More nature, less chemical – this is what, generally speaking, organic food is about. The process of creating authentic food in line with organic principles starts on the farm and is kept all the way through production, processing, distribution and sales. The organic food market is regulated by strict EU and Member States legislation and all people involved in production of organic food must comply with the rigorous rules. To ensure consumer of a high quality and compliance with the organic farming regulation and to help them identify organic produce, an organic control bodies logos are placed on the packages. From 1st of July 2010 an EU organic logo (figure 1) is obligatory for all pre-packed food items. Other logos commonly used on Irish market are shown on fig. 2. Figure [ 1 ]
Figure [ 2 ]
Consumer food awareness is growing and with it the need of going back to basics. To fulfil needs of these people, hotel restaurants as well as other food outlets starts to use term organic food as a marketing tool. In current market organic products seem to be an easy and quite low-cost means to elevate the prestige of a restaurant. The General Manager of the Savoy Hotel- Kieran Macdonald (cited in Hammond, Shepard 2010) says: “Luxury has changed in the last few years from the point of how it is defined… it used to something that was very materialistic… and very new. Now people are looking for authenticity – something that has integrity behind it”.
Main restrictions in organic food production:
* Before a license is granted and on a yearly basis after, all farmers and processors are subjected to rigorous inspections (Bord Bia 2011). * Very limited use of synthetic pesticide, fertiliser, livestock antibiotics, food additives and growth regulators is allowed in organic farming. * Use of genetically modified organism (GMO’S) is completely prohibited * Livestock must be provided with organic feed in a free-range, open-air farm. * At processing stage use of artificial flavourings and colorants is not allowed, only authorised by the European Commission non-organic ingredients, additives or processing aids can be used with strict limit. * Distribution and sales involve proper produce labelling- the producer name and name or code number of the inspection body must be provided. (European Commission, Agriculture and Rural Development ,Organic Farming 2011)
All the above would suggest, that choosing organic is the best possible choice that consumer can make, but does the organic food really equal higher quality, more nutrients, better taste etc.? Can consumption of organic food make a difference to our health? Many studies were carried out to answer those questions and I will elaborate on them in later stages of my assignment.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF ORGANIC FOODS VIA CONVENTIONAL FOODS
“Nutrition and food safety trends are at the centre-of-the-plate this year. Restaurants are updating menus to reflect nutrition policy and trends, consumer desires for variety and quality, and chef innovations” (Restaurant Industry Forecast, National Restaurant Association 2011)
A lot of research was conducted in past years in order to differentiate nutritional value of organic and conventional food produce. I will focus this assignment on high demand foods like fruit and vegetable, dairy produce and meat.
Fruits, vegetables and grains
According to the studies conducted by a certified nutrition specialist Virginia Worthington (2001) an increased amount of several nutrients is present in organic crops compared with their conventional equivalents. These included: * 27% more vitamin C
* 21.1% more iron
* 29.3% more magnesium
* 13.6% more phosphorus
* 15.1% less nitrates than their conventional counterparts.
The chart above illustrates the percentage of additional mineral content in organic compare to conventional crops. However, when the research was carried out the following factors (which are proven to have an effect on a nutritional quality of the food) weren’t taken into account: * Quality of soil and fertility usage
* Storage methods
* Forms of food consumption e.g. fresh, steamed, pureed, cooked from frozen etc. * Climate in different regions of the world (amount of rainfall and sunlight per day) * The method and timing of harvest
To get a real picture of a difference in a nutritional value of organic via conventional foods, a large quantity of different origin samples would need to be tested. Findings that take into account the listed above factors were published in a report “New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods” (Benbrook, Zhao, Yáńez, Davies and Andrews 2008, p.42) and state that: “Yes, organic plant-based foods are, on average, more nutritious in term of their nutrient density… The average serving…contains about 25% more of the nutrients…than a comparable-sized serving of the same food produced by conventional farming methods.” NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF ORGANIC FOODS VIA CONVENTIONAL FOODS (continued)
Milk and dairy produce
Another research, carried out on grass feed cows, by Newcastle University in United Kingdom (2008) and published online in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture showed that forage-based diet and natural grazing have a significant influence on milk composition. An increase in beneficial fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins was observed when nutritional values of organic milk and conventional milk were compared. Meats
Studies of laboratory animals demonstrate that farm-raised animal’s meat is higher in some fatty acids. Amount of CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid) found in animals fed organically grown diet is five times higher than the once fed conventional diet. Meat and dairy products from organic animals are the richest known source of this fatty acid (Butler 2008) Pastured cattle’s meat is also higher in vitamin E. Even when compared with cattle given supplements of vitamin E, the condensation of this vitamin in organic cow’s meat is twice as high (Kluger, Jeffrey 2010). Lack of day light and fresh organic feed have a significant effect on amount of omega-3 in chicken meat and eggs. 10 times more omega-3 was found in pastured hen’s egg when compared to factory hen’s egg (Kluger et al 2010).
INFLUENCE OF FOODS COMPONENTS ON CONSUMER’S HEALTH
Fats and sugars
A well-known fact is that today’s generation is getting heavier. One of the reasons for it is a tendency to eat foods witch are high in fats and sugars and low in vitamins and minerals. Another well-known fact is that obese people are more likely to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and other obesity-related illnesses. According to studies directed by DR. Don Davis (2004) in University of Texas-Austin, the vitamins and minerals concentration of many commonly consumed foods has dropped gradually (figure 4).
