According to the Independent “Fewer than half of young UK adults know butter comes from a dairy, cow”.
Now call me Mr. Picky, but that’s understandable, because you no more get butter from a cow than you get petrol from an oil well. What you get from a cow is milk, which can be processed into other products, like butter, cheese, and yoghurt, none of which you actually get from the cow, but from the processing of milk, in much the same way as crude oil is processed into petrol and a wide variety of other substances from plastics to pharmaceuticals.
However, while I can understand a young urban child looking at a block of butter and wondering where it came from, what I cannot understand is an educational system, parents included, that permits someone to pass through it and emerge at 16 so abysmally ignorant.
The Indie goes on to say:-
“More than a third of 16 to 23-year-olds (36%) do not know bacon comes from pigs and four in 10 (40%) failed to link milk with an image of a dairy cow, with 7% linking it to wheat, the poll of 2,000 people for charity Leaf (Linking Environment and Farming) found.
Some 41% correctly linked butter to a dairy cow, with 8% linking it to beef cattle, while 67% were able to link eggs to an image of a hen but 11% thought they came from wheat or maize.
A total of 6% of those questioned knew that salad dressing could come from rapeseed oil, compared with the national average among all age groups of 24%.
Although four in 10 young adults (43%) considered themselves knowledgeable about where their food comes from, the results revealed a “shocking” lack of knowledge about how the most basic food is produced, the charity said.”
Now I don’t know whether those words belong to the original research, or the newspaper, but the term “comes from” is tossed around far too carelessly.
Salad dressing, for example, does not “come from” rapeseed oil, though it can include it (any more than butter comes from cows – no matter what you do to a cow, it will never yield butter).
And consider this:-
“Some 41% correctly linked butter to a dairy cow, with 8% linking it to beef cattle…”
It’s clear from context that people were asked to link images of products to images of sources, so personally I’m surprised that so many people can tell the difference between beef and dairy cattle, though I suspect it was mostly luck, and not remotely surprised that 8% can’t – and I think that it’s entirely irrelevant.
What is relevant is why 40% couldn’t identify milk with dairy cows, but 41%, quite possibly including many of the same people, could tell dairy cattle from beef cattle, and make the connection with butter to the former.
I’m sorry, I’m not buying that at all. If people are so dumb they have no idea where milk comes from, they sure as hell can’t tell beef from dairy cattle, or know how butter is produced. I was a rambler and backpacker for years, and knowing the difference between dairy breeds and beef breeds can mean the difference between a pleasant walk and running for your life. Like many others, I never figured it out with any confidence (not least because I very soon figured out that, under the right conditions, all cattle are potentially lethal), but I digress.
A spokesperson for the charity Leaf, on whose behalf the research was carried out, bemoans the fact that “Three in 10 adults born in the 1990s haven’t visited a farm in more than 10 years, if at all, which is a real shame as our farmers not only play an important role in food production but are passionate about engaging and reconnecting ** consumers too,” (the word “with” is missing at ** – a transcription error or the same sloppiness evident in “comes from”?).
Which is nothing to do with such abysmal ignorance as that displayed above (and I suspect, in some areas an even higher proportion of adults of any age have never visited a farm, or had any desire to do so). If every body who possibly could do so actually went tramping around the countryside, it would be effectively destroyed. You only have to look at the congestion, both on roads and the more popular footpaths, in the Lake and Peak Districts on a summer weekend, to see that.
I grew up in the slums of post-war Manchester, but I knew by the time I started school where eggs and milk came from (though I I might have been vague about cheese, butter, and bacon, as rationing continued until my 9th year ),and though I never saw a farm up close and personal until I was in my thirties, I knew all I needed to know about food production for one very good reason – I could read.
While it’s nice to visit a farm (not in a twee way – people who coo over baby farm animals then go home to roast lamb, or other meat, are simply low-grade hypocrites), there is absolutely no need to do so to know how farms work, what they produce, and how the products wind up on one’s plate, especially not in these data-heavy, Internet-everywhere, days. My generation, though, was taught this at school, and I find it disturbing that such basics are apparently – unless these people really are as dumb and ignorant as they appear to be – totally neglected.
So, really, how did the people selected for this survey get to be so – not just ill-informed – downright stupid? What sort of moron, for example, thinks eggs are derived from grain? And just what do they think the process might be? Seriously, I’d love to know the answer to that!
Or can it be, given the age range of those questioned, that some were simply taking the piss, thus distorting the results? I think that’s quite possible, and adding to that possibility the very real linguistic sloppiness evinced by the inappropriate use of “comes from,” I would venture to suggest that the intellectual rigor required for research of this nature was sadly lacking, and that the results might well have little or no real value.
And it overlooks one very real problem – the vast majority of people simply don’t care where their food comes from, just so long as it comes.