Ethical food shopping pyramid


If you’re looking for an easy way to remember how to buy food more sustainably, I love this ethical shopping pyramid by Melbourne not-for-profit, Sustainable Table. Shop as much as you can from the bottom tiers and try to avoid the top two when you can.

Let’s take a look at the different tiers…

Grey: Large SupermarketsWhat are the issue with supermarkets? In Australia two supermarkets dominate up to 80% of the grocery market. With this enormous buying power, supermarkets are capable of forcing down prices, leading many farmers to choose factory methods over more sustainable. Other issues include a lack of diversity in the produce aisle, increasing own-brand and imported products, and the fact you’re not supporting your local food growers and producers.

Community or independent supermarkets
Although these are smaller businesses and may be locally owned, independent supermarkets like IGA or Foodland still have the collective purchasing power and other issues inherent with the Big Two. That said, it’s always worth looking for locally-made products in your independent supermarket as they are more likely to offer diverse stock.

Greengrocer, local market, non-organic box delivery service
Although these might seem like a good choice, be aware that these types of businesses tend to buy from wholesale markets where produce comes from all over the country, and farmers lose profits to the wholesaler and then the retailer. As always, the key is to know what’s in season and talk to the providers to find out what’s local. At Redcliffe markets, for example, there are three or four stalls that on-sell wholesale produce, but there are two farming families that also sell their produce. Remember: talk to your supplier, don’t be scared!

Organic grocer or organic box delivery service
Organic produce is more environmentally sound, however with these suppliers there is no onus for local produce, and again the farmer is earning less than if you bought directly from them.

From the sourceAnd so we’ve reached the bottom tier, which is, funnily enough, the pinnacle of ethical, sustainable shopping. Buying direct from accredited farmers’ markets (or directly from farmers, as discussed above), from CSA schemes such as Food Connect, co-ops, farm gate or fresh off the boat ensures the farmer receives full compensation for their efforts.

NO matter where you live, it is possible to tap into a more sustainable way of putting food on your table (although I recognise that those living remotely may have far fewer options). Once you tap into your local food supply and realise how much better the product and more worthwhile the experience, I assure you, you won’t want to queue for a self-serve checkout again!

Find your nearest farmers market here: and there is a fabulous article on Quirky Cooking about bulk buying and co-ops here.

Be sure to check out Sustainable Table, which has stack of information on buying meat ethically, a free-range egg and chicken guide and more. You can also download a flyer with 10 ways to create a sustainable table (go to number 11).

I’ll talk more about different ways to shop so stay tuned, but if you have any tips to share, go right ahead!


  1. Liz @ I Spy Plum Pie says

    Great post! I love the work of Sustainable Table, they make everything to easy to understand and accessible. Another great site is Local Harvest ( which you can use to search for the closest farmers markets/farm gates/organic shops etc by just putting in your postcode. Super handy!
    Liz @ I Spy Plum Pie recently posted..Gelato World Tour MelbourneMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge