September is Organic Month here in the UK so I decided this was a good time to share a quick summary on Organic Farming and Produce, as well as some additional links if you'd like to dive into the topic further.
Going organic has been growing in popularity in recent times. More and more people are getting back to the old ways of growing fresh produce at home, waiting lists for allotments are longer than ever, and organic markets are popping up everywhere. Even the range of organic foods and non-edible products (such as clothes made with organic cotton and house hold cleaning products with natural organic ingredients) is forever expanding too.
So what is all the hype about and is organic really worthy of its higher price tag?
In short, if you're interested in the environment, sustainability, nutrition or health, the answer to the latter question is yes.
Let's explore why. The sad truth is that on non-organic farms solis have become depleted of nutrients therefore the crops and vegetables being grown in that soil are also much lower in nutritional value. That is a major concern given average diets are already high in calories and low in nutrition.
A wide range of pesticides can be used in non-organic farming, many of these are chemical based and can be harmful to our health, as well as to wildlife. The reduction in insect numbers and bee populations has been linked to the use of pesticides, along with the loss of natural habitat.
In non-organic livestock farming it's common practice to use growth hormones and antibiotics, and animals are usually fed on soy and cereal based diets. Grass-fed cattle have higher levels of healthier fats and antioxidants than grain-fed cattle. The amount of omega three fatty acids (good fats) in your eggs will vary depending on the chicken's diet. So not only is the quality of the animal produce impacted significantly, there is a huge environmental impact to consider when producing and transporting animal feed.
Further more, the non-organic food industry uses chemical additives, from flavour enhancers to preservatives, when producing many of the packaged foods and drinks we see on the shelves in our supermarkets. Whilst the average person should be able to detoxify some degree of toxins, such as the chemicals in pesticides and food additives, the stark reality is our systems have become overloaded with such a long list of pollutants that we're exposed to on a daily basis. Add in high stress levels on top of all the excess hormones and chemicals we're trying to detoxify from our systems - you have to ask, is it any wonder that our overloaded minds and bodies get run down and unwell?
So how does the organic process differ?
When it comes to organic products, a long list of regulations must be adhered to in the farming and production process:
Just 20 pesticides (compared to a list of almost 300 in non-organic farming) are certified for organic use, all of which are derived from natural sources.
High standards for animal welfare are essential to meet organic certification.
No genetically modified ingredients can be used in organic products.
The production process for organic foods and products must be sustainable.
Organic animal farming helps store carbon in grassland soils, recycle waste food and provide nutrients to grow crops (see the links below).
No artificial additives or preservatives can be used in organic products.
I totally appreciate that some of you maybe thinking that whilst that all makes sense, it's still a lot of extra money to find in your weekly budget. So how can you start to make a switch without feeling the pinch?
Here are a few tips:
If you have a garden or access to outdoors space, try growing a few veggies at home.
Simply swap a couple of your staple items at a time - organic potatoes, carrots and onions tend to be very affordable and if every household made this investment alone it would give the organic industry a considerable boost, and your nutrition levels also get an extra top up.
Check out some of the organic boxes and bundles delivered in your area - you can get great value when you buy a seasonal box. There are usually veg only, fruit only or veg and fruit mixes. The extra bonus here is that eating seasonally and buying locally produced items helps to support the environment too.
Since my fascination in nutrition and wellbeing began in my early 20s I've become a huge advocate for going organic. It might not solve all our health and environmental issues overnight but switching to organic wherever you can is an incredibly powerful way of nourishing yourself and your loved ones, and investing in sustainability for the generations to come.