Truff times as ethical eating becomes the new status symbol
Foie gras, truffles and caviar are going out of favour with the social elites in SA and globally
Contentious foie gras, truffles and caviar have traditionally been the favoured delicacies of the elite. But new research from the universities of British Columbia and Toronto has found that free-range and fair-trade foods are becoming increasingly important to high society.
“Our culture’s understanding of what counts as elite taste has really overlooked this ethical element. High-status people tend to enjoy sophisticated things, like opera or French cuisine. Researchers have understood this for more than 40 years and describe it as aesthetic taste.
“However, a new ‘green’ cachet seems to be taking hold, with people paying more for products with environmental benefits.
“The research team wanted to find out if elites are now signalling status through ethical foods,” said lead researcher Emily Huddart Kennedy.
The team surveyed more than 800 grocery shoppers in the Canadian city of Toronto about their food choices, and divided them into foodies, ethical eaters, neither or both.
After gathering information about the shoppers’ income, education and occupation, the researchers found that the group who considered themselves to be both foodies and ethical eaters had by far the highest socioeconomic status.
Roughly a quarter of the “foodies” earned more than $100,000, but more than 40% of the “ethical foodies” did.
Similar patterns applied for occupation and education.
At the other end of the spectrum, people who considered themselves neither foodies nor ethical food consumers had the lowest socioeconomic status.
“If you’re saying: ‘Oh, I should go to this new hipster food truck or this new restaurant that opened up,’ that’s not even enough anymore to signal that you’re high-status,” said Kennedy.
“Now it also has to have this additional layer of being good for people and good for the planet. Foie gras might be great, but if it’s local, heritage-breed, pasture-raised foie gras from happy, free-range geese, then that’s what high-status looks like now.”
Miles Reolon, chef and director of Seasoned – a Cape Town-based concern that hires out private chefs – is seeing more of his wealthy clients opting for ethical eating.
“Those with money generally tend to be much more health-conscious and also ethically aware of organic, free-range produce and now a heavy focus on veganism too.
“I experience that with many of VIP clients, who only want organic and ethically sourced produce.
“These items generally cost more than your standard items, which are not deemed organic or ethically sourced.”
Reolon said while these products were expensive, “many wealthy people seem to be more educated in this realm and also generally in healthy eating”.
HOW TO EAT ETHICALLY:
• Choose local produce
• Cut back on processed foods
• Eat less meat
• Choose sustainable seafood