I always feel that organic food gets a bit of a bashing in the press because it’s a bit more expensive, and is seen as the preserve of the middle classes, foodies, and so-called hippy do-gooders. Let me clarify – organic food is natural food, where nature has been allowed to do its thing, and I’m sure most of us will agree that putting natural ingredients into our bodies is only going to be a positive thing.
I’m talking about the way the planet has been for the whole of time, until, that is, we introduced man-made chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides into our farming system, and stopped proper crop rotation. These things have changed the face of agriculture. Is all non-organic food the devil incarnate? I don’t think so, certainly a lot of care and effort has gone into developing certain solutions (such as how to raise animals in more affordable ways), but the simple fact is that often we don’t actually need to intervene with nature.
We know so little still about how the body works, but we do know that variety and freshness give us the most nutritional benefits – it makes sense to me that eating organic food, at its freshest, will support that.
Sales of organic and more responsibly produced food are on the rise, and like anything, if we demand more, more will become widely available. Essentially, every time we choose to buy an organic product we’re voting for a better food system. I’m not saying we need to be organic all the time – I find it impossible to be 100% organic, but I do trade up whenever I can. If we can all start to re-address what we buy, cook and eat, gradually buying better and wasting less, that’s only going to move our food system forward in a positive and more sustainable way.
When we trade up to organic meat, it will be more expensive, but really at the heart of this book is getting into the habit of eating less meat, and choosing the best when you do. It’s all about quality over quantity . It’s more expensive because it’s likely the animal will have lived a much longer, better-quality life. That’s what it’s all about for me. With organic chickens in the UK in particular, they’ve lived longer, got there more naturally and are stronger, healthier birds. It makes sense that a healthier bird makes for a healthier food. Plus they taste better, too!
The one thing that’s super-easy to trade up is the everyday dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt and butter. Stock cubes are another really easy thing to get into the habit of trading up, choosing organic gives the peace of mind that any meat within it is of a certain standard. Finally worth noting is that when it comes to veg and fruit, sometimes organic doesn’t cost any more, especially if you buy seasonally.
A few reasons to trade up to organic
Here are some really interesting facts about organic food and farming that I was really interested to learn from Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Soil Association, the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. I wanted to share all this to give you more context about why choosing organic is worth it:
- Nutritionally, it’s been shown that organic crops – veg, fruit, pulses, cereals – are up to 60% higher than non-organic crops in different antioxidants. This is pretty incredible news, and something I hope we’ll find out more about in the near future
- In the UK, think of organic as the gold standard for food production. Having an organic seal of approval lets us know that every stage of production has been carefully inspected to ensure it meets the best standards
- Organic food comes from trusted sources, and all over the world, food products labelled as organic must meet standards that define what farmers and food manufacturers can and cannot do. All organic farms and food companies are inspected at least once a year, and in the EU the standards for organic food are laid down in European law
- Organic farming is a modern system, using no fossil fuel-based fertilisers. Farmers instead develop naturally healthy soil, which helps control pests, weeds and disease
- It’s good for nature, too – organic farms are more likely to attract wildlife and provide homes for bees, butterflies and birds – we like that
- Organically managed soils are more resistant to droughts and floods, so in turn are more resilient than other farming methods to the impacts of climate change, which is helpful for farmers
- On that note, organic farming is looking like it’s the best currently available, practical model for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture, because it stores higher levels of carbon in the soil. To put that into perspective – if organic farming was common practice in the UK, we could offset over 20% of UK agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, which would be amazing
- Finally – and pretty powerful info this is too – new research from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is showing that if we reduce food waste and eat a diet with less meat and dairy consumption, organic farming should be able to feed the world without needing any more land