Whatever your favourite dishes may be today, chances are they will look quite different in 20 to 30 years! The culinary landscape is predicted to undergo major changes in the decades ahead – not only because our habits and attitudes towards food are changing. These issues and others were discussed by a number of high-profile Irish Chefs at The Sustainable Kitchen event held in Airfield Estate today.

The National Dairy Council hosted the event for Irish chef Anna Haugh whose restaurant Myrtle in London has gained great praise since it opened in 2019. She has built a successful broadcasting career as well with appearances on BBC’s Ready Steady Cook as well as being a regular on Saturday Kitchen, Sunday Brunch and Masterchef – The Professionals. 

Anna said I was raised to waste nothing and have always insisted this ethos continues in my kitchens. Its not just a matter of saving money but also being aware of the repercussions on the planet. Challenging yourself to find the best ways to handle the ingredients that come through our door is exciting and rewarding”.

The key reasons which are necessitating a fundamental shift in how we think about food can be summarised as:

  • population growth
  • effects of global warming
  • inequality in access to food

Dr Kirstie McAdoo, Director of Education & Research at Airfield Estate, said, “We should view our evolving food systems as a part of the solution to climate change and there is a role for everyone in that. Fundamentally, we are always going to need food and it is always going to produce emissions. The most sustainable food we can eat respects natural resources such as soil and biodiversity and comes from local farmers and suppliers. Here at Airfield Estate, we are an important and practical showcase of how soil is protected, biodiversity encouraged, and food is produced. It is vital to help connect people to how they can play their part in our food system as we face considerable shifts in what and how we produce food.”

When we look at “Sustainable Diet” – what do we mean? Sustainable diets are commonly considered as eating patterns that simply focus on reducing climate change but they would not be ‘sustainable’ if they focused on this issue alone. According to the FAO/WHO1 sustainable healthy diets should be:

  • Nutritionally adequate, safe, and healthy
  • Culturally acceptable and accessible
  • Economically fair and affordable
  • Environmentally protective (respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems)

Irish Dairy scores well against the four pillars of sustainable diets being highly nutritious with eight nutrients in one glass of milk, accessible and affordable. While improvements are ongoing, Ireland is one of the best places in the world for sustainable milk production. The grass-based system is extremely efficient resulting in one of the lowest carbon footprints internationally.

Dublin based Chef Eric Matthews, owner of Kicky’s restaurant in Dublin and Host of today’s event said “Running any business requires a measured approach to the impact you have on the environment and the food industry is one of the biggest contributors to waste and carbon emissions. In my restaurant we aim to reduce waste by running a paperless kitchen, 90% of the kitchen runs on electricity and we deal directly with producers and farmers cutting out wasteful plastics and packaging”.

Conor Spacey is the Culinary Director of FoodSpace Ireland, and is very focussed on providing a sustainable food system that involves seasonal Irish ingredients, working directly with farmers across the country and implementing a zero-waste policy that also reduces our carbon footprint.

He said “We are all very aware that our current food system is broken, from food waste to food accessibility, there is a huge divide across the globe. The future of our food will change and as consumers we need to be part of that change and really understand the effects our choices can make to the planet, livelihoods, and ourselves. A real understanding to the “dark side” of our food and ensuring that this is highlighted and discussed will really help us in shaping a sustainable food system that protects us all.

For more information on our campaigns please visit https://ndc.ie/from-the-ground-up/