Depending whose statistics you believe, something like 99.8% of UK households buy products marketed as bread, of which maybe around 12 million loaves are sold each day.
Unfortunately, most (perhaps around 95-97%) of this is made using a range of (unnecessary) additives. We also question the regard given to nutritional qualities, and of the environmental and social impact of production and distribution.
The Real Bread Campaign's mission is finding and sharing ways to make bread:
Over the centuries (particularly the 20th and 21st) plant breeders have been focussed on developing wheat with a high yield and high protein content. What they don't seem to have given much regard to is the micronutritional (vitamin and mineral) content, or whether the new varieties are higher in compounds that some people find less digestible, or might cause an increase in triggering allergic, coeliac and other negative responses.
Crops are routinely sprayed with a cocktail of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. Shortly before harvest, wheat grown in the UK tends to be sprayed with glyphosate, a weedkiller, to dry it out. Residues of these remain in many baked products.
The grain is then usually turned into flour using a roller milling process that is ruthlessly efficient at breaking the grain into fractions, further depleting the levels of naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals and fibre in the resulting white flour.
The majority of loaves produced in the UK today are made in large factories using a cocktail of additives (some that can go undeclared on the label) and perhaps a dollop of fat. High-speed mixing and high levels of yeast are employed to force the dough to rise quickly, rather than to ferment and 'ripen' in its own good time. These loaves may well then be sprayed with chemicals such as calcium propionate to slow the growth of mould.
It's hardly surprising that many people tell us that they find these products hard to digest.
Seductive marketing might tempt us with ‘healthier’ options, but these are likely to be fundamentally the same industrial loaf products with a few further additions to the ingredients list, for which you could well be charged a premium.
Better bred bread
Real Bread is made with simple, natural ingredients, proven over many centuries to be a beneficial part of the human diet.
We seek out and highlight ways in which grains are:
- Bred, selected and grown.
- Turned into bread
...with a focus on increasing micronutritional value (and, subjectively, flavour), not just yield and profit.
We believe that neighbourhood Real Bread bakeries support more (and better) jobs per loaf.
Small, local, independent bakeries were once the heart of every neighbourhood. Today around 80% of UK loaves are produced by the factories of a handful of industrial bakers and another 15-17% by supermarkets - places far removed physically, socially and economically from our local communities.
The New Economics Foundation's LM3 (Local Multiplier 3) system shows that money spent with local businesses such as independent bakeries is worth many times more to a local economy than money spent at, say, a supermarket. One study in Northumberland found that, of every £1 spent with local businesses, an average of 76% was re-invested locally, giving a total local spend of £1.76. By contrast, for every £1 spent with suppliers based outside the area, only 36p was returned.
As well as providing a real boost to local economies, and creating highly-skilled jobs, Real Bread bakeries can provide places of social interaction for local people.
We also look at ways of increasing access to Real Bread and the diversity of people involved and made to feel welcome in the Real Bread movement.
Beyond any negative environmental impact of agrochemicals used in grain production, collectively, industrial loaf fabricators transport around 12 million loaves around the UK each day. Diesel-guzzling lorry loads are taken up and down motorways from large plant bakeries to central distribution depots and from there may well be transported to local distribution hubs and then on to retailers.
The Campaign supports work to create more tightly-knit seed to sandwich webs of farmers, millers, bakers and buyers, with closer links between each.
Homebakers can also make a contribution. Depending on the recipe, water might account for 40-45% of the weight of a loaf. Making bread at home means that this water arrives by tap, rather than by road. Rather than three 800g industrial loaf products taking up space in a lorry, your Real Bread accounts for a single 1.5kg bag of flour.
Real Bread might also help to reduce food waste. Of the billions of slices WRAP reports being thrown away each year, we're confident that very little is Real Bread. Whether due to the investment of time or money (not to mention how great it tastes), we're sure that people value Real Bread too much to bin.
Real Bread Campaign: The Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. Whether your interest is local food, community-focussed small enterprises, honest labelling, therapeutic baking, or simply tasty toast, everyone is invited to become a Campaign supporter.
Support our charity
Your donation will help support the spread of baking skills and access to real bread.