Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A-Z: O for Organic Food

Hi! Welcome to A-Z! Have you heard of the Euro-leaf?
Take the 12 stars of the European flag on one side, a mint leaf on the other.

Just put one on top of the other!

This label must be on all European organic products. But what is organic? Organic food comes from organic farming. It's produced while protecting the environment. To have the European organic label, farmers must use the most natural methods possible, respecting the cycles of the earth, plants and animals.

1. Vary the crops every year so as not to impoverish the soil. Choose species suitable for the region and alternate them.
2. Avoid chemicals as much as possible when enriching the soil or plants, when protecting crops against disease and insects, or when treating animals.
3. No growing of genetically modified organisms, the famous GMOs.
4. As much as possible, use the farm's own resources: the animals' manure to feed the soil, and crops to feed the animals. And
5. Respect the animals' welfare. In practice, an organic chicken looks like this. On this organic farm there are 4,800 chickens.

It seems like a lot but it's not compared to industrial farms with 50,000 chickens. Organic chickens have more space than ordinary ones. One square metre inside the shed for 10 birds. Four square metres each outdoors to stretch their legs. And you can't give them just anything to eat. On the menu it's all organic. Over to the farmer...

For the 4,800 chickens we have inside here, we have two hectares of outdoor area. In addition, the feed obviously has to be organic. We have here wheat, maize, peas, horse beans, a little soya...

That's all good, but apparently since 2009 livestock can be fed on non-European products. So how can we be sure that organic animals only eat organic?

Over to the controller... We can take as many samples as we want. We send it to the laboratory and they can see if there are any pesticides, fungicides or other products which are not allowed in biological agriculture. So organic is natural.

It's guaranteed by the European organic label. But not really 100% as it's practically impossible to check the whole organic chain in the whole European Union, from the farm to your plate. So the Euro-leaf accepts foods with 5% of non-organic ingredients.

If you like organics, look out for the Euro-leaf. But read the labels carefully. Bye!

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