Drizzle with care
7th August, 2008
With vast areas decimated by industrial farming, the salad days are over for mass-produced olive oil. Laura Sevier looks at the effect its rise in popularity has had on the European landscape, and at some more sustainable brands.
There was once a time, back in 1970s Britain, when the only way to get hold of olive oil was to go to a chemist. Sold in glass medicinal bottles, it was recommended for cleaning out ears. How times have changed. Now we’ve become a nation of drizzlers, and most of us have olive oil in the kitchen because of its special flavour, versatility and widely publicised health benefits. TV chefs use it incessantly and encourage us to do the same.
Olive oil has joined the ranks of tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and marmalade to become a national staple. Demand has soared. Between 2000 and 2005, UK sales increased by 39 per cent, according to market analysts Mintel, while 2006 became the first year in which the amount of money spent on olive oil exceeded that spent on vegetable, sunflower and all other types of cooking oils. Globally, demand is growing at six per cent per year. To meet this new appetite, mass-market brands are produced intensively, so supermarkets can sell it in high volumes at lower prices (500ml of ‘own-brand’ olive oil sells for under £2.50).
While we may be benefiting from more and cheaper olive oil in our diets, however, there is a price to pay. Growing olives on an industrial...
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