Organic food and drink is becoming more and more poular. But what makes something organic?
With a huge growth in demand, the UK can only provide 30% of the organic food consumed here - the rest still needs to be brought from more developed markets abroad. Increased numbers of farmers are turning to organic production but they and their farms must undergo a conversion period before they can obtain the coveted organic certification. The largest certification body in the UK is the Soil Association who regularly inspects producers to ensure compliance with the organic production standards.
Despite only 11% of 15-24 year olds believing organic produce is better for you than ordinary food, more and more people are turning to organic food following the recent food scares of foot-and-mouth, salmonella, BSE and e-coli. Fresh organic produce contains on average 50% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micronutrients than intensively farmed produce, thus winning the health vote. It is also seen as a way to avoid eating genetically modified (GM) food.
What is Organic Food?
Food that has not been aided during growth with 'artificial chemicals': these would include pesticides and herbicides, or, as far as animals are concerned modern medical and chemical treatments. Many people are concerned about the potential build-up of chemical residues in the body from conventionally farmed food. Organic foods have lower levels of contaminants and several reports have found higher levels of minerals.
Definition of organic farming
Organic production systems are designed to produce optimum quantities of food of high nutritional quality by using practises that try to avoid the use of agrochemical inputs and which minimise damage to the environment and wildlife. This means that many things such as weeding need to be done manually. Animal welfare is a top priority for organic farmers - prevention of disease rather than cure is their major concern. Healthy animals are less susceptible to disease and organically farmed animals do not receive routine antibiotics or growth promoters.
You can buy organic food at an increasing number of outlets. The supermarkets have good ranges but you often find a wider selection if you go to specialist organic shops. There are many organic farm shops around, selling their produce directly to the public. Also, check out your local farmers' markets where you will often find a local organic farmer selling whatever is in season. Box schemes are another way of buying organic food. A box full of seasonal fruit and vegetables is delivered either to your home or a local pick-up point. If you don't like something, you can usually ask for it to be left out but otherwise you get what comes in the box. Most box schemes are local or regional but there are some national ones and some provide a whole range of shopping, not just vegetables.
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