We often see organically grown and organically sourced labels on our food, as hashtags in social media, and ‘organic if possible’ when browsing recipes.
Organic food has been popping up more frequently over the past few years, but what is it really, and is there such a big difference? We did some research to find out more about the ‘organic’ label and exactly what it means.
What are organic foods?
For food to be labeled organic, it has to contain at least 95% organically produced plants or livestock. Organic foods are farmed by carefully studying nature resulting in the use of less or even no chemicals in the fertilizer or antibiotics for livestock.
Furthermore, all artificial colorants and sweeteners are banned from organic food. This means fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, and beet aren’t always the bright and flawless colors we’ve come to expect. Organic heirloom beet contains beautiful patterns on the inside, and tomatoes come in a variety of interesting colors. Did you know that just over 100 years ago, the common color of a carrot was purple?
Organic farming means fewer pesticides or chemicals used to kill insects and other pests that might damage the produce or impact the yield. It’s been proven that these pesticides kill more than just pests and can have a lasting effect on the soil and water quality that ends up in rivers after irrigation. Many organic farmers now rely on animals to ward off insects and other bugs. Ducks are used to pick off snails, birds are encouraged to eat caterpillars, and the humble ladybug feasts on aphids.
A visit to your local farmers’ market offers a range of local produce that is more likely to be organically grown with less impact on the environment and its biodiversity. Local producers often offer weekly or monthly boxes containing delicious seasonal fruit and veggies inspiring us to become creative in the kitchen. Imagine a beautiful beet salad with pine nuts and goat’s cheese in summer or a hearty butternut squash soup with homemade sourdough bread and farm-style butter during the winter months.
Animal welfare has taken the world by storm as more people become aware of the side-effects traditional farming has on animals. Organic criteria demand that animals be reared in conditions that suit their natural environment and behavior. On organic farms cows are left to roam freely with fresh air and water, chickens can forage amongst the grass and under trees looking for bugs and grubs. When animals are left in their natural environments, enjoy the correct diets, and have plenty of space to roam there is no need for preventative antibiotics.
Keep an eye out for the ‘organic’ label the next time you find yourself in the supermarket. Although many producers use the term ‘natural’, for food to be labeled ‘organic’ it must undergo legal regulation. Then you know you’re buying a product you can trust.
Why is organic important?
Organic food has a major impact on the environment as well as our mental and emotional wellbeing. Antioxidants and nutrients are abundant in organic food resulting in a happy mind and a healthy body.
Many studies have shown that there is a nutrient increase in some organic produce. One nutrient that showed the biggest boost was flavonoids, which include antioxidant qualities. Omega-3 fatty acids are also higher in organic livestock farming. Organic meat, dairy, and eggs show an increase in these essential fatty acids due to the feed used in organic farming. Livestock isn’t dependent on antibiotics, isn’t fed growth-enhancing hormones but enjoys a diet of grass and alfalfa.