Ethical Choices at the Supermarket


Some people feel that ethical shopping and supermarkets are two mutually exclusive concepts. However, the fact of the matter is that for reasons of convenience, cost or necessity, many of us do some, most or all of our shopping in a supermarket. So, when you’re there, what are the best products to look for if you’re trying to shop ethically?

Following are our top tips:


1. When it comes to animal products, such as meat and dairy, choose organic

As it not really possible to get up close and personal with producers at the supermarket, your best bet when it comes to meat and dairy is to choose certified organic. This is because the organic standards ensure that animals are reared with enough space to carry out their natural behaviours and are not subjected to painful mutilations. The standards also prohibit the use of antibiotics and growth hormones – which is an added bonus!

Many supermarkets in the metro area now carry a decent range of organic meat, poultry and dairy. The main organic brands to look for at the supermarket are Cleaver’s or Macro Organic but any product carrying the certified organic logo is fine.

2. Next best is free range

If organic products are not available at your local or if they’re out of your price range, you can find usually find some free range products, such as pork and chicken, at the supermarket. Definitions for free range are less black and white than organic, as there are several free range accreditation schemes each with different standards. Bottom line is, however, all of these schemes are an improvement on conventional farming practices and are a good second choice (after organic).

3. Choose organic eggs

While free range eggs are generally available in most supermarkets these days, we’re not sure that the standards followed on farms that supply these eggs would meet most peoples’ definition of what free range egg farming should look like. The organization responsible for accrediting these free range eggs farms has admitted that some farmers stock their hens at up to 40,000 per hectare when the Domestic recommends no more than 1,500 hens per hectare. Hens on these farms may also be de-beaked, which shouldn’t be necessary if hens are being reared in true free range conditions. As mentioned above, certified organic standards ensure a higher level of animal welfare.

4. Avoid ingredients with palm oil

Unfortunately this is easier said than done as astonishingly palm oil is now an ingredient in one out of every ten supermarket products including food, cosmetics, cleaning and bath products.

An organisation called Palm Oil Investigations is just about to release a Palm Oil Barcode Scanner App, which will identify palm oil content in products and it’s certification status. In the meantime, you’ll need to check the product label. Please see note below.

5. Choose cruelty-free beauty and household cleaning products

Most supermarkets now carry a range of cruelty-free beauty and household cleaning products which don’t test on animals. These products also tend to contain fewer harsh chemicals – better for us and the environment!

Check the label and look for the Choose Cruelty Free Logo.


Even if you do most of your shopping at the supermarket you can still make ethical choices. We really are very lucky here in Australia that the range and availability of ethically produced food and other consumables is improving all the time. Thinking back to even 5 years ago, we have so much more choice now when it comes to products that are better for us, for animals and for the environment. So, please keep voting with your wallets for change.


A note about palm oil:

In Australia the presence of palm oil in a product does not need to be declared on the label, and it most often appears as ‘vegetable oil’. The label must, however, declare the amount of saturated fat. So, if vegetable oil is listed as an ingredient AND the amount of saturated fat is also listed, it is pretty certain that it contains either palm kernel oil, palm oil or coconut oil (but palm oil is the most likely). Other vegetable oils are not saturated and therefore saturated fat will not be listed.




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