Want to know where to buy palm oil-free mince pies? Read on!
Crumbly pastry that melts in the mouth. Juicy berries with a hint of spice. The tang of brandy. Served hot and drizzled with cream. Nothing quite says Christmas like a mince pie.
This seemingly simple festive snack is available in every supermarket. However, it has a complex journey involving many people, businesses, and resources. But it’s one ingredient – palm oil – which links the humble mince pie to deforestation, human rights abuses, and climate change.
The problem with palm oil
Palm oil is found in around half of all packaged foods and in many other household items, from cleaners to cosmetics. This is because it is cheap, widely available, and solid at room temperature. All of this makes it an appealing fat for manufacturers to use.
In mince pies, palm oil is found in the vegetable suet used to make the mincemeat. It gives the juicy filling the firm and creamy texture that we all love. However, there is a bitter and unpleasant story behind this popular ingredient.
Over 90% of the world’s palm oil is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia, across 16 million acres of land. As plantations grow to meet demand, they claim rainforests, razing them to gain valuable farmland. In fact, palm oil plantations are one of the leading causes of deforestation, forcing indigenous people from their homes and threatening endangered species living in these diverse ecosystems.
As rainforests are cleared, carbon dioxide is released. In fact, deforestation accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions and is a major contributor to global warming.
This is particularly pronounced in Indonesia. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) worryingly indicates that 98% of Indonesia’s rainforests may be gone in the next four years.
As well as the clear issues involved in deforestation, palm oil production is riddled with supply chain management issues. There are an estimated 3.5 million workers employed on Indonesian and Malaysian plantations. Plantations where child labour and modern-day slavery still occur.
What About Mince Pies Made With Sustainable Palm Oil?
Many products, including mince pies, now state that they contain sustainable palm oil. Whilst this seems to be a good thing, the reality is more complicated.
Certification groups, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have been criticised for not going far enough to ensure that members are acting responsibly. There are also RSPO members who have been exposed as having environmental abuses and human rights issues in their palm oil supply chains.
So, where products seem to contain sustainable palm oil that is not linked to deforestation, this might not actually be the case. As such, action groups such as Sum of Us, are campaigning for RSPO to vote to adopt a no deforestation, no peatland, no exploitation certification system.
Picking The Perfect Palm Oil-Free Mince Pie
Whilst campaigners continue to put pressure on the palm oil industry to clean up its act, we recommend avoiding this problem ingredient for now. Happily, when it comes to mince pies, we have found a great palm oil-free selection. Check out our top five palm oil-free mince pies:
Waitrose Duchy Organic Palm-Oil Free Mince Pies
Waitrose Duchy Mince Pies are organic and made with sunflower oil instead of palm oil. What’s more, these pies come in 100% recyclable packaging and are priced at £2.75 for four. Available from Waitrose online and in-store.
Marks & Spencer Mini Mince Pie Selection
Perfect for parties, these mini versions of a classic come in three varieties. They contain rapeseed oil and are suitable for vegetarians, and cost £3.00 for 9. Available from Marks & Spencer online and in-store and via Ocado.
Authentic Bread Company Gluten-Free Mince Pies
These handmade mince pies are equally at home on the dinner table as they are beside a cup of tea. Suitable for anyone intolerant to gluten, they are made with coconut oil and are available through organic retailer Abel & Cole at £6.50 for a pack of six.
The Organic Collection Organic Mince Pies
These pies contain no additional fats in the mincemeat, only fruity fillings. They are available through ethical online retailer Real Foods, priced at £5.95 for six pies.
Artisan Bread Organic Mince Pies
Organic, vegan, and gluten-free, these mince pies tick all the boxes. They contain no added sugar and are made with cold-pressed olive oil in place of palm oil. Available online at Artisan Bread Organic at £5.25 for a pack of six.
For more information on palm oil, check out our full special report.