Published on 13th February 2020


We chat to Chris Young, coordinator of the Real Bread Campaign, about the goals of this initiative, the meaning of ‘Real Bread’, and the ways in which we can get involved.

How did the Real Bread Campaign get started?

“In 2006 Andrew Whitley, former wood-fired organic sourdough bakery owner, drew on more than 20 years of running the Village Bakery, Melmerby, to write Bread Matters. People took this not only as a baking recipe book but also a manifesto of what had gone wrong with Britain’s loaf life and what we can all do to help bake a better future.

“People kept asking Andrew how to join and support his mission, so he teamed up with friends at the food and farming charity Sustain to launch the Campaign in November 2008.” 

How did you get involved and how has it changed your own bread-eating habits?

“I went on a course run by Andrew at Schumacher College. By the end of the week, I was saying: “I didn’t know that they were doing that to my loaf!” Andrew pointed me towards Sustain, with whom he was due to launch the Real Bread Campaign the following week. I signed up to their mailing list and, when they advertised for a volunteer a few months later, I went along during my lunch break for a chat, then went back to my office and quit my job. I’ve been here ever since, quickly learning to always read the label.” 

What is ‘Real Bread’ and how does it compare to a standard supermarket loaf?

“We define ‘Real Bread’ as made without so-called processing aids or other additives. Sounds simple enough because it is – a five year old can make it – but, depending on whether you believe baking industry statistics, could rule out 95 per cent or more of what is sold as ‘bread’ in the UK.

“From this universally accessible starting point, the skill and knowledge of an experienced baker will lift a loaf to become something delicious and amazing. There are many ways that he or she might bake better bread, in terms of health, nutrition, the environment, and the strength of cohesion and economy within a local community.” 

How can people ensure they are buying (and eating!) Real Bread?

“The Real Bread Map lists all bakeries that have told us they bake without additives, such as calcium propionate, mono and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, and L-cysteine hydrochloride – all are unnecessary, questions hang over some of them and history is littered with additives that manufacturers promised us were safe, but they then withdrew or were banned from using. A number of bakeries use The Real Bread Loaf Mark to give customers that assurance at-a-glance.

“More generally, always read the label! The trouble is that the law doesn’t require bakers and retailers to declare ingredients of loaves that are sold unwrapped. Even when it comes to unwrapped loaves, additives deemed to be ‘processing aids’ don’t have to appear on the label.

“While we campaign for an Honest Crust Act of improved loaf labelling and marketing legislation, we urge all bakers and retailers to declare everything use to make every loaf and use descriptors honestly. In the meantime, your best bet as a shopper to ask in store and hope someone will give you a full answer.” 

What is the campaign hoping to achieve?

“We work to find and share ways of making bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. In general, we’re working towards a future when everyone is within walking distance of Real Bread, whether baked at home or bought from a local bakery. 

“More specifically, our work includes the annual, international Real Bread Week and Sourdough September; the Knead to Know microbakery handbook and Slow Dough: Real Bread recipe book; No Loaf Lost surplus reduction plan; and the #WeAreRealBread initiative to reveal the many, varied and often hidden faces of the people behind the rise of Real Bread. 

“We continue to lobby for an Honest Crust Act to help shoppers’ make better-informed choices about the loaves they buy and to protect them from being from misled. Post-Brexit, we will be holding the UK government to Defra’s promise to review the current regulations. 

“Our Together We Rise project is working towards getting therapeutic Real Bread making being offered on prescription, as well as the social and employment opportunities of baking being made available to thousands more people who, for one reason or another, face a tougher time than many of us.” 

How does the UK compare to other countries with regards to bread-making practices?

“It varies so much. It seems that there are brilliant Real Bread bakeries in the UK and round the globe but at the same time, there are industrial loaf fabricators churning out additive-laden products pretty much everywhere, too. The view that ‘they still have great bakeries in France’ or wherever is only partly true. As is the case in the UK, even some small, local bakeries in other countries rely on additives and – in some instances – part-baked products as well. The loaf tanning salon (the name we give to so-called in-store ‘bakeries’ that merely rebake loaves that were made elsewhere at some point in the past) is not exclusive to the UK.” 

How can people get involved with Real Bread Week?

“We encourage everyone to get out and support a local, independent Real Bread bakery at the heart of their community by buying a loaf (look for The Loaf Mark) or roll up their sleeves to bake their own. The Real Bread Map on our website includes bakeries, baking schools and places to buy flour from independent mills. Our site also includes a calendar of classes and events, free recipes, and lots of articles and information.

“So that Sustain can build on our work celebrating, connecting and supporting the people, enterprises and organisations behind the rise of Real Bread, we're asking people to help us by make a doughnation of £10, or whatever they feel. People might also choose to join the Campaign, or buy a Real Bread t-shirt, mug, apron, or recipe book.” 

What is your favourite bread and why?

“That depends where I am and which of the local bakery’s Real Bread I’m most in the mood to eat!”

Further information:

Details of bakeries, baking schools, Real Bread Week events and the whole shebang above can be found at:

Twitter: @RealBread | Facebook: @RealBreadCampaign | Instagram: @RealBreadCampaign

#RealBread  #RealBreadWeek  #WeAreRealBread  #TogetherWeRise

Click here for Chris’ Staffordshire Oatcake recipe