/ Food & Drink

Food price and quality – your top food concerns

British plate

Rising food prices, concerns about health, ethics and sustainability mean we need to work together to find solutions for the future of food. Do your food concerns mirror those we’ve received so far…

Over the last few months we’ve been gathering your views on the future of food. We’ve held a number of debates here on Which? Convo and have taken to the streets to capture your thoughts.

We’ve found some common themes surfacing – the cost of food, quality, the need to shop locally and seasonally, as well as having an awareness of what’s in our food and where it comes from.

The future of food video

During September we visited locations throughout the UK to get you talking about the food issues that matter to you. Our video summarises a number of your concerns:

Clear food labelling

Just this week the government committed to clarifying food labels in the UK to ensure you can easily see what’s in your food and where it comes from. A number of our food debaters raised this as a key concern:

‘What we look for when we’re buying food is that it’s a good quality; I like to think that most of the food is grown or produced here in England.’

Another felt that buying British food would also boost the UK economy:

‘I’m really interested in trying to support the local economy. I like to know where my food comes from, and I like it as fresh as possible.’

Conversation commenter Richard has told us that this is important to him too:

‘I buy locally wherever possible. I know where all the meat I buy comes from.’

Food cost versus food quality

Lots of individuals told us that both quality and cost is important when purchasing food saying: ‘I look for the cheapest price and the best quality.’ Another commenter told us:

‘It is important that the food is made with good quality products. And at the same time, the food should be of a price range which you can afford.’

Some raised concerns over the true cost of food:

‘I find that a lot of the food in supermarkets these days is over-priced and of very poor quality. Most of the money seems to be for the brand name rather than for the product.’

We heard from families on tight budgets, pensioners trying to stretch the pennies and students juggling the cost and healthy benefits of food:

‘I’m a student and I try my best to eat healthy food, but I feel that healthy food is very expensive.’

We’re keen to hear what’s important to you when you’re choosing the food you buy and where you’d be happy to make sacrifices if choices were limited. So, what are your top food priorities?


We enjoy and look forward to meals (we have friends for whom eating is just a necessity and no more) so quality is important. Prefer plain food to complicated, and large quantity of quality (usually more expensive) components – meat for example – is not necessary with vegetables and puddings. So the meal need not be expensive.
Recommend using cheaper cuts of meat slow cooked in stew, casserole and hotpot – lots of flavour and easy to do in a slow cooker.
I’m not sure though about “local meat”, farmers markets. Do we really know much about its origins? The way it is displayed in markets does not fill me with confidence. And what happens to all that unsold fish that sits on top of ice? Perhaps we’ve become too wary of what happens to our food before we buy it.

par ailleurs says:
9 November 2012

If we’re going to feed ourselves adequately in the future then we need to return to the idea of generally (but not totally) seasonal eating and cooking produce ourselves rather than relying on food produced in factories.
I grew up in the 50s and 60s so I can remember the good and bad things. Nearly all food was seasonal and in some ways it was lovely to look forward to the apple season (yes, really!) and the new potatoes in late spring and brussels sprouts only appeared in the winter and salads in the summer etc etc.
Having said all that I’m also very much in favour of some new varieties and extended growing seasons from polytunnels and the like. I also remember well the utter boredom of the overall diet and am more than happy to add all the wonderful exotic herbs and spices to my cooking as well as what was considered foreign (and therefore highly suspect) items like cold pressed oils, garlic
(I didn’t taste it till my late teens!) and so-called exotic veg like pak choi which actually grows here as easily as cabbage, or rocket which rapidly becomes a weed in your garden if you let it.
Then as Malcolm R says, cook good meat but the lesser known cuts which benefit from slow cooking. Befriend a butcher if your supermarket doesn’t want to know.
Above all think about where your food comes from. Do you want asparagus flown in from Peru in the winter? Do you need strawberries in February? Would you keep a pet in the same way as a caged hen? Should you expect every possible ingredient to be available 24/7? Do cattle consist of steak only?
Think and act on what you find out and enjoy your food. If you want food that’s produced in a factory then that’s fine but don’t moan when the price keeps going up.

