THE BLOG

Why Organic Food Isn't Always Best

06/03/2014 10:16 GMT | Updated 05/05/2014 10:59 BST

If organic means produced and prepared 'naturally', I'm all for it. Intuitively it makes sense to me that food eaten in season, that is organically grown or reared, by local producers, is going to be better for us, better for the animals involved, and better for the environment.

The problem is that it's not that straight forward. Once you start to look at the guidelines for organic and free range for example, you'll begin to discover that there's lots of red tape and tick box stuff involved in labeling foods organic and free range and it's not always what you might assume it is.

Origin over organic

I think it's more important that you know where you food has come from, rather than just rely on the label or certification. You know exactly what you're eating then, which is something I think we should all be concerned with.

I'd take grass fed meat over 'certified organic' meat for example. Surely, an animal that has been allowed to roam freely and eat grass is going to be better for us (not to mention the animal) than one that's got just enough space to meet the minimum requirements and is reared on a diet of organic grain?

My hierarchy for making food choices would be

Whole foods

Grass fed

Local, seasonal

Certified organic

Free range

Commercially reared

I don't always think that organic is necessarily the most important thing to concern yourself with if you eat a diet that is made up of processed rubbish. I see people eat a lot of products labeled 'organic' ('gluten free' is another one) that are full of junk. Organic or not, it's still junk.

Basic nutrition comes before any labels or certifications. Organic cornflakes don't trump eggs for breakfast for example. Most people would do better with the fats and protein from the egg, regardless of the source. Organic would be better still, but choose the right foods first.

I'm lucky enough to live somewhere where the butchers sell meat that is reared on a local farm. The meat isn't certified organic, but it's grass fed and organically reared. You can even visit the farm if you want to, which I have to admit, I'm sad enough to have done.

We also have greengrocer that sells predominantly local produce. Again, the local stuff is not certified organic, and my kids do eat bananas year round which is hardly 'local', but they can tell you exactly where the local stuff comes from and how it's produced.

I chose to buy locally. When I do buy other than local foods I go organic where possible, prioritising the requirement for them to be organic as follows:

Animal protein

Dairy

Eggs

Fruits and vegetables

Grains and legumes

It's very rare that I eat anything other than organically reared or produced meat and dairy produce. Fruits, veg and grains I'm a bit more relaxed about. I just wash these thoroughly and soak my grains and legumes before cooking when I can.