Ethical Traceability in the UK Wheat-Flour-Bread Chain

  • Rosalind Sharpe
  • David Barling
  • Tim Lang
Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 15)

This chapter presents the findings of an investigation into the role of ethical concerns in one of the UK’s most important food supply chains, covering the production of wheat and its transformation into flour and bread. Bread has long been a staple food in the UK. Today, the British consume the equivalent of around nine million large loaves a day, almost all of it made from wheat flour. Wheat and bread are thus linked by a complex chain that must be both flexible and reliable. This chain presents considerable challenges both to traceability and to the tracing of ethical aspects of production.

In the UK, most bread is the product of intensive cultivation and an industrial manufacturing process, and is sold by supermarkets rather than specialist bakers. Beyond the farm gate this chain is very concentrated and there is considerable vertical integration between millers, ingredient suppliers and bakers. Coexisting with this dominant chain is a comparatively small ‘craft’ chain, characterized by smaller production units, less mechanized and more time-consuming manufacturing methods, and less use of inputs or additives. However there is trade (e.g. in ingredients and services) between the two chains. Beyond the farm gate, it is hard to discern separate organic and conventional chains, because the organic chain depends on the conventional chain for some supplies and distribution facilities, and the conventional chain also deals in organic goods. Around 85% of the wheat used for nonorganic UK bread is grown in the UK, but less than 50% of the wheat for organic bread is home-grown. Less than 2% of flour and bread are imported or exported.


Fermentation Starch Dust Steam Income 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosalind Sharpe
    • 1
  • David Barling
    • 1
  • Tim Lang
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Food PolicyCity UniversityUK

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