What is Organic Food and is it Important to Eat Organic?
Organic. It is a word we see and hear in our everyday lives but do you actually know what organic means in food terms? Do you even care about organic products and do you know enough about it to make an informed decision about consuming organic foods or indeed in choosing not to buy organic food?
The Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) defines organic as this on its website:
‘Organic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Irradiation and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or products produced from or by GMOs are generally prohibited by organic legislation.
Organic agriculture is a systems approach to production that is working towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production. Instead, the agricultural systems rely on crop rotation, animal and plant manures, some hand weeding and biological pest control’.
At eco cuisine we see the value in organic food – for the environment and for economic sustainability too! Why do we use certain organic products for our catering? Well, sourcing fish and meat seasonally is of course possible as the main products of chicken; beef and lamb are available all year round. Plus there is enough fish at all times of year to use in a fish pie or as a main course. The seafood I source is either seasonal fish or MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) registered seafood such as prawns – you can find out more about sustainable seafood from their website if you’re interested.
We always buy seasonally whenever possible but unfortunately to get British fruit and vegetables is just not possible all year round. So if a client really wants peppers, courgettes or aubergines in December then I will look to source organic from another country – but not anything airfreighted and ensuring we are using European produce (Spain, Italy, France). Organic means to me that pesticides haven’t been used and that the growers take the environmental impact of growing seriously. Maybe it’s psychological too but I do think the taste is better by using better produce – most chefs would agree that if you start with a really good product you don’t have to do too much to show it off – letting your produce be the star and not a sauce or heavy accompaniments which might disguise the taste.
Other organic products I prefer are dairy products – milk and cheese for example. You will find that organic feta cheese has much less fluid around it when you use it – making it far easier to crumble into a salad or mix with spinach to make spinach and feta filo rolls without draining it first, thus saving time as well as ensuring a great taste!
There is some evidence that organic food is better for you as foods like fruit and veg retains more vitamins and antioxidants in addition to less pesticide residues and heavy metals. However, let’s not forget the price tag attached to organic food. Though some organic produce isn’t as expensive, it is on average more costly than its non-organic counterparts and this simply isn’t an option for many people.
When seasonal produce is available in this country I do think it’s hard to beat – organic or not…. Asparagus at the moment is fantastic and not always organic but still tastes fresh and lovely, so I’m not advocating organic everything everyday just that I choose what is best in my opinion to give clients the best available within their remit and considering what is available to me.
Categorised as: Caterers