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Food Friday 
16th-Feb-2007 06:36 pm
Whee. I'm on a roll.

I started Food Friday by outing myself as a vegetarian (in case you hadn't already noticed).

On the 'we're not really crunch tree hugging hippies, but we sure act like it' front, Tom and I also have been trying to eat organic.

It started out as another of the side effects of ybunny, the fiance, reading Fast Food Nation as well as his chemistry background.

Personally, I wasn't convinced. When I took Organic Chemistry back as an undergrad, they told us that organic meant anything with carbon as part of the makeup. So, I reasoned, all food is organic. Really...how many ready to eat foods (home made or store bought) are sans carbon? None that I can think of.

So, I called shenanigans. But, ybunny has this amazing ability to non-argue, wherein he convinces me of things by not bugging me about them. So, I read up on the organic thing.

I found an article entitled 10 Foods to Buy Organic. I figured that I'd give it a try and buy those things organic, even if I wasn't completely on board.

To be honest, I was surprised. The organic food tasted really great. There was no more of the this-looks-good-but-tastes-like-paper scenario. So, a few months ago we decided to buy as many things organic as we could. Surprisingly enough, as I've done price comparisons, the total for an organic shop is only 6-9% more expensive than regular.

I'll give you a few reasons for considering a switch:
1. Taste. As I mentioned above, I find that there is a better taste with organic produce.
2. Farming methods. So far, I haven't seen any products marked 'organic' that weren't marked as cooperating with the Soil Conservation Project. (I can't find a link for this at the moment...) This regulates the fertilization of crops and the footprint of farms on the surrounding ecosystems. The criteria for certification as an organic farm can be found here.
3. Fair Trade. Many of the products that are Fair Trade are also organic and vice versa. A fair price for third world farmers. Good for you and good for them.
4. Less packaging. Not all sellers are good at this, but I have to applaud Sainsbury's and ASDA for packaging some of their organics in biodegradable packaging.
5. Local food. This isn't true in all cases, but at least with produce, organic often means local. Since organic food is free of the preservatives used to extend shelf life in regular produce, it isn't feasible to ship something for a week from parts unknown.

That leads me to the downsides as I'm trying to be fair:
1. Quicker spoilage. This is somewhat of a plus as it means there aren't as many additives, but it's not fun to buy a bunch of plums and find they're rotting after only two days. It's much more important to check dates on organics.
2. Price. There is a higher price on some things, especially produce and sweets.
3. Availability. Even if you can find what you want being sold close to you, it may be hard to get the amount you want (or any of it, if you get to the market late).

Some statistics on organic farming in the UK can be found in this article.
A quote:
By January 2005, 686,100 ha of land was managed to organic standards. Organic food sales increased from just over £100 million in 1993/94 to £1.21 billion in 2004 (an 11% increase on 2003)

Here's some more reasons for going organic from Organic Food.co.uk.

Anyone else going organic? Resources? Tips?

EDIT: I should add, I'm not allowing my brain to fall out on this. I don't opt for organic food if it means having to get things out of season. Out of season fruit either requires lots of shipping or can be pretty tasteless, organic or not.
16th-Feb-2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
Like so many other things right now, I'm striving towards it. Organic food tastes better. I learned that from reading Gordon Ramsay and verified it for myself. The biggest diffence I have noticed so far is in the taste of carrots.
16th-Feb-2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
I try to get organic produce, and other products if it's available, not too much pricier, and kosher. I'm not absolute about it; that way could lie madness for me.
16th-Feb-2007 07:16 pm (UTC)
I imagine that doing both kosher and organic could be difficult with processed foods.

I read food labels pretty closely to look for gluten (especially when drjoan is about) but I haven't looked for kosher. I think I'll keep an eye out just for curiousity's sake.
16th-Feb-2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
Kosher and organic processed foods are out there, but they can cost an arm and a leg (also, organic/free-range meat. Not that you necessarily pay attention to that, but it's pricey.). In the end, if I'm eating as locally and as organically as feasible, I don't worry about the rest.

If Scotland's like England, most kosher products don't have hechshers on the packaging. Instead, you buy a book every year that lists what's kosher (and some of what's not). There are some things with the mark of the London Beth Din, but not many (Bendick's does! :-). I don't know about other EU products, though.
16th-Feb-2007 07:27 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is really long: my tip was the wholesome food Web site and its related farm links.

