Bee-friendly shopper’s guide to Local Rapeseed Oil

10th January 2018

An earth- and pollinator-friendly diet is healthy for us as well as various wild bees, honey bees and other pollinators. This is so whether we are vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous and especially if it includes the best oils and fats.

Red-tailed bumblebee

This may include dairy products & some eggs/fish/meat, especially if organic and produced in accordance with the best welfare standards. Flavours and nutrition are enhanced by olive/nut/seed oils, but only one is available in quantity: golden, nutty & versatile rapeseed oil. This is especially good for baking, roasting and frying [as it smokes/burns only at very high temperatures and is economical, as it can be reused]. With vitamin E, omega oils, monounsaturated fats and less saturated fat than olive oil, it’s healthier than most other oils too.

Pioneering farmers have committed to not use systemic neonicotinoid pesticides (‘neonics’) on rapeseed plants, even if the ban on their use is lifted. These non-organic conventional farmers use other methods of pest control that don’t affect bees’ ability to forage, navigate and reproduce.

  1. Calvia near Macclesfield, available from these nearest stockists: Gastronomy, Hale; Nixon’s Farm Shop, Back’s Deli, Heaton Moor, On the Eighth Day, Oxford Road & Village Greens, Prestwich
  2. Great Ness of Shropshire see plain or flavoured with citrus/herbs/spices, available from Tesco Altrincham/Bury, Cheese Place, Prestwich, Cheshire Smokehouse, Wilmslow and Bents Garden & Home Centre, Warrington.
  3. Stringers’ near Bishop Wilton, York – the only UK Organic Rapeseed oil, bottled by Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil of Malton. It’s available from these stockists: Unicorn, Chorlton-cum-Hardy (& in Leeds… Sheffield).

 

Our most local bee-friendly rapeseed oil

Our most local bee-friendly rapeseed oil

Nationally, FOE identified in the bee-friendly oils shoppers guide the first farmers to make such a commitment: none are in Scotland, two are roughly equidistant from Manchester and the most northerly are:

  1. Farrington’s Mellow Yellow from Northamptonshire, available in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Booths, and independent retailers including Fusion Deli, Didsbury;
  2. R-Oil from Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire available in larger branches of the Co-op, also sole producer of Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ cold-pressed rapeseed oil.

Ethical Consumer point out that rapeseed oil is a fast growing vegetable oil as it is cold-pressed, which is preferred to chemically refined oil, and has health benefits. Their 2016 ratings provide context, with rapeseed and sunflower oils rated separately from olive oils, the top being Palestinian ‘Zaytoun’ fair traded from agriculture that is naturally organic, sustainable and “rooted in time and tradition”.  The ‘Best Buys’ listed in the Ethical Consumer report include

  • Farrington’s Mellow Yellow & Hillfarm Rapeseed Oil (the only UK producer that stated on its website that it does not use neonicotinoid seed treatments)

They note that the above organic rapeseed oils are from mainland Europe and they found: “no organic rapeseed oil is produced in this country”. Mr Organic’s rapeseed oil is from Italy, and there is no legal requirement to state the county of origin.

A Manchester-based follow-up of FOE’s national work confirms this lack of such clear commitments and ethical statements on the labelling and websites of the producers.  We did, however, find another organic producer from Yorkshire and Second Nature Oils in Kilkenny, Ireland.

It is healthiest to eat less oil and fat and to use bee-friendly cold-pressed rapeseed oil when cooking at high temperatures, either that or olive/sunflower oils for cooking at lower temperatures and olive oil or a seed/nut oil for dressings etc. Also note:

  • Monounsaturated fats are found in olive and rapeseed oils and in avocados and some nuts, such as almonds, brazils and peanuts.
  • Hazelnuts and walnuts grow in our temperate climate, and flax/linseed oil can be grown on temporary ‘meanwhile’ sites as a nutritious fresh grain/oil
  • Coconut oil is good at high temperatures.
  • Mild/light olive oils are often highly processed.
  • Vegetable oils/spreads/margarines may include bee-harming rapeseed oil (i.e. grown using neonics) or genetically modified (GM) soya or corn/maize oils.
  • Butter is very nutritious and delicious and can be heated, local and organic.

These matters all relate to Friends of the Earth’s ‘16 things you need to know about food’ and the call: LET’S EAT BETTER.

Many inter-related issues are involved in assessing which oils are the best value and produced with the least negative impact on our environment. The main issues relate to:

  • Pesticide, especially neonics’ damage to bees and other pollinators;
  • Weedkillers/herbicides, fungicides & fertilizers, especially nitrates;
  • Soya, maize or palm oil trees planted at the expense of remaining (rain) forest (and orangutans in South East Asia); hence the need for ‘certified sustainable palm oil’, e.g. from Nigeria;
  • Carbon footprints beyond food miles, e.g. transport-related diesel pollution;
  • Waste and chemicals used in processing, water usage and overall ecological footprint.

PS: There are similar issues in relation to sugar from beet or cane, as explained in the Friends of the Earth / BugLife sugar beet briefing.