The changing landscape of food choices
Why more and more people are going organic
It started with Tom and Barbara appearing on our screens in The Good Life, and 40 years on our fascination with all things organic has grown from fad to big business – and now it’s more accessible than ever.
Clare McDermott, business development director at the Soil Association, the UK’s leading organic certification body, calls it ‘mindful eating’. ‘It’s all about harmony and recognising the true cost of the food choices that we make,’ she says. ‘Eating organically not only has benefits for health, the environment and wildlife, we are thinking more about where our food comes from, how it has been produced and where we are buying it.’
Four in ten people now buy organic food despite consumers sometimes having to pay more. But is it worth the extra cost? ‘There are several reasons why people choose organic,’ explains Clare. ‘Organic food is food as it should be, and people are increasingly aware of the assurance a certifiedorganic product offers, as well as the fact that it has fewer pesticides, no preservatives or GM ingredients and organic food offers the highest standards of animal welfare.’
With scandals such as BSE – mad cow disease – horsemeat being sold as beef and sometimes shocking images of intensive animal farming, it is no surprise the public are concerned about what they are buying. According to the Soil Association, in the past six years the organic market has steadily grown – it increased six per cent last year and the UK market is now valued at over £2 billion.
A 2014 study by Newcastle
University found that organic fruit and vegetable crops were up to 60 per cent higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionallygrown crops. This equates to the equivalent of eating between one to two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day. And because of the natural grass-based diet of the animals, organic milk and meat was shown to contain up to 50 per cent more omega 3 fatty acids.
But it’s not only the nutritional value that is important these days, but the environmental impact. Clare says: ‘Organic farming is better for wildlife with farms creating havens for birds, bees and butterflies, lower pollution from sprays, less carbon dioxide and fewer dangerous wastes. Organic agriculture helps fight against climate change by storing more carbon in soils. If all UK farmland was converted to organic farming, at least 1.3m tonnes would be taken up by the soil each year – that’s the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road.’
‘Because organic farming relies on a healthy, fertile soil, the food produced tastes great,’ says Aileen Nicol, campaign director for the Organic Trade Board. ‘It is now easier than ever to choose and buy organic, with increasing numbers of food outlets offering organic on the menu, a rise in organic box deliveries, as well as increased ranges and retailers offering their own labels.’
With the public more aware of where their food comes from, they are also returning to growing their own fruit and veg in a bid to have a slice of The Good Life. ‘Keeping chickens goes hand in hand with this, and there’s nothing better than picking up a home-grown egg fresh from the nest box,’ says Francesca Taffs of the British Hen Welfare Trust. When the trust was formed in 2005, 5,000 hens were re-homed. Fast forward to 2018 and they are on course to re-home over 60,000 chickens.
But maybe the best news for many of us is that organic wine is less likely to lead to hangovers as it is free of sulphur dioxide – a preservative used in non-organic wines and thought to contribute to hangovers. We can drink to that!
‘Organic farming is better
for wildlife with farms creating havens for birds,
bees and butterflies’
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