With the growing awareness of the environmental impacts of food products, more people are paying closer to the origins of their food where it comes from, how it is grown and how it finds its way to our plates. This topic is at the forefront of conversation because of Brexit. There is a genuine worry that trade talks with countries that are not EU members could result in the introduction of foods not subject to the same strict quality standards than currently EU foods.
The demand for organic food has increased dramatically over the last few years and is not slowing down. However, a majority of consumers aren’t aware of what organic meat or produce is actually. We thought it was a good to explain the advantages so that you can determine if it’s something to look out for the next time you’re in the market.
What Makes Something Organic?
Organic agriculture is an form of agriculture that generates food using natural resources and processes. It promotes sustainable usage of natural resources, as well as the preservation of soil fertility, biodiversity and the quality of water. In simple terms organic farming provides customers with healthy, delicious and nutritious food, while preserving the natural cycles of life.
Organic laws in the EU covers all phases of preparation, production storage, distribution. This implies that all organic foods adhere to strict guidelines starting from the farm until fork. In order for farmers to supply organic food, there are specific standards to be adhered to. They include the prohibited use of:
- Genetically modified species (GMO’s).
- Fertilisers and pesticides that are artificial,, and herbicides.
- Ionising radiation.
- Growth stimulants like amino acids and hormones.
- Antibiotics are routinely administered. Animals are only allowed to receive antibiotics when they truly sick.
- Animal feed that’s not organic and does not originate from the region in which it is produced.
There are also numerous animal welfare regulations which farmers must adhere to. To give a few examples farmers should have a thorough understanding of the animal’s health and wellbeing. Farms should not be overly packed to prevent the depletion of resources. Animals need access to open space and grazing areas. Animals should spend the least amount of time possible tied to a chain or isolated.
Is Organic Food Better for the Environment?
Organic agriculture is certainly better for the environment. The majority of intensive agriculture uses chemical pesticides that are petroleum-based, synthetic or fertilizer’s and herbicides. It depletes nutrients from soil and pollutes water. This can result in bugs and weeds becoming resistant to the chemicals intended to keep them out. As we’ve discovered, organic farmers are not able to use these chemicals and, by using crops that rotate, they can keep the soil rich in nutrients. It is interesting to note that soil has the capacity to hold five times the amount carbon as trees. This means that a healthy soil is essential for a healthy earth.
Based on the Soil Association the agricultural sector is responsible for one third of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. They also state that if half of agriculture farms within the EU adhered to organic principles in 2030 Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by more than 25% and greater carbon could be buried in soil. This is a win-win. This is a win for everyone. EU has also been working closely with the farmers in order to assist farmers to transition to organic farming practices. This is expected to help ensure that organic products become accessible and more affordable.
Is Organic Food More Nutritious?
Since organic farmers tend to take better care of their soil, many would think that their produce is more nutritious, meaning it is healthier for us. But is this supported by scientific studies?
In 2015, scientists of countries like the UK, Poland, Norway, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece and Turkey joined forces to conduct an analysis of the study that compared organic meat and dairy with alternatives made of non-organic ingredients.
One of the main results was that organic milk and meat offered 50 percent higher levels of omega-3. Omega 3 fats, also known as omega 3, are vital to health and play crucial role in the brain’s function as well as vision and cardiovascular health, for instance. There is a concern that western diets contain excessive omega 6 in comparison with omega 3, and this imbalance is affecting health. Researchers put the higher omega 3 to livestock being fed grass instead of grain-fed.
Organic animals are more likely to have access to pastures that are open which is why they get to do more exercise. Therefore, it comes as not a surprise that both organic meat and dairy were discovered to have less saturated fat. Another benefit of organic food is the lower amount of saturated fat.
A major cause of concern was the fact that milk made from non-organic sources had a higher percentage of Iodine, which is a mineral that needed to make thyroid hormones, which aids in metabolic function and psychological health. It is crucial during the first trimester of life and in early the child’s development. Since dairy is among the major sources of iodine found in our diets, this fact is significant.
The reason there is a discrepancy in the findings is that organic dairy cows are often fed synthetic iodine supplements which are prohibited by organic laws. It is advised that organic farms provide their cows with organic seaweed in their diet. This is due to the fact that seaweed is a rich source of naturally occurring iodine. It can also aid in ensuring that organic milk isn’t nutritionally deficient.
One of the biggest studies in this field was carried out by Newcastle University researchers who analysed the results of 343 peer-reviewed research studies. The research conducted by Newcastle University researchers all sought to determine if organic food is actually healthier. Researchers discovered that organic produce was higher in polyphenols like flavonoids, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. Based on the type of polyphenol researchers evaluated, organic produce was higher in 19 to 69.
Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants. the authors have also pointed out that a lot of the antioxidants have been associated with a decrease in the incidence of chronic diseases such as dementia, cardiovascular disease and cancer. One of the main reasons organic produce is more abundant in polyphenols is due the nature of the soil it has been cultivated in. It is also suggested that organic products are more nutritionally rich because the absence of pesticides makes the plants must produce more polyphenols in order to guard themselves against pests.
In addition to being superior in many ways in terms of what it contains Organic food is also praised for the things the food is not contain. In the Newcastle University study also found that organic fruits and vegetables were four times less likely to contain pesticide residues, and significantly less toxic metal Cadmium.
As we’ve observed organic food is more sustainable for the environment and generally speaking, being healthier. However, since organic farms produce fewer food items per square meter of space organic produce is substantially more expensive than produce from non-organic farms and the price is prohibitive for a lot of. We hope that as more and more farms shift to organic methods in an endeavor to provide more nutritious and sustainable food products, it will become easier for everyone to appreciate.