First things first: if any part of this post starts to not make sense, my apologies in advance. I’m fighting off a stonking headache which seems to be fighting for an upgrade to migraine status. I didn’t feel that I could hold off on writing about this much longer though.
See, I saw this article on Monday and it rendered me speechless for a while. While I imagine that a cotton would be one of the cutest animals around…it’s just never occurred to me to think that it actually is an animal. Yet, 40% of year 10 students surveyed thought that their cotton socks were an animal product. People, year 10 students are 15 and 16 years old. 13% of the same age group thought that yoghurt was a plant product. For 11 and 12 year olds, that percentage was 27%.
Do you see why I was speechless yet?
I grew up in the suburbs of Sydney. My exposure to farms was basically the occasional petting zoo and the cows that visited the back fence of my grandparents holiday house. We grew herbs in pots, but beyond that, pretty much everything came from the supermarket. However, I always knew the basics of where my food and clothing came from. Beef was cow, chicken had once been a chicken and yoghurt was a dairy product. And dairy came from cows, not trees.
I have no expectation that city kids will have a full understanding of everything that we eat, especially in a society that is so removed from the actual growing and production of our foodstuffs. But there is a huge difference between being unsure if an avocado comes from a tree or a vine and not realising that there is no such animal as a cotton.
We are at a stage where people need to be more aware of their food, so that they can make informed and sustainable food choices – for example, reducing consumption of animal products, the intensive farming of which ultimately leads to land degradation and climate change. If the next generation doesn’t even recognise an animal product…well. We’re going to have a problem
The big question then is: how do we change this? There’s automatically a lot of blame thrown around when statistics like this come out – it’s the teacher’s fault, the parent’s fault, the supermarket’s fault. What I think it really comes down to though, is that there needs to be a shift in the way that we think about food. So much food is so heavily processed that it’s often hard to know exactly what it’s composed of. A move to simpler foods, back to more cooking and less takeaway and to a greater appreciation of food and flavours is the only way to get past this problem. I think that this is slowly happening…but it’s a frighteningly gradual process.