Posted 22nd August 2015
The shift towards eating organic has been a slow and steady journey for me. I’m still not exclusively organic in my shopping and eating habits, convenience and budget means it’s not always possible. I’d guestimate that organic items probably make up 30-50% of my food shopping. But, I’m opting for organic more and more.
Organic September is nearly upon us. And it was Organic September two years ago when my own organic journey started.
Since then I’ve done various bits of research, read articles, watched videos and each one has pushed me a little further down the organic road. My most recent piece of organic education was a talk from The Soil Association at my work in July.
Organic eating still isn’t as convenient as it could be. I find myself torn between supporting an independent supplier or heading to the supermarket to buy from the organic range. I try to strike a balance and shio at a mix or organic & non organic independents.
As such, I probably shop at Better Food Company once or twice a week, places like Radford Mill Farm Shop, Harvest or Scoop Away once a fortnight, and when I do venture into the supermarket (a couple of times per month) I’m choosing more and more items from the organic range. I top up my organic shopping with visits to the (mainly non-organic) greengrocers, butchers, bakers and fishmongers around Gloucester Road & the city centre.
In this post I’m hoping to share the thinking behind some of my personal shopping choices, and how these choices have evolved over the past couple of years. Maybe, just maybe I can persuade some of you that Organic September is worth a try.
The first change I made was as part of Organic September 2013 when I started to buy buy organic milk.
Next time I was buying milk I checked out the prices and was surprised. I thought to myself, you know what, I can afford an extra 30-40p on milk. It was that easy. Since then I’ve spent a few pence more on lots of things – cheese, eggs to name a few.
Granted, some things are more than just a few pence extra, and in the age of austerity, not all of us can justify even the extra 30p on milk. You have to make the call on what works for your budget. Organic milk was something which worked for us.
Pesticide pasta – it kind of freaks me out. The prospect of chowing down on food grown in chemical-rich soil (or worse, pesticides sprayed directly onto the plants) is pretty unappetising.
Some have links to health problems, and many, once deemed safe are now being withdrawn by EU on the grounds that they too are harmful for human consumption. It begs the question – what about the ones which haven’t been withdrawn yet? Scarey. But like many others, I put the unappetising thought of pesticides in my potatoes to the back of my mind.
The arrival of the foodie baby changed that. Whilst turning a blind eye to potential carcinogens in my food had once seemed like acceptable ignorance. The prospect of feeding them to my child makes me uneasy.
I’m pretty relaxed about what he eats and where. I appreciate that there are often times that he is not eating organic – and that’s fine. But buying organic fruit and veg limits this exposure. For me, that makes it worthwhile.
So when I started weaning the foodie baby in summer 2014, I started to choose organic fruit and veg.
I watched an amazing TED Talk on antibiotic resistance. A topic I had previously totally misunderstood. The assumption many make is that if an individual takes antibiotics frequently, their body will become immune and in the future antibiotics may not work for them. This is not the case. The actual risk is much, much bigger that just one individual.
Every time someone, anyone, takes antibiotics it gives the bacteria millions of opportunities to fight / crack the code of that particular antibiotic. Once the bacteria has successfully done that, as it spreads from person to person it cannot be treated with regular meds.
This means that if someone who had never had antibiotic exposure contracted that infection, the antibiotics available would no longer work against the infection.
What’s it got to do with food? Well, many animals, particularly those kept in poor conditions are pumped with antibiotics. Giving different strains of bacteria millions of opportunities to crack that antibiotic code and develop resistance. When we eat that meat, we come into contact with these antibiotics, and any infections bacteria we fight have millions more chances to develop resistance.
It’s a complex issue, and I’m paraphrasing (seriously, watch that TED talk). I’m not saying that organic shopping alone will stop antibiotic resistance, but it would help. It will help people alive today but potentially fighting infections in the future. It could help mums in need of c sections and newborn babies (both routinely given antibiotics). It will help people who get injured at work, in war – or just doing stuff – accidents happen right?
So antibiotic resistance was the deciding factor in my decision to buy organic meat and animal products. (Summer 2015)
When buying more processed food (we all do it sometimes) I want to be able to understand the ingredients label – not be affronted with a ton of additives and E-numbers. Not least because I don’t have the time or energy to research each and every one to find out A) What the hell is it, and B) Is it bad for me?
Organic choices give me confidence when it comes to the “added extras” in my food. It makes my purchasing decision quicker and easier – as a working mum, my time is precious so if organic is a quicker & easer route to better, I’m in.
There are many other reasons which I could go into – animal welfare, climate change, bee preservation, supporting local wildlife.
I’m not saying that all non-organic producers don’t also support these things, there are many ethical and high quality non-organic producers out there. The problem is, how do you know?
I buy my meat and veg from the butcher, greengrocer or supermarket – not from the farm. I never see the animals, the fields or the factory kitchens in which lots of my food is produced. This means it’s hard to know which end of the non-organic scale I’m shopping from An organic choice for me is a guarantee when it comes to the content and quality of my food.
Yes it costs more. I just shop for more economical cuts and choose my recipes wisely. A £10 chicken can provide 3-4 meals plus chicken stock in our house. That’s 8 portions – at £1.20 per meat portion, we can afford it. We may eat a few extra veggie meals a week to balance out the cost – but that’s no bad thing either.
Since shopping organic we eat meat less frequently – but that’s probably better for us and it’s certainly better from a climate change point of view.
Hopefully this post has given you insight into the motivations behind my choices. Your own motivations may be completely different, or you may not shop organically at all. My hope is that after reading this post, you might think about it. Follow Organic September next month here and using the hashtag #organicseptember.