Summer is here, which means lots of delicious fresh fruit and veg is in season. Get the most out of this time of year by going organic! In today’s article you’ll find out what we mean by organic, why we think you should give it a go, and how you can go organic on a budget.
Organic food is basically food that has been grown in an environment that’s free from artificial chemicals – whether in the form of pesticides, fertilisers, growth regulators or livestock feed additives.
However, the term ‘organic’ actually encompasses a wider set of values that encourage natural and sustainable living and farming. According to The Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), ‘Organic agriculture is a systems approach to production that is working towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production’.
Organic generally means better animal welfare, less waste, fewer chemicals and a reduction in to overuse of antibiotics. Some certifications, such as Soil Association, also require organic food to be free range.
Less chemicals in your food, less chemicals in your body. When chemicals are used in farming, they inevitably end up in produce – whether absorbed by crops or eaten by livestock – and as a result end up being eaten by us too! This means you could be consuming anything from pesticides and artificial additives, to growth hormones and GM products. Going organic means that what’s going into your body is natural and wholesome!
Organic food has a higher nutritional value. Forcing plants to grow faster means that they often don’t have the time to absorb and synthesise all the best nutrients. In 2014, a team at Newcastle University found organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown ones1. These antioxidants are vital for good health, and help to protect cells from damage.
Reduces the overuse of antibiotics that contributes to the development of superbugs. Many non-organic farms routinely treat their entire livestock with antibiotics as a precautionary measure. However, this mass indiscriminate use of precious antibiotics is thought to be contributing to the development of antibiotic resistant superbugs. According to Soil Association, ‘an estimated 10,000 people die each year from antibiotic resistance illnesses, and experts fear these diseases could cause one million deaths across Europe by 2025’. So many antibiotics are used in intensive farming that soon there won’t be any left for humans! Organic farming not only prohibits this mass use of antibiotics, but also reduces the need for antibiotics in the first place since animals are not living in close proximity to each other in confined spaces, which reduces the spread of disease greatly.
Better for the environment. Ingesting chemicals like pesticides and fertilisers is not good for human health, but it isn’t great for the environment either! These chemicals can be toxic to smaller animals and insects (hence why they’re called pesticides or insecticides), and if fertiliser ends up in rivers it can have catastrophic effects. A sudden increase in phosphates in rivers or lakes can cause an algal bloom, and this sudden growth of algae can use up all the oxygen in the water, causing fish and other aquatic life to die.
Organic food just tastes better! Allowing food the time to grow naturally means that it has plenty of time to develop a richer taste – give organic strawberries a try and you’ll soon see the difference!
How to go organic on a budget
We won’t try and deny it; organic food is more expensive than non-organic food. With mortgages, bills and children to look after, this extra cost is often enough to put people off. However, if you follow our tips you’ll likely find that going organic is not as difficult or expensive as you might think!
Focus on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ first. These are the fruits and vegetables that you absolutely should switch to organic. These are the foods that contain the highest concentration of pesticides: either because their thin skins and high water content mean they absorb pesticides easily, or because they tend to have the most pesticides used on them.
Grow your own! Growing your own fruit and vegetables is really rewarding and fun for all the family. It’s a great way to encourage kids to get outside and helps them to learn about where food comes from. You don’t need a huge garden or an allotment either! Lettuce can easily be grown in pots inside, while carrots could be grown on a windowsill or in a small corner of the garden, and potatoes can even be grown in bags! If you have the space, why not invest in an apple or pear tree? You can grow our BioSnacky sprouts so easily too – you don’t even need soil!
Plan your meals. How many times have you stocked up on lots of fresh fruit and veg, only to find that you can’t use it all in time and half of it ends up in the bin? It might be a bit boring, but you can reduce waste and therefore save money by planning out your meals and only buying what you need. Don’t buy more than a week’s worth of fruit and vegetables at once and be realistic about just how much fruit and veg your family can eat in a week! Saving money in this way means that you have a bit extra to spend on buying organic.
Eat less meat. Meat is one of the most important foods to buy organic, but also one of the most expensive. Why not cut down on your meat consumption by including organic beans and pulses in your food? It’s so easy to make a tasty chilli or curry using veg, chickpeas and beans!