Should you buy organic? Rosie Birkett weighs in
To mark Organic September, we asked cook and food writer Rosie Birkett to share her top tips.
The popularity of organic food, produced with higher standards of animal welfare, fewer pesticides and no artificial additives, is continuing to grow. Yet are the higher prices and hassle of finding organic ingredients worth it?
We caught up with Rosie Birkett, ambassador for Organic. Feed Your Happy, to talk about where to source great produce and the benefits of using organic meat and vegetables.
1. Why do you feel it’s important to buy organic?
I love cooking with fresh organic ingredients because it’s food as it should be. When I eat organic, it makes me feel happy knowing it’s good for the animals and good for the planet. Knowing that organic farmers use less pesticides gets a massive tick from me.
Eating organic meat and organic eggs is my way of respecting animal welfare, as I know it means the animals have been reared free range, with high welfare standards, and have enjoyed the best life possible.
2. What do you look for in great organic produce?
For me it’s all about brilliant ingredients. I love having seasonal, fresh and delicious ingredients to cook with. It doesn’t matter whether I’m cooking one of my favourite dishes or trying out an exciting new idea.
3. Where’s the best place to buy it?
I get an organic delivery box scheme every fortnight from Riverford, which is great for fruit and veg.
I also like supporting my local independent shops, which is a good way to explore new ideas and see lots of different varieties of organic produce. I love a green grocer on Church Street [in London] which has loads of great organic produce, and I shop at the local Stoke Newington organic farmers' market; plus my local supermarket has a big organic selection too.
4. What are the benefits to using organic products in your cooking? Do they impact on taste?
Organic fruit and veg are grown more slowly, are full of flavour and I think tastier too.
I love quick and delicious meals, and that’s all about the best tasting organic ingredients, from fresh tasty herbs, to tomatoes and big salads. I don’t want to mess around and over-complicate things.
Organic. Feed Your Happy
5. Are there any other key advantages?
I think we have an emotional connection with our food: it’s not just about the taste, it’s also about knowing the story behind it and how it has been produced.
I like to know where my food comes from, and how the raw ingredients I use have been produced. Organic means fewer pesticides, no artificial additives or preservatives, always free range, no routine use of antibiotics and no GM ingredients – that’s lots of great reasons to choose organic.
6. Which foods are worth buying organic, particularly if you have a limited budget?
I shop with what my budget allows, and choose the items that matter to me most. I love a roast chicken and I'll make stock from the roast chicken carcass and use that to make other dishes like risotto and curry.
Organic isn’t always expensive, so start with a few organic items and perhaps just add one or two to your basket. As organic foods are grown with fewer pesticides, switching to organic for food most affected by pesticides makes sense. Prioritise oranges, lemons, limes, pears, grapes, apples, pre-packed salads, bananas, spring greens, kale, herbs, spinach and cucumber.
7. Do you think organic food will become more accessible?
Yes definitely. People want more organic food on supermarket shelves and more choice of organic produce in their local area.
Interestingly in Denmark, half of all Danes now buy organic food every week – and one of the reasons for this is that it’s a key part of what Danish retailers sell. The Danish government is heavily subsidising farmers to convert to organic because there is so much demand for it. It would be great if the UK could follow suit.
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