Ethical Dilemmas From The Reduced Aisle
This is going to be quite a short post based upon my thoughts when I recently visited my local Tesco store. I was doing my shopping as usual but when I came to the reduced section on one aisle the staff were just putting some marked down items on the shelves and it dawned on me that this represented both the worst of supermarket wastage and a possible option to be green. In my post on being a waste conscious shopper, I actually encourage the buying of reduced items but now I’m not 100% sure.
You see you have a bit of a tricky decision to make as to whether to purchase any of the reduced food; on the one hand you are doing your bit to reduce waste by putting one or more of these items in your basket but on the other hand you are facilitating poor stock control which may lead to continued waste in the future.
There are a couple of different points to think about here which may or may not help you make a decision.
I try to only eat meat that has come from animals who enjoy the highest welfare standards so the RSPCA Freedom Food mark as a minimum and free range wherever possible. The issue with food from the marked down aisle is that you rarely find these higher welfare standards. So, do you load up your trolley with marked down meat from animals that haven’t had a particularly enjoyable life or do you allow it to go to landfill in which case the animal died for nothing?
I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine that when a supermarket bins food, they do so in it’s packaging regardless of whether that packaging can be recycled. So, by buying up reduced items, you not only prevent the food itself from going to landfill, you can also then recycle the packaging yourself to prevent that ending up in the tip too.
Many supermarkets use electronic stock systems that automatically order replacements for items that have been purchased and reduce order numbers for lines that have not sold and have been wasted. The question is, by buying goods that have been reduced in price, are you sending signals to the supermarket that those items are in demand?
Can your buying of marked down food actually encourage the over ordering and overproduction of that line? If you were to buy that cheap ready meal because you wanted to prevent waste, might you actually be contributing to further waste in the future as supermarkets get the wrong message about what is selling and what isn’t?
My Gut Feelings
As I have already said, I cannot say for sure whether buying reduced price food is beneficial to the environment or not. In my gut I suspect it probably is and my reasons are as follows – supermarkets are never going to have a perfect stock refilling system because it is impossible to predict with any accuracy what the public are going to buy, so some wastage is inevitable.
At the same time, try to ensure that when you do buy marked down food that you actually use it – there is no difference in you binning the food to a supermarket doing it. Freeze items where possible or think up meals before you put things in your basket – if you can’t think of a use, don’t buy it.
Also, I am going to continue to steer clear of lower welfare meat even if it does mean it goes to waste. I would prefer to pay the extra for free range and show my support for this method of raising animals because at the end of the day, if I were to buy marked down meat instead of free range, fewer free range animals would be raised.
Governments Taking Action
On the 14th March 2012, a food waste bill was introduced in the House of Commons calling for supermarkets to donate food that it is no longer possible to sell to charities including those who tackle homelessness and those who help families living in food poverty. Hopefully this bill will help tackle the obscene amount of edible food that gets dumped each and every year not only here but across Europe where 50% gets binned.
What do you think? Is it right to try and prevent food waste even at the expense of animal welfare and does buying marked down food send mixed messages to an electronic stock control system? I’d love to hear from someone who has experience in a supermarket at the stock ordering level.
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