Organic food IS better – here’s why

Deep down we know that organic food is better but many skeptics feel that buying organic food is not really much more nutritious or not that much more contaminated with pesticides and the like than conventionally grown crops. They probably don’t want to acknowledge that we have serious problems in this world and the way our food is grown is one of them.

When we talk about organic here on the site it is just a word to mean many things. What we are actually trying to say is “this food is grown as naturally as possible”. And yes, many of the suppliers listed on the site are organic, but they don’t bother to get expensive and time-consuming certification.

So what is organic farming like? Well for starters, organic farmers don’t need to use a plethora of deadly chemicals to kill pests and weeds because healthy plants are able to withstand the ravages of pests quite well on their own. How did we manage to grow food for ourselves before all these harmful pesticides came about? Yes it was more labour intensive (job creation so not a problem) and yield was less but we are still alive and kicking and here to stay. Birds, wasps and other animals and insects help to keep the pest population down too. Weeds are controlled by cover crops, mulch and other methods.

One of the biggest problems is healthy soil. We have to remember that there are MANY similarities between plants and us. Organic matter such as manure is required for healthy soil, not chemical fertilizers. You know you can’t survive on vitamin pills, and plants don’t do so great either on their equivalent of vitamin pills – chemical fertilizers. Yes, they may grow ok, even to a large size, but it is what is inside that counts. Another massive problem is that chemical fertilizers are bad for the soil bacteria, earthworms, fungi and other things that help a plant to grow really well. It is not just about their roots. Research soil microbiology, fascinating subject if you are into that sort of thing.

There is a lot of debate over whether or not organic is more nutritious but I think that the answer is clear – produce grown in good soil, enriched properly with organic fertilizer such as manure or vegetation, and where herbicides don’t damage the soil, can only produce more nutritious food in the long term than conventionally grown produce. The land must still be left to lie fallow so that it can recover. Organic or not, you still need to adhere to good farming practices. So getting definite answers is very tricky because of all the variables but to me it is common sense what method produces better food in the long run.

One source, American food philosopher and journalist Michael Pollan, says

he became an advocate for organic and home-grown food after he encountered a mass-scale cattle feedlot that turned his stomach. His other turning point came when he saw an enormous potato farm in Idaho, where fertilisers and pesticides were pumped over the crops by a remote-controlled computer.

“What they were pumping onto the crops was so toxic that the farmers would not go into the fields for five days after spraying,” he recalls. “And for their own consumption, the farmers were growing organic potatoes in a small patch beside their house.” New South Wales farmer John Reynolds, whose Nashdale Fruit Co sells naturally grown potatoes through farmers’ markets around Sydney, says he stopped producing commercial potatoes after tiring of being encouraged to grow oversized, flavourless crops.

The supermarket type of spud is generally grown in a grey soil that’s very sandy,” he says. “They do that because they can feed them up with fertiliser, which makes them grow very fast and very big. And that’s why supermarkets charge $1.50 to $2 a kilo for them. They’re force-fed.”

He says his potatoes, which include varieties such as Dutch cream, kipfler and purple congo, taste better because they are slow-grown. “People come to me and say, ‘My God, these are the best potatoes I’ve ever eaten’,” he says.

Organic food is an industry just like any other which means it can also be corrupted so don’t think that if you hear one bad story about organic food that it is a cause not worth supporting. And don’t think too badly of conventional farmers either, many of them use good agricultural practices. At the end of the day, factory farming is factory farming whether it is organic or conventional. Rather support the organic fruit and vegetable farmers listed here on Ethical Suppliers because most of them are organic in spirit – it is not just a label for them and they truly care about the environment. Remember that we list suppliers here on a trust basis so if you find out that a supplier listed on the site is not actually ethical, let us know.

Free Range Chicken-The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

On this site we try to only list companies that raise animals naturally and don’t adhere to the minimum standards (barely) as set by the government but instead take pleasure in providing great environments for their farm animals. But at the same time we are logical in our approach and know that it will take a while for the food industry to be completely revolutionized and for things to be the way we want them. So we list companies that we know aren’t perfect, for example free range eggs from chickens that don’t really go outside the barn but at least aren’t raised in cages and have a bit more space and fresh air and natural light. Not great, but better than cage raised and in some cases this is the best that people’s budgets allow for. So we don’t condemn suppliers for not being “perfect” we still list them, because we need to start somewhere. It is our sincere hope that this website can help to FOCUS people’s attentions on the plight of non free range animal products, and gradually guide them from the ugly products to the bad products to the good products.

For example:

Astral Poultry supplies many of the big retailers – Pick n Pay, Checkers etc. They have the Festive brand, Goldi, County Fair and then there is their free range offering, Mountain Valley. A while ago I interviewed their Operations Manager to find out how the free range chickens fared in comparison to their other offerings and their standard of living is a little bit better. They have more space and there is an outside pasture area. But many people complain (rightly so) that even with more space the free range standards are still not that great and sometimes the chickens won’t go outside because they either find it difficult to shove their way through the crowds or they don’t want to leave their food and water for fear of missing out.

Yet if people were encouraged to support free range wherever possible, even when the chickens are not that free, it allows people to unite and use their economic buying power. If we all stop buying non free range then these large corporations such as Astral Poultry will have to expand their free range operations to meet the increased demand. And that is how you improve lives – little bit by little bit and not getting frustrated because things aren’t immediately perfect. To see the best example currently of free range egg farming, check out Farmer Angus on this site.

So thank you for supporting free range and continue to buy the best quality that you can find and afford and slowly, together, we will revolutionize the free range and organic food industry.