Written by Joe Thomas*
Surprisingly, considering information is widely available, a lot of the population is still confused about organic food and its benefits. Organic food, be it plant or animal based, is anything that conforms to organic farming standards. These vary worldwide of course, but in the United Kingdom they are set by organisations such as the Soil Association. A study conducted by this association shows that half of the people buying organic food do it for the health benefits and lack of chemical residues, while others do it to protect the environment and support animal welfare.
Organic = Flavour
Apart from all the potential health benefits and nutritional value, the first thing that springs to mind when talking about locally grown organic fruit and vegetables is flavour. Nothing tastes quite like strawberries bought at a Farmer’s market in June or Cox’s apples in October. When grown organically, fruit and vegetables are only available at certain times of the year due to their natural seasonal cycle. Eating seasonably ensures you get the most natural nutrient packed food that hasn’t required excess energy to grow, which also significantly improves the carbon footprint. The reason organic food tastes better might be down to lower crop yields and higher levels of antioxidants. There is more nitrogen available in the soil for fewer fruit and vegetables resulting in crops densely packed with flavour and nutrients.
Organic = Happy Farming
When it comes to choosing between a smaller free range chicken and a steroid fed monster I would choose the former every time. Organic meat comes from freely reared, stress and chemical free animals – all of which which has an impact on taste, texture and of course delivers various health benefits. Farmers let these animals develop naturally without the use of growth hormones – this cannot be said for large scale meat farms. The organic food standards cover meat quality, living conditions, use of antibiotics and hormones, transport and slaughter. By choosing to buy organic meat you are actively helping animal welfare and getting the best produce available.
Organic = Conservation
As well as helping the animals on the farm, you are also taking part in preserving British wildlife. Because of the restricted use of synthetic herbicides and pesticides, organic farms are safe havens for a variety of local species. Organic farmers go that extra mile in helping preserve the natural habitats by maintaining hedgerows, planting flowers and managing grasslands and ponds. By supporting these fragile ecosystems, they are ensuring that important species of bees, butterflies, birds and small animals are not driven to extinction.
Organic = Sustainability
Organic food is sustainably farmed. This means resources are recycled to minimize waste. This is becoming increasingly important in a world where finite resources are disappearing by the minute. There are a lot of problems associated with large scale industrial farming such as soil erosion, chemicals leaking into biosystems and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic farmers avoid all these issues by using natural fertilizers (like manure produced by farm animals) and choosing crop varieties with natural resistance to particular pests and diseases. They also rotate crops to keep the soil full of nutrients. Despite popular belief, soil is a non-renewable resource and preserving it for future generations is of paramount importance.
Organic = Ethical
There are other less obvious factors to consider when buying food. The amount of time required for your dinner to arrive at your table is often measured in “farm-to-fork” hours or food miles. A lot of fruit and vegetables, especially when out of season, are imported to the UK which is not surprising given the climatic conditions. The transportation required however, is what contributes to the carbon footprint. Think of all the miles bananas have to travel from countries like Africa and the Dominican Republic, and the emissions cargo vehicles produce. Although buying local seasonal fruit and vegetables is normally the answer to the food miles problem, certain fruit like bananas do not naturally grow in the UK. In cases like these look out for the Organic certification on the packaging. Not only will this food be nutritious and flavoursome, it will help the economy and environment in other countries. We are all in this together after all!
Joe is a writer from the UK, who creates articles on a range of subjects, including health and nutrition, sustainability and environmental issues. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org
*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.