Food waste

in Australia this year


Food wastage

in Australia today


Food-related carbon emissions

in Australia this year


Food-related carbon emissions

in Australia today


Ethical considerations of our food

In addition to selecting environmentally friendly food choices, we should also take time to consider the ethical impact of the food we eat. The two ethical considerations we will consider here are:

  • purchasing fair trade items when no local product is available
  • considering the effects of your food purchases on the wellbeing of animals

Purchasing fair trade Items

Purchase Fairtrade items when no local product is availableWhat is fair trade?
‘Fair trade’ describes the ethical sale of products from developing countries. It ensures that the farmers and workers in developing countries get to work in decent conditions and are paid a fair price for their goods in order to sustain their livelihood.

Why should we support fair trade?
It is always good to be aware of where our food comes from and how our purchases affect others. In conventional trade, the poorest farmers in developing countries are discriminated against to produce commodities (such as coffee, cocoa and sugar) cheaply for consumption in rich countries. This has been unfortunate for the small farmers involved, with decreased world prices for these goods over the last 20 years. Fairtrade protects these farmers and workers by requiring companies to pay them sustainable wages.

Buying fair trade
Many of our food items can be sourced locally or nationally (therefore reducing food miles), however, a small number of food products are not grown or produced commercially in Australia. In these cases, it is important to source food items from distributors who can ensure that the human rights of farmers and their workers are respected and that they are adequately paid for their labours. Fairtrade addresses this injustice by requiring companies to pay fair and sustainable prices to the farmers and workers for their produce in developing countries.

Choose Fairtrade
Fairtrade products available on the market include:

  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa
  • Tea
  • Spices

Click here to find out more about Fairtrade, the organisation, and how Fairtrade certification and labelling works.

Consider the effects of your food purchases on the wellbeing of animals

Organic versus ‘free-range’

Organic farming takes into consideration animal welfare as well as environmental sustainability. Animals raised on organic farms must be treated humanely, and are not fed any growth-regulating drugs, steroids, hormones or antibiotics. The animals may be treated with vaccines to prevent disease.

The term ‘free-range’ when referring to chickens, means that they have access to an outdoor space during the day once they reach three weeks of age. These chickens have more space than at standard chicken farms but they are fed the same feed as birds housed at these farms. Certified organic chickens bred for meat, however, are fed only organic feed, which is produced without the use of synthetic fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides and are given access to outdoor space after 10 days of age. These chickens are also provided with more space per bird than both standard and free-range birds and grow more slowly.

The term ‘bred free-range’ has recently emerged in regard to free-range farming, particularly for pork products. As part of the ‘bred free-range’ practices, sows spend their pregnancy outdoors in a natural environment instead of within metal sow stalls. Piglets are born outdoors and are generally raised in large hooped-roof shelters with straw bedding, however, they may still be prematurely weaned, have their teeth clipped, tail docked, and be unable to forage outdoors for most of their lives.

Chick with eggBuying for the wellbeing of animals

There is currently a lack of legislative standards around use of the words ‘organic’ and ‘free-range,’ and therefore these words are often open to interpretation by both producers and consumers alike. The best way to ensure that the products you intend to purchase really are organic and/or free-range is to select products that have been certified by one of Australia’s seven certifying bodies accredited by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).

Accredited organic certifying organisations:

  • Biodynamic Research Institute (Demeter)
  • Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA)
  • National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA)
  • Organic Food Chain (OFC)
  • Organic Herb Growers of Australia (OHGA)
  • Organic Vignerons Association of Australia (OVAA)
  • Tasmanian Organic Producers (TOP)

Several other organisations outside of the seven certified bodies accredited by the AQIS can also accredit animal products based specifically on animal welfare principles.

Major animal welfare accreditation organisations in Australia:

  • Humane Society International (HIS) – Australian Branch
  • The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
  • Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia (FREPA)
  • Free Range Egg and Poultry Association of Australia (FREPAA)

How to consider animal welfare when choosing food items

  • Become more aware of the welfare organisations and accreditation schemes relevant to food production
  • When shopping for meat, poultry and eggs, read labelling relating to animal welfare
  • Consider organic or free range alternatives to the products you already buy

For more information, visit our section on organic food.

Made by QMG