Vitamins and fatty acids
Vitamin E is well known antioxidants and is believed to have anti-aging properties. Eating food naturally reach in this vitamin can lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Fatty acids and CLA in particular might protect against various cancers. In addition omega -3 and 6 reduce risk of heart disease and arthritis and improve mental functions. Research conducted by Swiss scientist Lukas Rist and his team (2006) has found 50% higher levels of CLA in breast milk of mother, whose diet was based on organic milk and meat products. Large human study reported that consumption of organic dairy products is closely connected with risk of eczema in infants being reduced (Kummeling, Thijs and Huber 2008) Pesticides and antibiotics
Some pesticides allowed to be used in food business are proved to be dangerous for health. Findings of another research reveal strong connection between exposure to pesticides and a variety of health effects in humans. The ill effects can differ from headaches, fatigue and nausea to neurological disorders including cancer (U.S. General Accounting Office 2001). An increase in development of drug-resistant bacteria in human body was observed in recent years. Also early-onset puberty in girls is a growing problem. Existence of mentioned conditions is related to antibiotics being used in farming. Organically raised animals and organic practices in general, avoid the abuse of antibiotics (Kluger et al 2010)
TASTE AND PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTOR OF CHOOSING ORGANIC FOODS
“While the growth in organic purchases is primarily in the retail category, consumers are demanding these offerings more when they dine out, and restaurant operators need to meet these demands.” Nation’s Restaurant News (2011)
Does organic food taste better? Most people say that they cannot taste the difference, but organic isn’t a guarantee of taste. Taste of crops largely depends on quality of soil, weather conditions, treatments used by farmer etc. As taste is an entirely subjective matter, only large scale double-blind taste test would help in finding out if organic crops have better, fresher, more complex flavours than industrial crops do. But without a doubt, abnormally large, excessively engineered tomatoes designed to ripen on the way to a distribution centre will never come close to the taste of its vine-ripened, fresh-picked cousin (Kluger et al 2010). Numbers of people looking for authentic food are increasing with every year. More and more consumers want to grow their own fruit and vegetables, as they fill need of going back to basics. Fruits and vegetables that that can be seen every day in the shops don’t look like ones from grandmother’s garden. Not even one apple with a wormhole makes buyers question their “realness”. Most high class hotel restaurants recognise the need and importance of providing their guests with fresh, fully nutrient organic food and as a result information of the origin of produce used in preparation of meals is placed on the menu. ETHICS AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF ORGANIC FARMING
A problematic issue, in non-organic agricultural areas, is soil and water pollution. According to findings of the U.S. Geological Survey over 90% of water and fish samples from rivers and nearly 50% of all tested wells contained a minimum of one pesticide (U.S. General Accounting Office 2001). Another shocking but common issue is relates to the way non-organic animals are raised. In order to fatten an animal, so it can be slaughter as fast as possible, a high-calorie, corn-based feed is used. To increase productivity level large numbers of animals are jammed together on factory farms. A cow raised in these conditions might be slaughter after just 14 months, while for a grass-feed cow it can take up to two and a half years before it face the knife (Kluger et al 2010). Last but not least way in which organic farming influence environment is by respecting use of countryside. In order to maintain a balance required by a healthy ecosystem organic farmers use a variety of non-chemical method for the control of pest and weeds. By looking for disease resistant crops, that works the best in particular climate, they contribute in big way to protection of different varieties of dying out of forgotten species.
There is no simple answer to the question asked in the topic of this assignment. First of all, we should remember that the purpose behind organic agriculture is not primarily about human nutrition – it’s more about protecting the environment. The world population is growing, obesity rate continue to climb, people eat more and more food needs to be produced- all of that results in industrial engineering tricks being use in food production. Some of us are aware of the above and choose organic. Unfortunately, because of overuse of agricultural chemicals over past decades, they are all-pervasive in rainfall and water that is held in the soil and in pervious rocks. Due to drift via wind and rain organic crops are also exposed to them, so organic food cannot be a guarantee of 100% toxic free.
This assignment confirms that organically-grown plants, animals and dairy products are more nutritious, yet the health effect of eating organic cannot be assess by simple lab test. Monitoring of health of individuals over generations is the only way of finding out if organic is really better. And still a healthy balance, in types of foods eaten, needs to be maintained. Person that throughout the day eats large amounts of organic chocolate and pastries and drink seven organic coffees and have a six pack of organic beer with organic burger and chips for dinner is missing the point. Also restaurants play a big role in creating a healthy eating concept. Good chefs know, that methods of cooking and focusing on seasonal and local products, to minimise the time between harvesting and eating, can be more important than whether a food is organic or non-organic. And finally, before deciding on what to put on our plate, either organic or not, we should always bear in mind a very meaningful phrase: “You are what you eat”.
Benbrook C., Zhao X., Yáńez J., Davies N., Andrews P. (2008) “New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods” available: http://www.organic-center.org/science.nutri.php?action=view&report_id=126, [accessed: 10 Oct 2011] Bord Bia-Irish Food Board (2011) “Organic Food” available: http://www.bordbia.ie/aboutfood/organicfood/Pages/OrganicFood.aspx [accessed 4 Oct 2011] Butler, Newcastle University (2008), “Organic Free Grazing Cows Are Cream Of The Crop” ScienceDaily, available: http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/05/080527101003.htmhttp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080527101003.htm, accessed: 16 Oct 2011 European Commission, Agriculture and Rural Development ,Organic Farming (2011), “What is organic farming?” available: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/organic-farming/what-organic_en [accessed 04 Oct 2011] Hammond R., Shepard A. (2010)”The Savoy – a green hotel?” available: http://www.greentraveller.co.uk/blog/savoy-london-green-hotel [accessed 06 Oct 2011] Kluger, Jeffrey. (2010)”What’s So Great About Organic Food?”, Time, Vol. 176 Issue 9, p30-40, available: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=e6bef63d-8e95-431c-9fd9-523ebf5edba0%40sessionmgr111&vid=2&hid=119&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d