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Episode ten: An Ode to Apples

An Ode to Apples

Did you know that less that 5% of the apples eaten in Ireland are grown here? Most are flown from far-flung places like New Zealand, Chile and South Africa. Yet all over the country, each autumn, apples are left to rot in gardens.

Why?

This ode to the humble apple is in the company of David Llewellyn of Llewellyn’s Orchard in Lusk, Co Dublin. Not only does David grow rare varieties of apples and pears at his six acre orchard, but he also has a vineyard, grows Merlot, Rondo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and produces 1,000 bottles of Irish wine each year.

He also produces ciders, perrys, apple cider vinegar and juice. Join David to ponder why Irish supermarkets don’t stock Irish apples, take a ramble through the EU marketing rules that insist all apples that are sold are flawless and uniform, and wonder at the fiendishly clever marketing strategies of the Pink Lady PR team.

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Episode nine: Loam

Loam

“Chefs have a responsibility to choose and nurture their supply chain. The restaurant is the showcase of a lot of other hard work that’s gone on in the background, and it’s important for the restaurant to showcase that work in a respectful kind of a way.”

Meet Enda McEvoy, head chef and co-owner of Michelin-starred Galway restaurant Loam, where Enda is envisioning a new indigenous Irish cuisine based on locally grown, foraged and hunted foods.

Loam is the first ever Irish restaurant to be awarded three stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association and the first winner of Michelin’s UK and Ireland sustainability award. 

Following an extraordinary meal at Loam, Ellie returns to the restaurant to chat to Enda; everything from the day-to-day relationships built with veg growers and suppliers, to the colonial origins of French gastronomy, to whether or not there’s an Irish-grown substitute for pepper feature in this wide-ranging conversation.

Episode eight: Neighbourfood

Neighbourfood

Jack Crotty, left, and Martin Poucher, right

From five collection points in March to 40 all over Ireland and 15 in the UK in September, Neighbourfood, the click-and-collect online shopping system that allows time-poor customers to support their local food growers and producers, is taking off.

In episode eight of Green Bites, meet Jack Crotty, co-founder of the two-year-old fledgling business. Jack’s first business, The Rocket Man food company, is still going strong in his native Cork.

Jack talks about how Covid-19 restrictions led to an increase in demand for Neighbourfood, his philosophy on the Irish food landscape for small producers, and his hopes to grow into a lot more than just an online food shop in the future.

Episode seven: Seeds of hope, seeds of change

Seeds of hope, seeds of change

Ireland is almost entirely dependent on imported seed for all its commercial and garden food crop seeds.  During the Covid-19 restrictions, this dependence was highlighted when both Ireland’s organic seed suppliers, Irish Seedsavers and Brown Envelope Seeds, were forced to limit access to their website to ration their seeds in response to the boom in interesting in growing vegetables. 

Ellie visits both Irish Seedsavers and Brown Envelope Seeds to explore the implications of this for our food security and sovereignty. 

At Irish Seedsavers, she talks to General Manager Jennifer McConnell and Seed Curator Jo Newton and takes a tour of the registered charity that holds 600 varieties of seeds in trust for future generations in a public seed bank, and learns about Irish Seedsavers’ heritage apple orchard and the story of the long-lost, now restored Bawn Onion.

In West Cork, Ellie visits Madeline McKeever, small beef farmer, founder of Brown Envelope Seeds, co-founder of Skibbereen Farmer’s Market and mother of SD Agriculture spokesperson Holly McKeever Cairns. Madeline is a self-described “apocaloptimist” – so where is the cause for optimism? The answer is quite simple.

Episode six: The Knowledge of Salmon

The Knowledge of Salmon

From smoked salmon to sushi, salmon is widely eaten and widely loved. But wild Atlantic salmon stocks are in a dangerous decline. In the meantime, Ireland plans to double its farmed salmon exports in the coming years and yet our government licensing system hangs in a 13-year stasis.

What’s the connection between wild salmon and farmed salmon? Organic certified salmon farming seems to provide a sustainable way for seafood lovers to keep eating the King of Fish. But campaigners argue that disease and parasites from salmon farms are one of the reasons why the future of wild fish now hangs in the balance, while Ireland’s Marine Institute says this is untrue.

Ireland currently produces under 20,000 tonnes of organic-certified farmed salmon per year, cashing in on its green image and relatively low intensity to export most of this premium product to European markets.

