Chewin’ the fat
Recently I had the pleasure of talking at the OzHarvest Sustainability event at the Adelaide Central Market with fellow food identities such as Richard Gunner, Rebecca Sullivan and Richard Fox. On the subject of sustainability I have a few things to put to you that you may or may not have considered or, in fact, realised.
John West, although not alone in their actions, is Australia’s biggest tuna brand selling 97 million cans of tuna a year, that’s a third of all the canned tuna sold here in Australia which means their actions have a huge impact on our ocean. According to Greenpeace, John West’s suppliers use giant purse seine nets with FADs (fish aggregating devices), which results in a 10 percent bycatch. In the case of John West Australia, this equates to a staggering 10 million cans of bycatch every year. That’s a stack of cans over 400km tall – high enough to reach the international space station! Truly disturbing, especially if you imagine the contents of those cans – sharks, rays, baby tuna, turtles etc. Remember John West’s marketing slogan, ‘It’s the fish John West rejects, that makes John West the best’. Not a very sustainable comment in its makeup when you think about it, is it? When Greenpeace launched its campaign, John West promptly blocked its Facebook page from overseas consumers, presumably to lessen the public backlash.
While John West draws attention to its long term partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, with a goal to be FAD-free by 2015, stating their partnership will see all John West products sourced sustainably by 2015, and that they support the WWF position on FADs recognising that if there is no way to source sustainably from FADs then only tuna caught without using FADs will be sourced in order to meet its 2015 sustainability goal. That is merely a deflection of the current reality that they are damaging the Pacific and if they chose to, they could be fishing tuna sustainably from tomorrow.
This can be avoided, of course. Brands all over the world have banned the use of FADs including John West UK and John West’s main Australian competitors. For example, Safcol’s switch to 100 percent pole and line tuna last year led the way and showed that big changes can be made and at little extra cost to the consumer. There are currently eight different sustainable pole and line caught tuna products to choose from. Please help make a change by only choosing sustainably fished tuna at your supermarket of choice and jump on to the Greenpeace site (greenpeace.org/australia/en) and sign the online petition against unsustainable fishing practices. More information is available there about FADs and also which brands are committed to making change.
Brilliant to see Coles last month phasing out company branded pork, ham and bacon from pigs kept in crammed stalls, as well as caged eggs as of January 2013, a year earlier than their original commitment. Woolworths too have committed to removing all sow stall fresh pork by mid-2013 and have already removed cage free eggs from its ‘select’ brand.
Brilliant! After what seems like an eternity of fighting against animal cruelty consumers have once again been able to make a change. Of course, there is a long way to go, as currently 55 percent of the retail egg market is made up of cage eggs, for example. I think we should repackage those products with clearer fonts and labeling. Put a picture of the featherless chooks unable to spread their wings all over the packaging, just as they do on cigarette packaging. How would you feel about purchasing the tray of pork chops if it had a disgusting picture of a sow trapped in a stall that it can’t even turn around in, squalid conditions and the words FACTORY FARMED clearly splashed all over it? I reckon you’d think twice if you don’t already. You wouldn’t subject your pet to conditions like that so why would you be happy to accept meat produced in that manner?
The tides are changing and sustainability is important as it affects everyone. We are all responsible, and we all have a part to play. The good news is it’s easy, for a few cents more you can buy a can of line caught tuna and ensure your children’s children can enjoy it too. Buy meat from a local butcher who can tell you the exact provenance of what you’re buying.
Chances are it will be a better breed for the purpose of your cooking requirements, but also I guarantee that it will taste better simply by the fact you are acting sustainably.
Jock Zonfrillo is the Head Chef of Magill Estate