What a year 2020 turned out to be. Who won’t be glad to see the back of it? But whilst our minds have been focused elsewhere, on the food front there have been some positive developments. Here are the six that heartened me most.

Fat is back in favour with younger people

New research shows that younger generations don’t share their elders’ low-fat orthodoxy. For instance, it would have been unthinkable a few years back, but M&S and Tesco are now selling a 10% fat Greek-style yogurt.

A five-country study by food industry analysts New Nutrition Business has found that 34% of 25- to 44-year-olds want to eat more healthy fats, but only 23% of 55- and 65-years old. If you’re still reaching for the low-fat product, you could be showing your age.

Supermarket cash-back as you’ve never known it

Bill Grimsey, determined champion of independent shops and living high streets, embarrassed our supermarkets into paying back the financial windfall they’d made out of the Government’s business rates holiday scheme.

As I write, only M&S, Waitrose, and the Co-op are still holding out. Food retailers benefited from a big transfer of consumer spending during the first lockdown when pubs and restaurants were forced to close. Grimsey is now pushing to create a fund from the repaid relief that can be used to help hard-pressed independents. Good man!

Films set the records straight

An antidote to vegan propaganda documentaries, 2020 saw the release of two US documentaries that make a cogent case for mixed farms (enterprises that combine both crops and livestock), as part of a regenerative farming system that builds soil fertility, and acts as a carbon sink.

Kiss the Ground, narrated by Woody Harrelson, and Diana Rodger’s Sacred Cow, both show why animal-sourced foods are healthy and can be produced in an environmentally sound way. Fitting companion pieces to the inspirational 2018 Biggest Little Farm, once you watch them you’ll understand why farm animals are part of the solution to the climate crisis and our diet-led public health disaster.

New Skye salmon farm plan is dead in the water

At times it has felt almost impossible to stop the growth of the Norwegian-owned caged salmon industry. Politicians of all colours have supported this sordid industry, deaf to the outcry from local communities over the pollution it causes, the drastic impact of escapees on wild fish populations, and the routine use of toxic chemicals to limit endemic diseases.

But last month a Scottish Government-appointed planning reporter rejected an appeal against Highland Council’s decision to refuse permission for a new operation off Flodigarry. “It’s my conclusion that those [potential economic benefits] would not outweigh the unacceptable impacts”.

Now that ubiquitous Scottish caged salmon has lost its champagne sparkle with consumers and sells for as little as £4 a kilo, here’s a cautious hope that regulators might now be prepared to scuttle this ecologically ruinous business.

Victory against plastic in India

As part of the Indian government’s goal of freeing India from the mess and waste problems of single-use plastic, railways minister, Piyush Goyal, has said from now on, tea at 7,000 railway stations in the country will be served in disposable clay cups known as kulhads, not plastic. These traditional unglazed drinking vessels are biodegradable and will provide an income to locals: 20,000 electric potting wheels are being distributed to more than 100,000 potters. Chai served in a kulhad tastes better too, by all accounts.

The world isn’t running out of food

The scary idea that the world might soon be unable to feed its people has been extensively promoted by self-interested agribusiness. But this year, an analysis from the US Bioscience Resource Project (www.researchgate.net) revealed how this narrative rests on of a small number of rickety mathematical models. Called the Myth of a Food Crisis, it concludes that there is no global shortage, in fact, there’s a glut, even if you apply all plausible future population growth scenarios.

So let’s not be scared, or emotionally blackmailed into accepting more intensive agriculture, pesticides, and risky genetic manipulation of food, in the name of feeding the hungry. Food security everywhere is best built by supporting small-scale, local producers, not by buying into magic bullet global ‘solutions’.