Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Brits vow to make carbon-reducing lifestyle changes and a preview of Christmas sales figures

The news, reviews and trends from January 4-5, including why vegetables are less nutritious than they used to be.

6 January 2020
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Food news

Brits vow to recycle and cut down on animal products

Oxfam has released research that suggests the average British person creates as many carbon emissions in two weeks as a person from Rwanda or Ethiopia does in a year. While most African nations are way below the global average of 4.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide per head per year, the amount Britons generate is much higher at 8.3 tonnes. A YouGov poll released in conjunction with these figures reveal that 79% of Brits intend to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint: 79% intend to recycle more while 38% want to change their diet to eat less meat or dairy. Around 61% say that government should do more to address climate change.


Was it a blue Christmas for supermarkets this year?

The major retailers are expected to report underwhelming Christmas sales this week, as the discounters continue to eat up more of the market. Morrisons is predicted to report a 2.5% fall in like for like sales compared to last year’s festive period, while Tesco and Sainsbury’s are likely to have suffered smaller declines. M&S, meanwhile, is forecast to reveal food sales slightly up while clothing sales are slightly down.


Vegetables are less nutritious than before

As Veganuary gets under way, the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) this week will feature a speech by a professor of cardiovascular pharmacology that highlights the important of red meat in diets – particularly as the nutritional content of British veg is in decline due to current farming practices. Speaking to The Observer in advance of her talk at the OFC, Alice Stanton said: “For plant-based foods, there’s been drops in vitamins and key electrolytes by up to 50% over the past 50 years because of the genetic selection for large volume and uniformity of shape and appearance, so the things look good on the shelves.” Studies also show that the amount of omega-3 fatty acid in Scottish farmed salmon had dropped by half, she added.

image credit: Getty Images

Food and drink sector shows strong growth

A report on the UK’s food and drink industry by Made UK and Santander has revealed that it grew in value by 7.6% over the past two years, reaching £85.6bn. However, it also raised concerns that failure to secure a Brexit free trade deal could severely damage Britain’s biggest manufacturing sector: Britain is the third-largest exporter of food products worldwide, according to World Bank data, with 61% going to EU nations.


Saving seafood stocks

Our Seas, a marine coalition group that includes angling bodies, ecotourism firms, scallop divers, coastal communities and salmon conservation boards, has called for the government to institute a ban on trawlers fishing within three miles of the Scottish shore. The group claims this will help depleted fish and seafood stocks recover.


Vertical farming advances

Will we see farms replaced with multi-storey greenhouses? It’s a future The Times can envisage, as the paper reports on Shockingly Fresh’s plans for 40 vertical farming sites around the UK, covering a total of 123 acres. The company claims it can grow five times as much food as a traditional farm throughout the year, including tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peas and other salad crops.

image credit: Getty Images

Ethical veganism approved

“I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief and a protected characteristic.” So said Judge Robin Postle at a preliminary hearing for what is being called a landmark case into whether ethical vegans are protected under the Equality Act.


Castor bean leads to street shutdown

A man was hospitalised and the Manchester street where he lives sealed off over the weekend after eating castor beans contaminated with traces of ricin. The deadly toxin occurs naturally in castor beans, which is why eating them can be fatal, though oil from the seeds can be safely extracted.


Food reviews

Silo, London E9 5EN

Marina O’Loughlin is the latest critic to head to Douglas McMaster’s much talked about Silo in Hackney Wick, a London sequel to his Brighton original. “Never were plebeian veg so rich, so surprising, so … edifying,” she writes of the pink fir potatoes, caramelised whey and emerald kale – despite it coming with a lengthy essay on its zero-waste credentials. While the critic does have concerns the food may get cold while you listen to the spiel, she still manages to be impressed: “McMaster’s team manages to wreak preternatural deliciousness out of the most unlikely components: braised Friesian dairy cow (aged in years, then also post-butchery); or pumpkins for intricate desserts. I wouldn’t give a monkey’s unless it were completely convincing. And it is.”

Rhubarb fresh spruce yoghurt

The Lookout, Edinburgh EH7 5AA

Boasting a view worthy of its name, this restaurant impresses Jay Rayner with oysters accompanied by XO sauce and cuttlefish risotto topped with cockles. For mains, hake “sits atop an unmanicured mess of gently sauteed leeks, nutty new potatoes and melon-bellied mussels,” while the glazed beef fillet comes with charcoal-grilled pieces of Jerusalem artichoke and onion broth. On the downside, the open kitchen with a fire grill is “guaranteed to give any diners sitting within 10ft a nice cure.”

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