One thing infuriates me oftern Prices e.g. Chicken or Meat Priced per Kilo then you look at same as in Frozen and its in Gram’s also on Pies;Sausages or Tinned Food;Frozen the Labeling Poor regarding content of actual Meat in the Pie Meat or in the Sausages i once picked up and looked at a Family Chicken Pie Shortcrust Pastry with Puff Pastry lid and it said chicken 10% all the rest was fat+food additives i quickly put it down even though it was cheap.Young’s fish steaks very poor content only 50% fish in a box that gives visual impression a lot of fish in a large expensive Colorful box.Do they need to market in such expensive Colorful boxes?. There has been massive increases in tinned food which often has as little as 9% of 2what you think you are buying bought by students singles and OAPs.

I use a lot of ready prepared meals and would really like to see more producers using British meat especially chicken in them..
Some of the supermarket brands seem good on this matter and label their products accordingly, the smaller often high quality brands dont claim to use British sourced meat but their point of sale info suggests locally sourced ingredients where possible.
When I asked one of them about this they gave a very comprehensive reply which basically was that reliably sourcing UK meat was difficult for the smaller producer ( the supermarkets had more buying power) so they couldnt guaranteed every batch used UK sourced meat.

R.B.H says:
12 November 2012

Use only British products + pay the farmer a fair price = higher prices. I often shout at the tv when i see stories about supermarkets driving the producers of food to ever lower prices. Then i get to the checkout and see my ethical shopping jump up and bite me. ethical food, all levels of production getting a fair price, these are pipe dreams. It does not stack up, it is impossible to make it work. The place it works is-Utopia. . .no place.

Ian H says:
24 November 2012

All the supermarkets seem to have a policy of confusing their customers over the true price of the products they sell. In particular fruit and vegetable pricing can be very tricksy (price per item/punnet/packet/bag, bogofs/second item cheaper etc) making it quite difficult to work out the actual price per kilo. Even if you take the trouble to work that out, how then do you find out how that price compares with other supermarkets, or the local greengrocer or farm shop? As consumers we need to know what are fair (or at least average) prices for a broad range of food items without it being unacceptably time consuming. These data exist. The Consumer Association would gain prestige and public approbation by collating and publishing a list of typical food prices each month.

In the last two weeks I have had ocassion to return fruit to our local Tesco. on eacg ocassion the items were stasrting to go mouldy and or very bruised at the bottom of the container. The sell by date was short. Tesco took the goods back and sent me for each a £5.00 voucher. The following week we were looking at cherries – very expensive and on closer examination again the fruit was nmouldy in the packet so we didn’t buy.

This is all very fine but the pressure from the Supermarket on local ttraders has lost us out local greengrocers and independant fruit and fish shops. Instead of selling local produce we are being offered produce from Morocco and Senegal – doesn’t help these countries they are already having problems providing water for their population it’s all going to produce salad crops!

Fish smells strongly in that department of Tesco and although we are in Cornwall there are hardly any fish shops left!!

How can we be well served by National supermarkets and their cheapest producer is best attitude. Thank goodness we still have a fabulous local butcher where beef really is beef!

How many animals in the UK are slaughtered according to Halal practice?

One local Christian school has admitted that the school canteen meat (except for bacon and sausages) has been killed according to the Halal method.

Do supermarkets inform the public if their meat has been obtained from a Halal abbatoir?

I would expect that animals due for slaughter should be stunned before death.

If a local authority Christian school is providing Halal meat, then it would suggest that the county council concerned is probably providing most if not all their local schools with Halal meat.

There is an interesting article on http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/2977086.stm where the Farm Animal Welfare Council states that the way Kosher and Halal meat is produced causes severe suffering to animals.

Meat that is placed on sale to the General Public should clearly state whether or not the animal has been stunned prior to death.