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PlaNet News & Views

Posted on 3-9-07

Organic On A Budget
UK Soil Assoc information, 03/24/2006
 
Ultimately choosing a limited number of organic foods depends on why
you're buying it in the first place.
 
You spends your money and makes your choice, as the saying goes. According
to government statistics, the average familyís food spend has decreased to
£40 while its leisure spend has risen to £59 a week.1 "Everyone seems to
be unable to resist a bargain. And food seems an area where weíre happy to
save money, whereas it should be the most important thing. Some people
will spend £30 grand on a car then go and buy a bumper pack of mince" Hugh
Fearnley-Wittingstall.
 
So why are you buying organic food?
 
If itís for nutritional reasons... No food has higher amounts of
beneficial minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins than organic food.
On average our research found higher vitamin C, higher mineral levels and
higher phytonutrients Ė plant compounds which can be effective against
cancer. Thereís also less water in organic vegetables, so pound for pound
you get more carrot for your carrot.
 
Full fat milk contains at least 64% more omega-3 essential fatty acids
than non-organic full fat milk. Much of the UK population is deficient in
these fatty acids, which are important in maintaining heart health and
supple joints. Often it only costs a few pence more.
 
If itís for taste reasons... In a recent poll conducted by the Soil
Association, 72% said fruit and vegetables tasted better than non-organic
produce and 71% said theyíd preferred the taste of organic meat.
 
If itís to reduce your pesticide intake... Eating organic food is the best
way of reducing your exposure to potentially harmful pesticides. For a
list of the worst offenders please see the information sheet called
pesticides in your food. It can be found in the online library under the
pesticides category or by clicking on this link:
http://www.soilassociation.org/pesticides However it is important to note
that pesticide contamination will vary with seasons, origin and from year
to year. The other difficulty in using this information to choose which
foods to avoid is that a little of a really nasty chemical may be worse
than more of several less toxic pesticides. Government tests also don't
cover all foods, so cannot provide a complete picture. Above all there is
huge uncertainty about the impact of pesticides on individuals - and
especially of multiple pesticides (the cocktail effect). So to be sure we
would advise to eat organic.
 
If itís for animal welfare reasons... No system of farming has higher
levels of animal welfare standards than organic farms working to Soil
Association standards. If you are concerned about animal welfare and
antibiotic residues in meat and milk then it is best to stick to
organically produced meat - especially Soil Association certified pork,
poultry and eggs as our standards are much higher than other organic
certification bodies.
Non-organic meat, especially chicken and pork, is artificially cheap
because it is intensively produced. But paying a little extra for organic
meat is not only better for farm animals - it has health benefits too.
Research has shown that organic red meat contains better ratios of omega 6
to omega 3 essential fatty acids and higher levels of the naturally
occurring fat, conjugated linoleic acid, known to help prevent cancer,
reduce heart disease and help weight control. Research has also shown that
organic chickens contain 25% less fat than non-organic chickens.
 
If itís to avoid GM ingredients... Buy organic food Ė it is the only way
you can be sure of avoiding GM. Huge amounts of GM soya and maize are
imported into the UK and fed to animals which produce much, if not most,
of the non-organic pork, bacon, milk, cheese and other meat and dairy
products in our supermarkets. As food from GM-fed animals isnít labelled,
consumers canít avoid it Ė unless they only buy organic produce.
 
If itís to reduce your in take of additives... Only 32 of the 290 food
additives approved for use across the EU are permitted in organic food.
The controversial additives such as aspartame, tartrazine and hydrogenated
fats are banned in organic food. Therefore you can avoid a wide range and
large quantity of potentially allergenic or harmful additives if you eat
organic food.
 
If it's to support a living countryside... Organic farming is better for
wildlife, causes lower pollution from sprays, produces less carbon dioxide
and less dangerous wastes and increases jobs in the countryside.
 
There are so many reasons to choose organic it ultimately depends on what
you value. But there are a few changes to the way you live, shop and cook
which may help you increase the amount of organic food in your diet...
 
* Shop at farmers' markets and/or get a box scheme delivered - research
has shown that, on average, organic fruit and vegetables are substantially
cheaper when bought directly from the farmer compared to supermarkets.
 
* Eat meat in moderation - good organic meat will cost more than a Big Mac
because it is better quality. So save eating meat for what it should be -
a delicious treat - and it should help you save money too.
 
* Eat cheaper cuts of meat - for example, try to buy chicken thighs
instead of fillets, or rump steak instead of sirloin. The fore end of
animals tend to be cheaper and can be very tasty cooked slowly.
 
* Cook batches from scratch. Processed food can be convenient but itís not
cheap. Take soup for example Ė a batch of vegetable soup may cost you
around £3 to make yourself and see you through the best part of a week;
whereas a shop-bought organic soup might cost you £2.50 and only give you
one meal.
 
* Set up or get involved in buying groups (http://www.soil-health.org.nz)
 
Footnotes:
1 (Office for National Statistics) 2005
The figure spent on food and non alcoholic drinks has fallen steadily from
over a fifth of spending (21%) in 1982 to 16% in 2004-05.