What is Organic Food & Should I Be Buying it?

Happy Organic September!

We’ve compiled our top tips to get started you on your organic journey, or encourage you if you’re already on it and explain why it’s so important here at Third Space Canteen for us to use organic and locally sourced food. 

The words ‘organic’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘locally sourced’ can be a bit of a minefield nowadays, whilst we have greater access to a wider range of foods, it can often be confusing to know what to buy. You know you should be buying organic, but why? Are all organic foods created equal? We had the same sort of questions when we started our journey so we decided to break it down…

Ok, so first thing’s first, what does “organic” mean? It refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. It means working with nature. So, higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment. Whether it’s food and drink, clothes or beauty, by choosing organic you can choose products that promote a better world. 

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Ok, tell me more...

  1. No artificial colours & preservatives. Organic food doesn’t contain food additives which have been linked to health problems such as heart disease, asthma, osteoporosis, migraines, food allergies and hyperactivity. Organic regulations ban additives such as hydrogenated fats, aspartame, artificial colourings, flavourings and sweeteners.

  2. Fewer pesticides and no GM. Residues of pesticides are regularly found in a high percentage of fruit and vegetables. Genetically modified crops and organisms are not allowed under organic standards

  3. Organic food comes from trusted sources. All organic fams and food companies are inspected at least once a year to establish the compliance with European regulations.

  4. Animal welfare. Organic farming puts animal welgare as an integral part of organic standards, it is always free range. 

  5. Good for wildlife and good for the planet. Organic farming is better for wildlife, creates less pollution from sprays and produces less CO2.

  6. Better for you. In 2014 a study by Newcastle University found that organic fruit and veg crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally grown crops.

WHY is it so expensive? In an ideal world organic wouldn’t cost more, but a big part of the problem is that the true cost of our food and products we buy isn’t reflected in the price. Food that may seem “cheap” may have been produced in ways that contaminate water or undercut farmers or contribute to degradation of the land, so the real cost can be very high. With food, the price difference you see is where you are paying for the special care organic farmers place on protecting the environment and improving animal welfare. 

I can’t afford to change everything to organic, where do I start? Small, conscious steps can make a big difference. We would encourage you to firstly always use what you have in your cupboards, no need to buy everything new. Staples like pulses, pasta, rice and wholegrains often differ in price by a couple of pence in supermarkets and are a great place to start introducing organic food into your weekly/monthly shop. If you have access to a bulk food store you can use your own containers (think anything from Tupperware and mason jars to pillow cases or old bread bags) to pick up staples in bulk. (Use Zero Waste Near Me to find a bulk food store near you).

You can also buying directly from farmers through box schemes - which can ensure top quality meat and dairy produce, as well as vegetables. (Use Soil Association to find a box scheme for your area)

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Why we choose sustainable food at Third Space Canteen

We love food that is organic, free range, fair trade, outdoor bred, low on air miles, British grown… - but we know all these words can get confusing. That’s why we like to use the word sustainable as it signifies that the food is good in as many ways as possible. Our weekly canteen uses sustainable ingredients and offers a space for you (and your friends or family) to have someone else take care of one meal a week - whether you are new on your sustainable journey or not. We share our knowledge on how to create organic meals at home and all the tips we’ve picked up on our journey. We are not perfect but we’re trying to make a positive impact on the world around us.

The people at Sustain put it a lot better than we could:

“Good food should be produced, processed, bought, sold and eaten in ways that provide social benefits, contribute to thriving local economies that create good jobs and secure livelihoods, and enhance the health and variety of both plants and animals (and the welfare of farmed and wild creatures), protect natural resources such as water and soil and help tackle climate change. [from Sustain website, The Alliance for Better Food and Farming]