Let’s cut to the chase – Christmas can mean a whole lot of ham and turkey… and prawns, and mince pies, and chocolates…. Whilst these indulgences may seem harmless, there are issues entangled in each that can mean big problems for our environment and animal welfare. So here’s our guide to ensuring your Christmas fare is fair as possible:

Aussie Christmas, image via Australian House & Garden

1. It’s not all about the meat

We Aussies sure do love our meat. Australia actually ranks 3rd on the list of top 10 meat-consuming countries in the world, such is our partiality to it. At Christmas time, we ramp things up, what with all that Christmas ham and turkey action. Experts all over the world agree, however, that today’s high meat consumption rates are harming the environment. So instead of following the traditional formula of 80% meat + 20% greens on the Christmas table, why not choose to make the vast array of nature’s colourful vegetables the hero of your spread this year and switch that formula around? For a plethora of meat-free meal ideas, download our free Meat Free Week 2013 e-cookbook, available here. And for your own free copy of our pocket Seasonal Produce Guide (for seasonal fruit and veggies), click below:

2. Three little pigs

The use of sow stalls is due to phase out to ‘restricted use’ by 2017, but it’s important to remember that they’re currently still legal in Australia. Additionally, farrowing crates are still used and although they’ve received less attention than sow stalls, also raise major ethical concerns. The short story is that there’s still a lot to be done in improving the lives of our porky friends.

At the moment, Australian standards are confusing and there are no solid guidelines for the conditions that constitute ‘free range’, so use the table here to point you in the right direction. We also have a great list of ethical pork suppliers here.

3. Gobble gobble

The vast majority of turkeys in Australia are farmed in intensive farming systems (factory farming), in conditions similar to meat chickens – no access to the outdoors, over-crowding, artificial lighting, rapid growth rates leading to leg disorders and joint problems… the list of ethical concerns goes on.

Thankfully there are ethical alternatives! Check out this table to get your head around the various certifications – in a nutshell, look for accredited free range or organic turkey such as Humane Choice or Australian Certified Organic. Ring around these ethical meat suppliers to see if they stock ethically-farmed turkey. Shopping for your turkey at a farmers’ market is also a good idea, that way you get to ask the producer all the questions you like.

4. Surf fare

If seafood is on the menu this year, be sure to read through our Fishy Business page so you are clued up on all the related issues. A couple of Quick Tips – choose locally-caught seafood when possible and help to support our local fishing industry. Also use our Switch the Fish Guide to select more sustainable seafood options (including which prawns are OK!).

5. An (un)traditional roast

Mix things up a little and consider serving an alternative meat like wild rabbit, or sustainably-farmed goat, or even kangaroo or wallaby, to help reduce the demand for the more traditional meats and to lighten your fare’s eco-footprint (as well as tantalise your taste buds in a new and exciting way).

6. Keep it local

We’re blessed in Australia that so much beautiful fresh produce comes into season over summer. Keep an eye on the country of origin though, sometimes the season is cheekily “extended” by importing produce either side of the natural Australian season. Hit up your local farmers’ market instead of the supermarket and always ask if things aren’t clearly labelled.

7. Mince palm pie

Palm oil – and the deforestation and biodiversity issues its farming causes – makes an appearance in an unfathomable number of consumer goods, including, yes, many of our favourite Christmas treats. Run your eye over our Palm Oil blog post and use our cut-n-keep pocket guide to learn how to identify palm oil in ingredients listings – it’s not always so obvious.

8. Choco madness

Be mindful of the chocolate boxes you gift this Christmas and ensure you’re choosing Fair Trade chocolate. You can find out more about that here, including which brands to avoid and which to go for.

Keen to share you smart tips for a sustainable Christmas meal? Comment below!