Catering & organics – learning from Denmark


Would love to write this up into a fuller blog post soon but for now a collection of useful and interesting links to refer back to, regarding Denmark’s approach to organics in/and the catering sector.

Organic labelling for catering

Towards 100% organic

Organic Action Plan for Denmark

Organic Denmark – NGO

Copenhagen House of Food  (interview with Anya Hultberg by Lesley Riddoch here)

Danish organic chicken

Soil Association case study – Organic policy – learning from Denmark


Organic farming ‘benefits biodiversity’


20 May 2015

Wheat field, France
Even a few organic fields on a farm may improve biodiversity, the study found

Organic farms act as a refuge for wild plants, offsetting the loss of biodiversity on conventional farms, a study suggests.

Fields around organic farms have more types of wild plants, providing benefits for wildlife, say scientists.

The research is likely to fuel the debate over the environmental benefits of organic farming.

Studies suggest that organic farming produces lower yields than conventional methods but harbours more wildlife.

The new study, by researchers at the University of Swansea and institutes in France, looked at fields sowed with winter wheat in the region of Poitou-Charente.

They found that organic farming led to higher weed diversity on surrounding conventionally farmed fields.

“Wild plants are important for birds, bees and other farmland species,” said Dr Luca Borger of the department of biosciences at Swansea University.

“Organic farming has advantages in maintaining these, but even a mixture of organic and non-organic farming in an area can help maintain this biodiversity.

“Even only 25% of fields being organically farmed can make a difference.”

Food security

Farmland provides essential habitat for many animals but intensification of agriculture has led to a loss of biodiversity.

However, in order to provide the extra food needed by the bigger human population of the future, without destroying forests and wetlands, farming needs to be made more intensive.

Supporters of organic farming say the method could be a potential compromise between meeting food security needs and providing habitat for bees, birds and other wildlife.

The researchers say land-sharing between organic farms and non-organic farms could have benefits for both crop production and biodiversity.

This theory needs to be tested in follow-up studies, they say.

The study is published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B- Biological Sciences.

First world problems: Disliking food


By Alicia Miller and originally published on 29 June, 2014 on Sustainable Food Trust website here. I have just started to get a veg box, and am (mostly) enjoying cooking and eating the new and different veggies in the box.

“Running a vegetable box scheme tells you a lot about people’s eating habits and their relationship with food. People love the idea of getting a fresh, local vegetable box every week. When they find our farm, they say ‘it’s so fantastic you’re here!’ But when it comes down to the reality of getting a box of vegetables that they have to negotiate each week, for a lot of people their vegetable romance suddenly becomes troubled.

We always give people two opt outs in our boxes – they can tell us two vegetables that they don’t like and don’t want. I can always tell whether a new box scheme customer is going to make it through the first month when I ask them about what they don’t like. If they hesitate about their opt outs, it’s usually because there is more than two vegetables they don’t like, then that’s a bad sign. Some people ask to eliminate whole families of vegetables – ‘I don’t like greens,’ is a favourite. That means no kale, no chard, no spinach, no sorrel, no brussels sprout tops or turnip greens. It doesn’t go down well when I say, well, you can choose two of those.

And it goes on from there; after a month, about a quarter of our new customers cancel. My favourite recent story is a woman who rang up when she discovered us and was so excited to get a box. After her first one, she wrote us a lovely note about how beautiful our veg was and how she’d been telling all her neighbours about it. She didn’t opt out of anything. But then a couple of weeks in, she said that she didn’t like beetroot. Shortly after that she went to a bi-weekly box. Then she rang and said, could she not have onions as well, as she didn’t cook with them. Finally, she wrote an apologetic note, about six weeks in, cancelling her box, writing that the greens, which are almost always in our boxes, didn’t go with her ‘baked-fish diet’ and she couldn’t get any of her family to eat anything from the box. I despaired!

The question I have about all this, is how did we get to this extraordinary place where people don’t like much of the extraordinary array of vegetables that are grown in the UK? To even consider joining a vegetable box scheme, you have to, at least think that you like a lot of vegetables; so what’s going on with people who would never dream of joining a box scheme? Are they eating any vegetables at all, let alone local and seasonal vegetables? When you stand in line at the supermarket and look at what other people are buying, more often than not, fresh vegetables are a rarity.

Now I am a vegetable zealot, which you would expect, as my partner and I run an organic veg farm. I apologise for being unsympathetic to those not as enamoured as I with this staple food category, and I apologise also if what I’m about to say sounds self-righteous. Not liking your food is a luxury of the developed world. We have so much abundant choice of what to eat, that we can dislike and choose not to eat a lot of what is produced in this country. That’s a form of waste. We don’t think of it as wasteful, but it is. If we’re choosing not to eat our regional produce, than we’re probably eating someone’s else’s regional produce, which begs the question, what are they then eating?

