In the wake of the horsemeat scandal we are all (hopefully) thinking more about the food and asking questions as to whether we can trust it; is the food what it says on the label? Are there pesticide or drug residues? Do animal products come from higher welfare farms? And, of course, does it taste great?
Since the news of horse meat broke sales of organic food have risen by 8% (80% of households in the UK buy some organic). Certification is hard to come by, and so the organic label engenders a certain level of trust in the consumer. (My view on horse meat is that I have no problem with meat being from a horse, providing the animal was raised for human consumption, and that the origin of the meat is clearly stated. The deceit and lies were terrible, we should be able to trust that the food that we buy is what it says it is.)
I was delighted to meet some organic producers, including Tideford Organic who make delicious soups, sauces, puddings in South Devon. I chatted to a grower; interestingly organic carrots typically are straighter and more attractive than conventionally farmed ones, because they are grown at a lower density. I am all for using and eating “ugly” vegetables, but had not realised that with root vegetables planting density is the major cause of misshapen veg.
So will I be buying more organic products?
Food ethics are an immensely tricky issue, I have written about my food co-op on many an occasion, it certainly is not organic, but it is affordable and by supporting it I am helping others who need to be able to buy affordable food. By virtue of this site I am frequently sent samples and very rarely do a full shop; the last time I did when we borrowed Ed’s sister’s house I was horrified at the cost of food (and even then we were using some basics from her cupboards).
The £53 hamper above contains a lot of meat, far far more than the two of us would normally eat in a week (if not a month). As much as I hate labels I identify as flexitarian and as an animal product reducer. I have (at the moment) no ethical objections to raising animals for consumption providing they are free range, and preferably organic. I quoted Michael Pollan on the about me page of this site around five years ago, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.“; 7 simple words to which I might add, never eat anything containing ingredients that you do not know what they are, or cannot pronounce.
I increasingly view animal products as a luxury; you would buy fillet steak or smoked salmon for a treat maybe we as a nation need to get into the mindset for all animal products? You certainly do not need to eat meat every day or even at all. The impact of livestock farming on the environment cannot be disputed, although there are many areas of the UK that are only suitable for livestock. A little good quality goes a long way, eke out great tasting meat with beans, pulses and vegetables. As an example I used two sausages as a flavour base for 4 meals earlier this year.
Organic (or Fairtrade) certification and conversion can be expensive so some smaller producers cannot afford or do not have the scale justify it. We visited Piper’s Farm last summer, who have chosen not to go down the route of organic certification, but I have every trust in their meat.
I think that if you are buying a mass market product from the supermarket or are unsure about its provenance, organic probably is the way to go; I try only to buy animal products that are organic, or that I know where they come from. For smaller scale producers do some research, talk to the farmers, growers, suppliers and artisans – in the end it is the overall quality of the food, the impact on the environment and the animal welfare that is important.
Think before you consume.
Many thanks to the Organic producers for asking me to the event, and for sending me home with a goodie bag.