• Choose palm oil free

    Everything Riverford sell is 100% palm oil free.

All photos copyright and thanks to Orangutan Foundation, orangutan.org.uk

We all know palm oil is a problem. We also probably all have some in our kitchens right now. Cheap to produce and endlessly versatile, palm oil is the most popular vegetable oil on the planet.


The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that palm oil can be found in 50% of all packaged supermarket products, from biscuits to laundry detergent. So how are you supposed to avoid it? After studying all the evidence, Riverford decided that everything we sell would be 100% palm oil free. As organic farmers, minimising the harm we do to the environment is one of our founding values – a value we know our customers share.


Why is palm oil popular?

Palm oil’s first advantage is its price. Oil palms are a very efficient crop, yielding up to 10x more per hectare than soya beans, rapeseed or sunflowers. On just 5% of the world’s vegetable-oil farmland, palms produce 38% of the world’s vegetable oil. Any alternative would need more land, making it more expensive.

As well as being cheap to produce, palm oil has a very long shelf-life, and a high melting point, remaining semi-solid at room temperature (like butter). This means it can be used in all sorts of different ways: frying at high temperatures, adding to baked goods, creating margarine, and even in cosmetics like lipstick and soap.

The environmental cost

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the spread of palm-oil plantations is one of the greatest threats to forests in Indonesia and Malaysia, where most of the world’s palm oil is produced. Deforestation alone makes Indonesia one of the largest carbon-dioxide emitters in the world.

Clearing vast swathes of forest is an environmental disaster anywhere, but the jungles of Sumatra and Borneo are exceptionally biodiverse, home to a staggering number of unique plants and animals. Endangered species including elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans are all threatened by deforestation for oil palm plantations. Not only this, but the cleared areas of land provide greater accessibility to the remaining forest for poachers and wildlife smugglers.

Hiding in plain sight

Knowing that palm oil is a problematic ingredient is one thing - avoiding it is quite another. Not only because it’s ubiquitous, but because palm oil products aren’t always clearly labeled. The WWF explain that palm oil and its derivatives can appear under 25 different names, from simply ‘vegetable oil’ to the more cryptic ‘Elaeis Guineensis’ or ‘Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3’. Even if you have the time to check the ingredients of everything you buy, you’re unlikely to always recognise palm oil when you see it.

A sustainable future?

Palm oil offers a major source of income to developing countries. It’s also technically irreplacable; no alternative oil yet exists that is as versatile and as efficient to produce. Developing a sustainable approach to palm oil production is far more desirable than outlawing it in the long term.

The palm oil industry has been making efforts to become more sustainable in recent years, most notably with the establishment of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and its certification scheme in 2004. However, their work is still in its early days; for now, Riverford will remain palm oil free.

Greenpeace are campaigning to protect critically endangered orangutans and what remains of their Indonesian rainforest home – to support them, sign the online petition today.

Choose palm oil free shopping

When you choose a Riverford veg box, you choose ethically produced food you can trust. The freshest, most flavoursome veg from our farms, plus eggs, meat, dairy, wine, store cupboard staples and more, all delivered to your doorstep with minimal fuss and unbeatable quality. And better still, it’s all 100% organic.





All photos copyright and thanks to Orangutan Foundation, orangutan.org.uk