That old organic chestnut.....

Lynda Brown - 13 February 2012

I've just caught up with the feature on the latest gloom and doom of the organic industry on last week's Countryfile. To be fair to Countryfile, given it's telly - for which read dumb down big time - they covered the ground well, and did a reasonable job; the chap from the Co-op, for example, acknowledging the huge contribution the organic movement has made not only in bringing food production issues and the environmental impact of growing food firmly to the table, but in raising awareness and effectively paving the way for ethical consumerism.

Not that that stopped me fuming at how organics is dealt a raw deal by the media: it's a long time since I've seen or read anything which is other than biased against organics. This one kicked off by comparing the decline in sales of organic food - according to Countryfile about 25% - with the fact that the sales of ethical products are booming. Why? Fairtrade foods, for example, are commodity foods grown generally in under-developed countries ; tea, coffee, rice, sugar etc.; apart from bananas and oranges, they are not fresh foods, nor meat nor dairy do they add significiantly to the general food bill. Ethical food is a great step forward but it isn't organic food - it's plain wrong and an act of misrepresentation to pretend it is.

They also highlighted in animal welfare - their own study said 70% of us were now concerned about this - but declined to scrutinise other animal welfare labels, or make any attempt to compare organic animal welfare standards with any comparable standards, let alone compare the price points of each.

They then conducted the obligatory ham -fisted very amateurish supermarket shop, and found -surprise, surprise- the organic shopping basket was £5 more. I bet you if I'd have gone to M&S food hall, or an upmarket artisan shop, or even my local farm shop, my token food bill would have been more than an extra fiver. I don't mind price comparisons at all - but let's have like with like, rather than high quality with basic.

Countryfile obviously also live on a different planet to the rest of us. No mention of how the food industry generally is suffering in the recession - even the mighty Tesco has caught a bad cold. It's not just that organic food is suffering, but everyone in the retail sector . Spin it a different way, and given how the media insist on constantly telling us how expensive organic food is, coupled with supermarkets conducting all out war on who can give us the cheapest food , I would argue organic food sales are holding up remarkably well.

To prove my point, last night I declined M&S's latest kind TV advert of treating myself to a Valentine's meal (£20 for two) and instead cooked myself 4 big meaty organic chicken wings (£3 from Abbey Farm Shop ) on a bed of organic and biodynamic root veg, with a bit of chilli and cumin for seasoning. It was delicious, and easily enough for 2 man sized meals. Price? Organic heaven for about £2.25 per meal. Beat that Countryfile.

Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.

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Mads S. Vinther
14 February 2012 09:29

Nice to hear you are fighting back in the UK also. Mads Vinther, Organic Denmark

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