[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
What would Old MacDonald say?
By Mario Cacciottolo
BBC News

Salim Haddad
Mr Haddad says many customers do not query their food's origins
Take an average cafe - and a random selection of clientele. Do they know where their toast, bacon and omelettes actually originate?

A survey by the Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF) organisation suggests many of us are unaware that our food is actually grown, bred or created on a British farm.

For example, 22% of 1,073 adults questioned did not know bacon and sausages originate from farms.

But is the great British public really that ignorant about what life is like down on the farm?

Back in our randomly selected cafe - La Crema in west London - its owner Salim Haddad, 47, is rushing about, serving the steady flow of customers with their morning diet of English breakfasts.

Fast food nation

These, naturally, contain bacon and sausages, and no doubt a bit of cooking oil was used in the process as well.

When asked if he is surprised by the survey's results, Mr Haddad grins and says: "Not really".

He estimates that "maybe 60%" of his customers would know the farm-based origins of produce.

"People don't know what they have to eat. Kids in school don't know celery from a carrot," he said.

"They only know chips, they haven't seen a potato. All they know is KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonald's.

"Advertising could help. McDonald's pays millions for advertising, the government could spend a bit on putting adverts in school canteens to educate children."

Amongst La Crema's customers is John Hogan, 38, a construction foreman who owns his own beef farm in Ireland.

"A lot of children from the city haven't been out to a farm," he said.

"Where are they going to see wheat or barley or pigs or sheep, living in an urban environment?"

Peter Welch (left) and James O'Reilly
Mr Welch and Mr O'Reilly were well aware their bacon came from a pig

Mr Hogan's comments were supported by the LEAF survey - 29% of the adults questioned, including 42% of 16 to 24-year-olds and 33% of those with children, had never visited a farm.

Of those, 44% of Scots, 36% of Londoners and 32% of people from Manchester had never set foot in a farmyard.

But 85% of people from the South West and 81% of East Anglians had made such a trip.

In-convenience truth

Sitting nearby, sporting a stripy hat and regulation overalls, were James O'Reilly, 52, and Peter Welch, 45, decorators who had just polished off their cooked breakfasts.

People who do not know that bacon originates from a farm are "idiots", according to Mr O'Reilly, who "eats a lot of bacon".

He said: "They must be very naive, or just not interested. They're not bothered where food comes from so long as they can eat it."

Mr Welch blames convenience food. "If it's not wrapped up in a bit of plastic then they don't want to know."

Two tables down, nibbling on a pain au chocolat is Chec Chapman Pincher, a 21-year-old bar worker from Shepherd's Bush.

She identifies packaging as a factor in people's ignorance as to their food's origins.

"If you go to a supermarket to buy oats, you just see a box. But if you go to a health food shop you often see the oats themselves. Visuals are important."

Patrick Pretorius
Patrick Pretorius visited farms as a child growing up in Hull

Sitting opposite, sipping a giant mug of tea, is Patrick Pretorius, a 24-year-old musician from Hull.

"When I was at primary school I was taken on trips to see how cheese is made and lambs being born.

"I don't know if that's done down here but it's a good idea. Otherwise people like to be ignorant."

But farm visits are not just the privilege of country folk, of course, as many city farms exist in the urban environment.

Vauxhall City Farm has everything you would expect to find on a farm in the country - cows, pigs, sheep and lambs, although it does not slaughter its animals.

Cow's that?

Deputy farm manager Linda Hinds said there was a common lack of knowledge from those who paid a visit.

"We have parents walking around whose children ask what certain animals are, but the adults don't know," she says.

"Some parents see our piebald ponies, which are black and white, and think they're cows.

"And during one school visit we handed round some ham sandwiches to the children.

"Someone made a remark about the ham coming from pigs, and that horrified the children as they hadn't made the connection.

"They were so upset that they refused to eat the sandwiches."

Children learn where food comes from

Youngsters to learn about fishing
20 May 07 |  West Yorkshire
From tractors to bed and breakfast
27 Apr 07 |  Business

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific