Eating Sustainably – How Students Can Support UK Farmers

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Going to a city university has made me realise just how out of touch today’s generation are with the production of their food.  As someone with a background in farming, I am often told misconceptions about the industry that are simply not true and encounter a lot of negative, hostile opinions.

But did you know that the UK’s farming and food sector provides over 3.6 million jobs? Or that UK farmers have the highest animal welfare standards in the world?

As a young farmer, I would love it if my peer students had more awareness and perspective about the provenance of the foods in their cupboards and fridges. Students can eat much more sustainably if they support farmers by buying British produce. Yes, I am aware that buying British produce is often much more expensive and I get that we are all poor students barely thriving outside our overdrafts. But, it is not an unreasonable ask to spend an additional £1 on British produce rather than the cheaper foreign alternative, if you are splashing out £20 per bottle of vodka or £30 for a monthly gym membership that you have only used once. That extra £1 ensures that the animal (and its by-products!) has had the best quality of life regarding British animal welfare standards at every part of the food production process. It means that the product hasn’t had the same environmental impact upon the earth as it has travelled less air miles and thus produced less carbon emissions overall. It means that you are helping to pay the wages of everyone involved in producing your food – the farmer, the butcher, the harvester, the lorry driver, the processor, the packaging people etc.

By consciously purchasing British/Scottish/Welsh produce you are eating much more sustainably overall!

However, students aren’t always aware which products are British. Here are six labels to look out for on your next weekly shop:


An independent UK whole chain food assurance scheme, Red Tractor assures the highest standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection from farm to pack. Inspections are made regularly to ensure that producers are meeting certain standards, such as food safety, animal welfare and the environment.

The logo can be found on:

– meat: beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey

– dairy: milk, cheese, cream

– cereals and flour

– fruit, vegetables and salads

– sugar

With strong characteristics of traceability, animal welfare standards, 100% British and environmental protection, it’s time students #trustthetractor

British Lion Mark 

 The British Lion Mark is the UK’s most successful food safety schemes, selling more than 130 million eggs since its launch in 1998. Their eggs are produced under the requirements of the British Lion Code of Practice which covers the entire production chain. It has strict safety controls such as a guarantee that all hens are vaccinated against Salmonella and a ‘passport system’ making all hens, eggs and feed fully traceable.

Quality Standard Mark 

One for meat eaters. Quality Standard Mark is a scheme for beef and lamb which has a strict selection process to ensure that it is succulent and tender. It also tells you where the meat originates from: for instance, there is a St George’s flag if the animal was born, raised and slaughtered in England and the Union Jack if any part of the process took place in Scotland and Wales. It is really that easy to eat British beef and lamb!

RSPCA Assured 

The RSPCA Assured label ensures that every stage of an animal’s life has met their Five Freedom Standards. It can be found on meat, poultry, diary and fish products. Their vision is for all farm animals to have a good life and be treated with compassion and respect. It covers all types of farming – indoor, outdoor, free-range and organic farming and includes regular traceability checks. Fun fact – M&S became the first supermarket retailer to supply RSPCA Assured Milk in September 2017!


Pasture Fed Livestock Association

‘Pasture for Life’ is a farmer led association promoting the health, welfare, and environmental benefits of raising cattle and sheep exclusively on grass and natural forage. This ensures farmers are committed to producing high quality produce in a more natural way.


Free Range Dairy

The Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise promotes the values of Pasture based milk production on British Dairy farms for the benefit of farmers, cows, and consumers. It clearly assures that milk comes from cows grazing outside for at least 6 months of the year. It also pays a fair price to farmers and delivers a healthy, affordable milk to consumers.


Soil Association Organic Standard

The Soil Association is a charity campaigning for healthily humane and sustainable food, farming, and land use. They certify organic food and farming (as well as beauty products and clothing) and their organic label appears on approximately 80% of the UK’s produced organic food.



Finally, there is the Union Jack Flag. Self-explanatory – the produce is British! I have encountered this logo on so many products and I am sure you will have spotted it too. The flag represents all British farmers and growers who are proud the produce on your plate every day. British products aren’t just found in supermarkets – they are available in butcher shops, farm shops, markets and pubs chains such as Spoons!

So, take the time to be more aware about the provenance of your food and what makes it into your mouth.


And if you want to know where to buy any British products from, the National Farmers Union has a handy online resource which tells you which supermarkets you can buy all your British produce from, catering for all dietary choices!


Hannah Binns

Image: BBC, Red Tractor, Cost Sector Catering, Simply Beef & Lamb, Umbraco Freelancer, Pasture For Life, Free Range Dairy, Organic Rules and Certification, Wikipedia