*This post is sponsored by Organix.*
Whenever I talk about trying my best to eat as much organic food as we can afford, I get asked something along the lines of: “Why eat organic food when you can have lots more normal stuff that’s a lot cheaper?” I have to feed a larger than average family and I completely understand how tempting it is to go for the cheapest option.
Anything with the organic label tends to be dearer than the non-organic alternative and we are on a tiny budget these days, but I still try to buy as much organic produce as we can afford.
Here are the 10 reasons why I choose organic whenever I can:
Why Eat Organic? Reason #1: What ‘Organic’ Food Is
Right, let’s just go back to basics here. What does ‘organic’ mean? With the amount of things you can find on a label these days, things can get pretty confusing, right? The Soil Association, a UK charity which focuses on human health, the environment and animal welfare, is spot on in stating that “Organic food is food as it should be.” It’s a pretty bold statement, but I think it sums everything up beautifully.
They also have a more detailed definition on their website: “All organic food is fully traceable from farm to fork, so you can be sure of what you’re eating. The standards for organic food are laid down in European law so any food labelled as organic must meet strict rules. Unlike non-organic food production, which makes wide use of manufactured and mined fertilisers and pesticides, organic food is produced with natural fertilisers from plants, less energy and more respect for the animals that provide it. Organic farming and food production is not easy and takes real commitment and attention to detail, and is backed up by rigorous, independent inspection and certification.”
Basically, organic food is food you can trust.
Why Eat Organic? Reason #2: Taste
Organic fruit and vegetables don’t look as perfect and shiny as non-organic produce, but they taste a lot better. As my friend Filipa at ‘Gourmet Mum’ says, “carrots actually taste like real carrots!” That’s so true! Anything from my mum’s garden tastes ten times better than anything I buy in the supermarket.
Eliza from ‘My Everything Beautiful’ also makes a valid point when she says that “Eating organic food means I’m giving my children the best quality food and we’re investing in our health and body.”
Why Eat Organic? Reason #3: Provenance
When I was growing up, organic was just ‘normal’ food. My great-nan would get all our fruit and veg from her vegetable patch and orchard, bread was made fresh every day with no preservatives from the village bakery and we would get our meat from the butcher two minutes away from my nan’s. He could tell us exactly where the meat came from and which cut to pick for various recipes. Everything was local, organic, pretty much pesticide-free and that was the norm.
Nowadays, we tend to shop from large supermarkets, have no idea about the provenance of what lands on our plates and having your own allotment or vegetable patch is not as common as it used to be. We haven’t got the faintest idea what we’re putting into our bodies, have we?
Why Eat Organic? Reason #4: Animal Welfare & Antibiotics
Last year, I visited an organic dairy farm and I have been buying organic milk as often as I could ever since. There, antibiotics are not used routinely and the cows are grazed outside whenever possible, on organic grass that is completely free from herbicides and artificial fertilisers. They are never given genetically modified animal feed.
I’ve always bought free range eggs, but I now go one step further and go organic as well. This is why: hens are not treated with hormones that fatten them up, flocks are much smaller, the hens have a truly free range life and they are reared on chemical-free grasses rather than genetically modified food. No beak trimming is allowed under organic standards. The mutilation can be painful and prevents hens from foraging, which is part of their natural behaviour. I like this conclusion I recently read in an article from Metro: “it’s probably better to think about your eggs from a humane angle; happier hens = healthier eggs.”
Any food labelled as organic must meet strict rules, so when you buy organic meat, you can rest assured that animal welfare is at the heart of the process. Animals in organic farms must have plenty of space. They also have to have access to pesticide-free pasture where only natural fertilisers are used. They are not routinely given antibiotics. Did you know that nearly 2/3rd of all antibiotics used in the European Union are given to farm animals and passed to us through the food chain?
Why Eat Organic? Reason #6: Ecosystems
There is a lot of controversy around the amount of plastic we use and discard at the moment, as well as pollution in general and the impact we have on endangered species. How about the soil? If we keep overusing pesticides and not planting enough trees, what is the future of our planet going to look like?
When I asked in a forum, “Why do you eat organic food?” Victoria at ‘Healthy Vix’ immediately answered: “For our health, the planet and the animals!” She continued, explaining that “ Organic farming uses wildlife-friendly methods and organic farmers actually encourage wildlife, bees and so on. It also helps prevent water and soil pollution, as well as being so much better for our own health.”
With organic practices, wildlife and soil organisms can play their part. Ecosystems and biodiversity are not disrupted.
Why Eat Organic? Reason #6: Fewer Pesticides
As my friend Katy from ‘Katy Kicker’ says: “Buying organic food allows you to avoid the chemicals that they often use to help grow food.”
When I’m feeding my children fruit and vegetables, I can’t help wondering whether what goes in their mouths is coated in pesticides. What kind of impact are pesticide residues going to have on their health?
