Go­ing or­ganic

Berkshire Life - - Front Page - WORDS: Julie Lu­cas

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’

ABOVE:Street food has played a role in push­ing or­ganic foodRIGHT:Chick­ens face a win win sit­u­a­tion

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