While I agree that being aware of what one eats is important, I'm not sure I buy into the whole organic-only movement. My reasons (at least this week):

(1) I think that folks mistake "organic" for "small" farm/producer--and that seems to be what a lot of the literature support. At least in this country (the US), organic can be a hugely commercial exercise. (See: Be It Ever So Homespun, There's Nothing Like Spin in the 1-03-07 -- and the popularity of places like Whole Foods pushing smaller/local stores out of business). Certification as "organic" is an expensive endevour, which sometimes supports large argibusiness rather than the small farms once intends to support. Check out http://www.naturallygrown.org/ and its UK partner http://www.wholesome-food.org.uk/ for more information on the impact and alternatives of "organic" designation on small farmers (Full disclosure: my cousin and her husband's farm is "naturally certified"). Plus, organic is very labor intensive.

(2) One of the things that frustrates me here is that organic food (purchased in a store) seems to have more packaging rather than less (because they don't want people "mixing" organic and conventional foods they package it up--and then I wind up with more food than I need too). Plus, if stuff is out of season, the organic food is coming from a very long way away. Are organic Chilean apples _really_ better for the environment than conventional New York apples? If you believe the people at Whole Foods, apparently.

(3) $$, particularly for produce. My hierarchy of purchasing right now is (a) local--even if it's not "organic" then (b) fair trade (for stuff like coffee, tea, and chocolate and then (c) what I want (including organic food), assuming it's a good price. In addition to wanting to be a good steward of the earth, I want to be a good steward of my finances--which sometimes means that I make tradeoffs.

(4) Sometimes organic just doesn't taste better. There's a reason that things like pesticides were widely adopted. Bugs like berries (for example) as much as people do...
16th-Feb-2007 07:40 pm (UTC)
Good points, all.

I sidestep some of those problems by attempting to buy in season rather than just what I want. If apples are in season in the UK, they'll be more likely local no matter where I go. (I do check, before you ask.)

I'll edit the post to reflect this, but Tom and I are looking to get into an farm box scheme. That way it is local for sure and also in season without having to check.

While in the US, I never really had to work at getting local food. Except for the dead of winter, there are always farmers' markets. I haven't found anything like that here. There is a food shop in the Aberdeen Market, but their selection is pretty limited (or I need to get up far earlier...).

There is a sharp difference between going organic in the US and going organic in the UK.
16th-Feb-2007 08:01 pm (UTC)
Don't worry, this wasn't a rant targeted at you--it was a more a rant at the elitism of the WF-only shoppers I see in my community.

I did a farm box thing when I lived in Iowa, but I've had trouble finding similiar here. It might be worth contacting one of the people listed on the natural foods site, just to see...
16th-Feb-2007 08:03 pm (UTC)
We were supposed to get the hook up via percible about box schemes, but I think he's forgotten in his move. Ah, well. :)
16th-Feb-2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
Very excellent. Good for you two.

We buy about 50/50 organic, more in the summer when it's readily available. Because it tastes better. And it's better for the environment, and we like to support local farms.
16th-Feb-2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
A quick note from me (yes, actually reading others' jounrals in a brief moment of free time!)

I've been shopping a lot at the farmers' market with my housemates, and buying a lot of organic stuff when I go to the grocery.

I find the only thing I have a significant spoilage problem with is bread. Our FM has a couple of great bakeries that come to it, but I find the bread from the bakery I like best goes stale within about three days. And when I say stale, I mean 'pound nails into oak with it' stale. So I have to eat it very quickly, which means (a) I eat a lot more bread than I should and (b) I'm without bread for half the week. Meanwhile I have some store bread that's been aroudn for weeks and it's just the same as when I bought it.

With fruits and veg that I buy at the FM (or the organic lettuce I buy at they store), I find they actually spoil *much* more slowly. I think that has to do with packaging; especially store veg, whether loose or packaged, always has tons of water on it, and rots quickly.

As for vegetarian eating, it probably wasn't from organic components, but the vegetarian haggis we had on St Andrew's was as good (some said better) then the meatatarian haggis from the same producer.
16th-Feb-2007 11:18 pm (UTC)
Well I did previous get an organic fruit and vegetables bag delivered every fortnight from a localish farm. However, I found that I wasn't using it and well it's too expensive and a damn waste not to, so I canceled it.

I now buy quite a few things organic (mainly fruit and veg). The biggest thing I find a difference with are apples...they do indeed taste so much better and are far juicier.

I buy a lot of my organic veg from Tesco. I find that a lot of their organic range (which I have noticed also has biodegradable packaging) is reduced in large quantities towards the end of the day when I usually go shopping. I suppose they simply do not sell as much as they stock (well in Durham) and it's all still perfectly edible so often it is the same price or cheaper than the normal stuff. Hehe, I like organic and a bargain :)

One thing I have just started buying recently is organic or free-range chicken. Until I tried it I thought it was just over priced nonsense but it really is so much tastier. The other thing is beef mince as it worries me the rubbish they put in mince.
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