One of my best friends is a picky eater. Pretty much the only vegetables that she and her daughters eat are green beans and salad. There is a theory about picky eaters – that their taste buds are underdeveloped and thus more sensitive to flavours and textures. But even picky eaters learn to eat new things. It’s a process of trying out new foods and building a taste for them, rather than just rejecting foods outright. We say ‘I don’t like that,’ because we can. If it were one of only a handful of things to eat, trust me, we’d develop a taste for it.

Chef Dan Barber did a great piece on how a delicious array of edible crops are wasted because they’re not thought of as food – these are the green manures that many farmers grow to nourish their soils. There is ‘a whole class of humbler crops,’ that are overlooked as a food source, including cowpeas and many mustards, which in fact could be eaten.

So how do we rectify this situation and why should we? We should because waste is a huge issue in how we eat, evidenced by the often cited statistic that a third of the world goes hungry, while the rest of the world throws away a third of their food. We have a moral obligation to waste less or their hunger is on our shoulders. But we should also learn to eat more widely because climate change is going to transform the range and availability of our food supply as we move deeper into the century, so better start now to learn to like a whole lot more than we do.

For starters, we need to make a commitment to our regional produce. Try a celeriac; try it again. Experiment with it – make a mash out of it, try it in soup, bake it with cream, cheese and beets (ooo, that’s going out on limb!) And when your child says, ‘I don’t like that,’ say ‘Yes, you do. You loved it the last time I gave it to you. Try it.’ (In my book, lying is acceptable in this situation.) When I tried this with my young daughter, she tasted it and said, ‘Yummy!’ You won’t always get a win, but persevere and I bet you’ll have a pay-off. When we all learn to eat more widely, there will more to go around for all of us and we’ll be healthier for it.”

10 ways to eat organic on a budget


from Tom Hunt – article originally found here.

Organic tomatoes

It’s true organic food can be very expensive but with a little shopping knowhow we can all buy more organic produce without it blowing the bank. Here’s 10 ways to eat organic on a budget.

1. Grow your own.  You don’t need a garden and It takes little effort to grow a few pots of your favourite herbs and vegetables and it’s so rewarding. You can grow anywhere, on windowsills, on the porch, or on the driveway. Start with herbs as they can be so expensive to buy and take up little room. Try up-cycling your empty egg boxes into planters for seedlings and using old bean cans and milk bottles for plant pots.

2. Eat less meat.  Meat is at the top of my priority list when it comes to buying organic. Organic certification from the soil association not only certifies that the meat is organic but that it is high welfare. Meat is expensive, buy less and make vegetables the center of attention. When you do buy meat buy cheaper cuts like shoulder and belly. They take longer cooking but are often tastier than the prime cuts.

3. Reduce waste.  The average household wastes between 20-30% of their food, through mismanaging the larder, over buying, and poor storage. I see this as a budget for buying better quality and organic food. Make sure you use your oldest meat and vegetables first and build your meal plan around those ingredients. I keep a draw in my fridge for the oldest produce and rotate the produce into it before it gets cooked.

4. Buy in bulk.  Buying some produce in bulk can help you save money in the long run. Bulk buy products are often cheaper. Stick to pastas, pulses, dried foods and vegetables that have a long life like potatoes and onions. You can also buy whole animals butchered for a good price. Freeze them in portions and cuts and defrost as necessary.

5. Buy seasonal.  Produce is cheaper when it is in season. Firstly because it hasn’t had to be shipped halfway across the world and secondly because it will be more abundant. As you know I base all my recipes around seasonal produce for this reason as well as the superior quality. Use this excellent seasonal chart as a guide when shopping.

6. Cook from scratch.  Convenience foods are more expensive than cooking raw ingredients from scratch as long as you look after your ingredients and use them sparingly. I like to cook extra portions of food that I can eat for lunch the next day or freeze for use in the future.

7. Know the ‘Clean fifteen’.  The Environmental Working group have released a list called the ‘clean fifteen’ naming the least pesticide ridden vegetables. If you can’t afford to buy all organic then these fruit and vegetables are the best conventional produce to buy –avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

These are the best to avoid: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes

8. Join a local organic box scheme.  Local box schemes are not always the cheapest option but they will normally compete with the prices of organic supermarket produce. They will provide a good base of ingredients for the week, save you time shopping and support local farms. If they give you an option to, buy a veg box without potatoes. This will give you a larger variety of ingredients. Imported organic produce costs a lot more so avoid boxes that use imported produce.

9. Create an organic buying group or co-op.  Club together with other people interested in buying organic produce and set up a co-op. Here’s some info on how to set up a co-op by the Soil association. This will give you buying power, as you will have a larger spend. It will also allow you to buy from co-operative wholesalers such as Essential-trading and Suma co-op. Co-ops are a really resilient model for business and working together that can also save you money as an individual.

10. Shop wisely and avoid supermarkets.  Organic food is seen as a premium product and is often over expensive for this reason. Supermarkets are guilty of this, so it is best to avoid them. Supermarkets normally have their prices available online, note down the cost of the products you normally buy and price check them with online organic shops, farmers market and greengrocers to find out who has the best price.