food sustainability

What Does Food Sustainability Really Mean?

As we navigate the supermarket aisles looking for our favourite products and culinary inspiration, food sustainability is perhaps not always at the forefront of our minds.

Decisions to buy particular foods are often based on convenience, taste and price, even for those of us who wish to live more sustainable lives. Understanding what makes food sustainable ensures that we can assess products and brands quickly and more accurately, so we can make better food choices that align with our values.

The trouble is, sustainability has become a bit of a buzzword that is used (and often abused) in many different contexts. It’s a hugely important concept but one that has started to lose its meaning. Let’s fix that by looking at what food sustainability really means.

It’s Not Just About The Food

Sustainable food isn’t just about the food itself, it’s a combination of factors including how it’s produced, how it’s distributed and how it’s consumed.

To many, food sustainability is often described by food air miles, but it’s a whole lot more complicated than that. The sustainability of food includes consideration of resource usage, environmental impact, agricultural practices, health considerations as well as social and economic impact.


Factors of Food Sustainability

There is no one truth when it comes to defining food sustainability, though most definitions cover the following factors:

Sustainable farming practices: promotes organic and low carbon food production, avoids the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides as well as genetically modified organisms, is beneficial to biodiversity and the environment, and provides soil fertility for future food production.

Low environmental impact: minimal use of the earth’s resources, minimising energy usage when related to transportation and storage methods, and avoids practises that lead to climate change.

Upholding animal welfare: farmers who treat animals with care and respect, use livestock husbandry techniques that protect the animals’ health and wellbeing, provide pasture grazing and allow animals to move freely rather than confined to cages or restricted holding pens.


Protection of public health: food that is safe and healthy, produced without hazardous pesticides and chemicals, non-essential antibiotics or growth promotion supplements.

Good employment practises and community support: providing workers a liveable wage alongside safe, hygienic and fair working conditions, and support local and regional economies that offer jobs and build stronger communities.

Knowing what is and what isn’t sustainable food is the first step to leading a more sustainable lifestyle. The second step is using that knowledge to make more informed choices. Stay tuned for the next post in this series that will give tips on how to put this into action and buy, cook and eat more sustainably.

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