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For the love of food, this Valentine’s day!


Valentine’s day is a day to show the love! If you’re thinking of preparing a foodie surprise for your loved one this valentine’s day, you should read this blog first. Loving the planet doesn’t mean having to give up all of your favourite amorous culinary delights, but here’s a few issues you should think about before tucking in!

For the love of . . . Chocolate

Chocolate cakes on valentines day. Credit @Arina Habich 2014Chocolate cakes on valentines day. Photo credit @Arina Habich 2014

If my Valentines meal doesn’t include plenty of chocolate, I will be very disappointed! I know I am not the only one. In the UK we have a bit of an obsession with chocolate, we put it in cakes, of course, but also in our breakfast cereals, in alcohol (chocolate liqueur anyone?) and it even features in some savoury dishes. In fact, in the UK we all eat an average of 8kg of chocolate a year! That’s the equivalent of over 160 Dairy milk bars or 727 Lindt chocolate balls. Worryingly though, we are facing the risk of a global chocolate shortage by 2020 and one day chocolate might become luxury that is unaffordable for most of us. There are many reasons this is the case.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans from cocoa trees that grow in tropical countries with adequate sunshine and rainfall conditions. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the top two producing countries and together produce nearly 60% of the world’s cocoa. But a changing climate is seeing unpredictable rainfall patterns and seasonal shifts making it much less favourable to grow cocoa and so farmers are switching to other more profitable crops. Increased temperatures and prolonged periods of drought also make the cocoa crops more vulnerable to diseases like cocoa pod borer which can drastically reduce the yield of cocoa beans produced.

While production of chocolate is slowly melting away, demand is doing the opposite. Chocolate sales in China have pretty much doubled in the last decade and other emerging markets are increasing their chocolate consumption too. With 85% of cocoa produced by smallholder farmers, we need to see big global chocolate companies invest in their farmers to help improve the quality of the land and have access to best management practices and ensure they are earning a decent livelihood. This will help to produce high yields and keep farmers in cocoa production, which is essential to meet our growing global demand. So buying chocolate from companies and brands that are doing good things for their farmers is the best way to make sure we can continue to enjoy that brownie guilt-free!

For the love of . . . Prosecco

Prosecco to celebrate valentine's day.Prosecco to celebrate valentine’s day. Photo credit: @Alamy

With every romantic meal you need a drink, you need bubbles. At the moment Prosecco is the drink of choice for many.  In the UK we are drinking more Prosecco than ever, and paying the lowest prices in the EU. In 2014 it over took Champagne.

However Prosecco has a problem. It is produced in Veneto, north-east Italy. An area that is vulnerable to a changing climate. The weather conditions during the grape growing season are the single most important contributing factor for a good harvest. Many grape varieties are particularly sensitive to rises in temperatures. These include Merlot and Dolcetto, or favour other varieties such as Glera, used in Prosecco. They need constant predictable seasons. 2014 was a bad year for vineyards in Vento. The summer was one of extreme weather leading to poor harvests.

It is not all bad news. Yes some sparkling wines are going to be impacted by climate change. Viticulture is adapting. Growers are starting to turn to older varieties of grape.  The UK is now recognised as growing some of the best sparkling wine in the world. If we can keep climate change to a few degrees many vineyards in northern Europe would benefit, as would those in Northern Italy. It is if we go beyond that the problems start. Glera, the grape used in Prosecco, thrives in a hot stable climate. For a while at least we will always find a good bottle of Prosecco we just need to work to keep it that way.

For the love of . . . Oysters

Oysters ready to eat. Photo credit: @Nick DawsonOysters ready to eat. Photo credit: @Nick Dawson

A seafood based menu can be super sophisticated as well as delicious and is a popular choice for a special Valentine’s day dinner. But did you know that your seafood choices can make a big difference to the environment? Oysters are a well-known aphrodisiac and are a classy option to impress your valentine- even better is that they have low environmental impact so you can tuck in guilt free! However, climate change could threaten this dish. Average sea surface temperatures have increased over the past fifty years, largely as a result of human activities. Oysters, along with other marine organisms with shells are being affected as a result of an increase in acidity of sea water.

By choosing MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) certified seafood, you can be sure you are purchasing seafood that does not negatively impact the species populations or the environment. Your dish will also come from a well-managed source. There are hundreds of MSC and ASC seafood products available to buy in UK retailers- look out for the logos and enjoy with your loved one!

So what food do you show the love for?

This is a familiar story across the food chain. We want to have good quality food that we don’t pay a lot for at time of increased competition. Regional foods have become increasingly popular, whilst many of us remain blind to the fragility of the food supply chain. While demand increases we often overlook that agricultural production is not limitless, especially if you buy regional produce. The same is true for the oceans. We need to think about food, where is comes from and how it is produced. We can make a difference with our food choices and purchases, at least 3 times a day!

Tell us what favourite foods you will show the love for this valentine’s day by tweeting #showthelove

Blog jointly written by @emmajokeller, @DuncWilliamson and @AislaJones

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