10 stats on why the food chain needs fixing

28th February 2014

I had great fun presenting a short talk on “Fixing the food chain” at CleanWeb this week and having been working on the FarmDrop concept for two years now it helped me get back to the core reasons why we started it. An economist by background, I do love a good stat. So here’s 10 intended to explain why the UK food system needs fixing …

  • 75% of all food sales in the UK go through the tills of just 4 big food retailers (Guardian). We hear lots of people moaning about this but less so in terms of the actual reasons why such unfettered dominance is such bad news …

  • … it’s because just 11% of all the money spent on food in the UK goes to the people who make it (NFU). If you go back to the 1950s when there were no supermarkets it was more than 50%.

  • … In consequence, 1 in 4 farming households in the UK live below the poverty line (Commission for Rural Communities).

  • … And the UK has been propelled towards Factory Farming such that only 8% of all UK farms remain mixed. As Philip Lymbery (author Farmageddon) says, this is the “fallacy of Old MacDonald”

  • We aren’t just losing the nursery rhyme, we’re also losing important members of the population. Farmland bird numbers have more than halved since 1996 in response to intensive factory farming (and bees are an even more dangerous case in point).

  • “So what? ”you may say “we need the current system to feed the UK population”. We throw away around 40% of all food in the UK (Institute of Mechanical Engineers), so that’s just plain nonsense.

  • 65% of calories consumed in the UK are processed (MC Schraefel) …

  • … which is why ⅔ of people in the UK are considered overweight or obese (Public Health UK).

  • … Less than 1% of food consumed in the UK is locally sourced (Plunkett Foundation)

  • … even though more than 70% of consumers surveyed would like to eat more local food (Defra). All of these stats are of course entirely related.

So that’s the bad news. Rant over. What’s the good news? I believe it’s the internet in offering food makers and eaters an opportunity to entirely circumvent big retailers and wholesalers. Here’s two final stats to demonstrate what I mean:

  • Online grocery sales in the UK are racing higher every year and will have doubled in the 5 years to 2018 (IGD).

  • Nearly 80% of UK consumers surveyed in a recent survey have used “Click-and-collect” in the last year (eConultancy).

Herein lies the opportunity. If people increasingly want to shop for food on-line using click-and-collect, then why not make it possible for them to click-and-collect directly from local food producers who will gain from less waste and better pricing. This is the FarmDrop vision at any rate. Thanks again to CleanWeb – a thriving sustainable-tech forum which provides a genuine sense that many good things are about to happen.

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