In an ideal world, everyone would buy and consume organic food, which is free from the use of pesticides, fertilisers, livestock feed additives, antibiotics and ‘genetically modified’ foods. Alongside this, we would also adopt a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly approach to farming, rather than simply relying on crop rotation and chemical pest control. This approach would not only significantly benefit the animals – who would live happier and healthier lives – but it would also benefit us too, since the quality of our food would be better and more nutrient-dense. Indeed, organic farming improves the levels of phytonutrients in our food. Phytonutrients such as the carotenoid lycopene have been found to positively affect health within our body and assist with disease prevention.
However, with the cost of food increasing and organic foods becoming more expensive than non-organic, it’s important to learn which foods to prioritise and buy organic. Our first priority would be meat (if you eat it). While organic meat can be expensive, you can rest assured that you will not be eating meat that has been pumped with antibiotics, growth hormones or by-products, which can increase the risk of diseases, such as BSE. In addition to this, the animal will have led a longer, happier and healthier life, and as a result, taste better. Moreover, by eating less meat every week, we can instead have the freedom to spend our money on purchasing best quality.
Alternatively, a cheaper option would be to opt for grass fed animals; while this does not guarantee organic, these animals are free to roam, eat a natural diet, and are generally healthier animals. Many local butchers even support the ‘Farms not Factories’ campaign, which highlights the inadequacies of farmed meat as opposed to local higher welfare farms.
Many supermarkets now also follow the ‘Red Tractor Label’ scheme to ensure certain food standards. These include maintaining traceability: where the food has been farmed, processed and packed. They also follow strict safety, hygiene, animal welfare and environmental regulations. See their website for further information:
In addition to choosing organic meats, we would also, ideally, shop for organic dairy products for the same reasons. Organic milk, eggs, cheese and yoghurts are all easy to find in our supermarkets and often reasonably priced in your local fruit and veg shop.
When it comes to fruit and vegetables, people often wonder whether they should be buying organic. And while it would be great if we always purchased the organic version, there are certain varieties that are more exposed to pesticides than others, as I’ve outlined in the table below. However, if you are fortunate enough to have to access local organic producers or a local vegetable box scheme, then this is often the cheapest way of buying organic produce. Eating local and seasonal foods will ensure they are at their freshest as they haven’t had to travel far. If you do ever buy non-organic food and vegetables, make sure you wash them thoroughly.
If you would like to keep up-to-date on the latest research into the levels of pesticides in foods both from the UK and imported foods, the government continues to publish their research, which can be found on their website https://www.gov.uk/government/publications.
Best to buy organic fruit & veg
Sweet bell peppers
Non priority organic fruit & veg