After four years in special measures, the North-East Atlantic fishery has won back its blue tick status. You’ll now find mackerel from this fishery in Waitrose (canned) and Sainsbury’s (chilled).
But Anya Hart Dyke, founder of asktheq.org, wanted to find out if shoppers navigating seafood cabinets using MSC’s Good Fish Guide are likely to end up with the real (sustainable, responsible) deal.
Apparently not – retail labelling can be misleading. She tested farmed sea bass, prawns and salmon labelled as “responsibly farmed” or “responsibly sourced” and found that the majority only reached a number 3 rating in the MCS’s guide. This advises that far from being sustainable, they should be eaten “only occasionally”.
We can’t tolerate assurances that don’t add up (Join Anya’s petition at 38 degrees to get these products relabelled). It’s simply too important. Either the retailers get their facts straight, or I’m going to follow the Portlandia model.
The big picture: Fordlandia exhibition
For a twist on the story of capitalism destroying nature, try the Fordlandia exhibition, inspired by Henry Ford’s failed utopian city in the Amazon. In the late 1920s, he tried to create the ideal plantation but hadn’t counted on leaf blight and worker revolts. This show imagines a very different scenario where Fordlandia flourished – on at London College of Fashion until 10 December (fashionspacegallery.com).