I’ve just read a really interesting report on a monitoring programme that checks food and drink in the UK for traces of pesticide residues. “The Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food oversees a programme that checks food and drink in the UK for traces of pesticide residues.” (gov.uk website).
Here are the conclusions for the quarterly monitoring results for 2018:
“Of the 3357 samples tested, 110 contained one or more residues above the relevant MRL. MRLs are trading standards rather than safety levels, therefore these results do not automatically mean the levels of residue detected are a risk to people’s health.
The samples contained residues above the MRL were mainly fruit and vegetable samples.
What do the results show overall?
The vast majority of food tested in 2017 complied with legal limits (MRLs):
- 53% of samples contained none of the pesticides being looked for;
- 43.7% of samples contained residues at or below the MRL;
- 3.3% of samples contained residues above the MRL.”
If you fancy reading the 2018 report, click here.
Another resource I found really helpful is a series of tables representing the results of residue testing carried out by the Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF) from 2011-2015.
The list of the best and worst fruit and vegetables for pesticide residues in the UK is slightly dated, but it is the most relevant and comprehensive resource I could find (produce tested in the UK between 2011 and 2015).
These are the ones I will always buy organic from now on:
The following were found to have the least pesticide residues:
I think this is a good guide on what my priorities should be when buying organic fruit and vegetables.
All other research and articles I read are based on the ‘dirty dozen,’ an annually published list of fruit and vegetables ranked according to their concentration of pesticides in the US.
A fair few UK articles I read were based on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) dirty dozen, which I found pretty puzzling. The USA are in a different continent altogether and food manufacturers in the US do not abide by the same rules and regulations as the UK, so when you do a bit of research on the matter, make sure the data you are focusing on is relevant to the area you area you live in.
Why Eat Organic? Reason #7: It’s not necessarily extortionate
It is undeniable that organic food tends to be more expensive than non-organic products. Production costs are higher because organic farms are not normally as large as conventional ones, crops take more time to grow and farmers can’t lower the overall cost of their products because production is on a smaller scale.
Here are a few things I do to enable us to eat as much organic food as we can without spending a fortune:
Cook from scratch
Not everything we eat is made from scratch, but as far as possible, we tend to go back to basics when it comes to food, buying a cut of meat and prepping it myself, making sauces, cakes and things like bread, milkshakes or smoothies. It’s more economical and you know exactly what’s gone in there.
Make meat go further
I don’t buy much meat, but when I do, I make it go as far as it will go. An organic roast chicken will always leave us with leftover bits for fajitas the following night as well as chicken strips for the children’s lunchboxes. The carcass of the chicken is then used to make chicken stock that goes in the freezer for later. I do the same with gammon (bar the stock) and whenever I make lasagne, I only use about half the mince most people would and bulk it up with red lentils.
Buy staples when they’re on offer
I am always checking for offers when it comes to tinned tomatoes, coconut milk, beans, snacks and pulses. Milk, juice and yoghurts are also on offer every time I do my food shopping on Ocado.
It would be a huge shock to go from 100% non organic to a full week’s shopping made essentially of organic produce. How about switching milk first, then eggs, then carrots and see where you go from there?
Meal planning is the best way to save money when it comes to food and avoiding waste.
Focus on a select few
Not everything tends to be laden with pesticides. Avocados and mushrooms are generally grown with fewer pesticides, but there are a few fruits and veg we always try to buy organic because they are most likely to contain more than one pesticide residue (source: Organix): oranges, lemons, limes, pears, grapes, apples, pre-packed salads, bananas, spring greens, kale, herbs, spinach and cucumber.
Why Eat Organic? Reason #8: Back to Basics
Why not grow your own?
As Leyla from’Five for a Fiver’ says, “Organic food doesn’t necessarily have to come with an ‘organic’ label on it. Buying in season means that you’re less likely to have food that is doused in chemicals because it is already growing in its best environment.”
My mum grows her own fruit and vegetables without chemicals at all and although she has to work really hard, the difference in taste is astounding!
Why Eat Organic? Reason #9: The Environment
The best way to keep farmland healthy is to practice crop rotation and avoid fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals. The latter destroy the value of our soil, poison our water supplies and are highly damaging to the environment.
Why Eat Organic? Reason #10: Future Generations
At school in the 80s, we learnt about crop rotation to keep farmland healthy, as well as the importance of the preservation of our soil.
Organic practices are all about working with nature. The issue is we’ve grown used to being able to eat anything we want anytime we want (strawberries in February or asparagus in December, anyone?).
For a more sustainable approach that would guarantee future generations wholesome food, why not try and eat in season?
More than that, as Becky from ‘Eat Simply’ says, “You are reducing carbon footprint by eating local and in season”
Do you eat organic food?
Disclosure: I work with Organix as a No Junk Mum. This post is part of the #FoodYouCanTrust campaign. All opinions are my own. Photos were taken on behalf of Organix, unless they are watermarked with my logo.