But intensive salmon farming giants like Scotland and Norway have battled increasing problems with disease and parasites, giving rise to animal welfare concerns for the farmed fish as well as the impacts on wild migratory salmonids. In 2018, a Scottish diver at Vacasay at a farm run by the Scottish Salmon Company, filmed this horrific footage, which you should definitely not watch before brunch.

So can Ireland double production of farmed salmon and stay sustainable?

With John Murphy of Salmonwatch Ireland and Catherine McManus of MOWI, the Norwegian aquaculture giant who produce the bulk of Ireland’s organic farmed salmon, Green Bites goes fishing for the truth about the sustainability of salmon.

Episode five: Ireland’s White Gold Boom

Ireland’s White Gold Boom

Ireland produces somewhere in the region of 13% of the world’s infant formula, and recent research has revealed that for every kilo of formula produced, the true carbon cost is anywhere between four and 11 kilos of greenhouses gases.  Alongside Australian expert in the economics of infant feeding Dr Julie Smith, who published a paper last year showing that infant formula production produces 4kg of greenhouse gases for every kg of dry formula made, Green Bites takes a deep dive into the environmental and ethical impacts of Ireland’s €1.3 billion White Gold Boom. 

Update from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine:

I received the following several days after the White Gold Boom episode was published. It seems approval from the DAFM’s perspective includes packaging standards rather than a company’s overall marketing strategy. The Department does not clarify what determines when the packaging must comply with EU legislation or standards in an importing country “as appropriate.”

Ellie,

Sincere apologies for the delay on this, please see below in response to your query:

Ireland is a leading producer of high quality, safely and sustainably produced dairy products, including infant formula, follow-on milks and growing-up milks.

All Infant Formula manufacturing plants must be registered in accordance with Irish and EU hygiene legislation. A plant cannot commence commercial manufacture of Infant formula, until the facility has completed the registration process with DAFM.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) carries out a range of controls to ensure that all dairy products produced in Ireland, including infant formula, comply with the relevant legislation.

In particular, packaging on infant formula product being exported from Ireland must comply with EU, Codex Alimentarius or the standards of the importing country, as appropriate.

DAFM checks include verification that the packaging complies with the relevant standards.

For info. Codex Alimentarius standards may be found at the following link:

http://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/sh-proxy/en/?lnk=1&url=https%253A%252F%252Fworkspace.fao.org%252Fsites%252Fcodex%252FStandards%252FCXS%2B72-1981%252FCXS_072e.pdf

NEW: Support Green Bites

The Irish Food Sustainability Podcast needs listener support to keep bringing you new episodes. We’re using Stripe to enable you to make a one-off payment to help fund the work of making this series.

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Episode Four: What’s the beef with beef?

What’s the beef with beef?

Are you convinced a vegan diet will save the world?  This episode might make you think again.

In episode four of Green Bites, we meet Sligo farmer and artist Clive Bright, whose 120 acre organic farm raises 100% grass-fed beef for Clive’s direct-to-customer company The Rare Ruminare. Clive has transformed his family farm from a standard dairy operation, complete with spraying and fertilisers, to the mob-grazing system he uses today, where trees play a vital role in improving his pastures.  He’s been certified organic for six years.

Clive talks how he believes a truly sustainable food system necessarily includes livestock, and how, in revolutionising his approach to farming, he’s managed to insulate his livelihood against the commodity market and a food system he sees as broken.

Episode Three: Bee the Change

Bee the Change

Could YOU live on foods only grown in Ireland for a month each year? Lisa Fingleton is the author of The Local Food Project, based on her 30-day Local Food Challenge: each September she invites people to try eating only food grown in Ireland. Her partner Rena Blake is the North Kerry co-ordinator for Kerry Social Farming. Together they live on a 20 acre organic smallholding called Barna, where they try to embody the saying “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Episode Two: Flour Power

Flour Power

Flour power, from soil to plate: did you know Ireland imported 260,000 tonnes of wheat in 2019 and that most wheat grown in Ireland is used as animal feed? In this Green Bites episode, follow the flour story with the help of Emma Clutterbuck of Oak Forest Mills and Ben Lebon of The Natural Foods Bakery: Ben produces a 100% Irish ancient grain loaf with the stonemilled spelt flour grown by Emma and her partner.

Episode One: Losing the Plot

Losing the Plot

When the Covid lockdown happened, Irish allotment holders were locked out of their plots because there was no exemption for them under food production. I visited with allotment holders when their plots re-opened and enlisted the help of Green Party junior agriculture minister Pippa Hackett and food historian Regina Sexton to dig deep into the issues raised and to ask: when it comes to growing our own, has Ireland lost the plot?