With increased knowledge of the climate crisis and the impact of mass production and conventional business practices, it has become so popular in the last ten years to create "green" products which are supposed to have a higher standard of ethical and sustainable practice. However, there has been a terrifying trend of slapping a green label on product that is just as damaging every step of the way. It happens in furniture, pharmaceuticals, fashion and, yes, food. It's a marketing tactic, not a business evolution.
That watercolour cow only gets to be out in the field two or three hours a day and then is returned to a stall with two dozen other cows, with dried grass in a trough and water which hasn't been refreshed in months; when a cow gets sick from dirty water or injuries from being stuck in a crammed space for so long, it is removed and placed in a separate building somewhere else to get better on its own; then, when the shelves are getting empty, these cows are moved onto a truck to travel to an abattoir, to be slaughtered and packaged; then the meat travels hours (frozen to keep it food safe) to reach shelves to defrost and lose taste and nutrition.
Well-meaning folks who want to do right for the Earth and the animals sees the green label and carries it to the check out. What they miss is all of the ways they've just fallen prey to greenwashing marketing.
How do you avoid falling for Greenwashing?
There's a few easy ways to check if a company is greenwashing and avoid greenwashing all together.
First of all, check the packaging and the company for certification and legitimacy. Unfortunately, the 'organic' and 'grass-fed' or 'free-range' label can be stuck on any packaging that's brave enough without necessarily having the certification. There are a few organisations across Australia which verify organic status (such as the ACO, AUS-QUAL and the OFC) or provide free-range certifications (such as the RSPCA, FREPA and the ACO). Each certification organisation has different standards of certification, so ensure you're researching and identifying organisations which align with your ethical standard to guide you towards ethical production.
It's always a great idea to search the company and their website to check for certification as well as transparency, location, annual reports and business values. If it is hard to find basic information such as location, business practices, founding years and stakeholders, consider what they have to hide. If sustainability and ethical production is at the forefront of their business and has been for a long time (since before it became popular), then you can feel better knowing they're more likely to be honest in their green labelling. However, companies who have only recently taken on the mantle of ethical production, and who don't have transparency around their business model, be wary.
Consider the packaging: look for frou-frou buzz words that sound nice but don't really mean anything, such as 'sustainably made' or 'ethical', 'green', 'eco-friendly' or 'environmentally friendly'. If they don't have business practice or clear information to back up their claims, then it's green washing and not actual ethical practice.
Also, look towards the rest of their products. If 98% of their product contribute to animal suffering, environmental destruction, methane production, packaging waste and pollution, and they've put a green label on the other 2%, consider the capacity of a company to radically change only a small portion of their production. Ask yourself why they would do so to only a small portion of their product, and what does this actually mean for their green label?
We get it, when you're busy and trying to manage work and life, googling and researching can feel like an insurmountable challenge. You just want to get in, get out and make dinner for your family. Nobody can be perfect with their consumption, but there's a few super easy ways to reduce the mental load of sustainable consumption.
The first is something you're likely already doing, shopping at a trusted, organic certified local business like Sunshine Coast Organic Meats! When you shop with us, you know you're supporting local and ethically-run farmers, including Gooralie pork farm and Bendele poultry farm. You can read about their certifications, business practices and animal welfare practices on our website here and on their websites. We believe in transparency and sharing the truth of our business with you, which is part of the reason we write this blog. It should be easy to find sustainability information on a business, which is why we're sharing this information with you.
We can provide you with ethically and sustainably produced meat products, condiments, dairy and kitchen staples, all delivered to your door on your schedule (with our Organic Meat Club, it's set and forget!). We're trying to make ethical consumption as easy for you as possible.
Unfortunately, as a small butcher shop, we can't provide everything. Luckily, we have a lot of great friends including Kunara Organic Marketplace which supplies you with organic plant produce, cleaning, snack foods and household items. We also love working with Good Harvest for any organic fresh produce we need.
If you find yourself at your local Woolies, Coles, IGA or small-owned market and you're looking for ethical or sustainable products, look for certification logos or company names that are familiar for you (that you researched and memorised on a slow Sunday, perhaps) and gravitate towards those products. Keep an eye out for organic, sustainable and animal welfare certifications.
Take off those green tinted glasses, and shop smart. Join our Organic Meat Club to make things easier during the week.