Organic food has been a hotly debated topic for many years and opting to buy organic milk, eggs and meat very often comes down to personal choice. Factors that influence consumers can include ethical farming, nutrient profile and health benefits. If it’s organic, we know it has met certain standards and though it comes with a far higher price tag it is considered superior for a number of reasons and understanding more can support parents and childcare settings make more informed choices about the milk, eggs and meat that are served to our children.
Forerunners of the movement began talking about biodynamic agriculture in the 1920’s but organic farming itself began after the industrial revolution when inorganic methods were first introduced into farming. Many of the inorganic methods in the 1940’s were not well developed or fully tested and many had serious side effects, which initiated a revival of traditional farming methods. The soil association was launched in the UK in the 1940’s and great strides were then made in the 1960’s and 70’s when certifications were put into place as demand increased. The general principles of organic farming focus on a ‘whole system’ approach to farming and food production focusing on agriculture, the environment, food processing and social principles. It wasn’t until the mid-1980’s that supermarkets started to stock organic food and the demand for organic food continues to grow.
Organic livestock is managed by standards that support positive welfare and health. These include principles of animal husbandry, which promote natural immunity rather than treating the whole heard or flock with antibiotics, vaccines or hormone treatments and providing access to pasture. Livestock are also fed on 100% organically grown feed. This method of farming has a particular ethos that as a consumer you may wish to support.
Benefits of organic food
Organic food is thought to provide a whole variety of benefits namely around the nutritional content of the food and the benefits of reduced toxin exposure, but research around this area is still on going.
- Fresh – Organic food can often be fresher and because it doesn’t contain preservatives it has to be eaten whilst fresh, which can increase its nutritional profile.
- Nutrients – A great deal of research has been carried out comparing nutritional profiles of organic versus conventionally grown food and conclusions drawn certainly aren’t definitive. However, a recent study did recognise that certain nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk. This may be related to the grass-fed diet of organic livestock. Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids can be hugely beneficial for children especially for the growing brain, eyes, immunity, hormone balance and skin health. A study of breastfeeding mothers consuming organic milk concluded that the nutritional profile of the mothers’ breast milk contained a greater concentration of beneficial nutrients and this reduced the infants’ risk of eczema by over 35%.
- Health – One of the striking benefits of consuming organic meat is reduced exposure to antibiotic agents, reducing the potential threat of human disease caused by drug resistant organisms, which can get passed down the food chain. Therefore by choosing organic we reduce our exposure to antibiotics and support our own immune systems to develop naturally.
There are certainly many benefits to choosing organic and though it can be more expensive these dietary staples of milk, eggs and meat can be a great place to start. Many supermarkets, local farmers markets, local butchers, the internet and organic produce boxes all provide organic produce therefore it isn’t difficult to get access to it. If you focus on the health of children, adults, the soil and ultimately the planet it can make choosing organic a worthwhile option.
About the author
The Food Teacher, Katharine Tate, has worked as a teacher and education consultant internationally in primary and secondary schools for over 20 years.
Qualified as a registered nutritional therapist, Katharine, combines her unique education and nutrition expertise to offer schools, organisations and families advice, education programmes, practical workshops, and individual/family clinical consultations. She has also published 2 books: ‘Heat-Free & Healthy’ and ‘No Kitchen Cookery for Primary Schools’.