I must have spent an inordinate amount of time in supermarkets in recent years debating the merits of organic versus non-organic products. However, when eating out it hasn’t been something I have considered at all. Until now…
Organic served here
We recently attended an event held by the soil association about the ‘organic served here‘ scheme. This is a scheme for restaurants or cafes that allows them to publicise their commitment to using organic produce. This is the only award of its kind in the UK. The scheme awards between 1 and 5 stars depending on the percentage of organic products used.
When you buy organic produce in shops you are supporting organic farms and producers. When you eat out and choose organic you are also making a choice to support the organic farmers, growers and suppliers that feed into these cafes and restaurants. The rigorous organic standards that these producers have to meet consider all aspects of the products from packaging, to animal welfare and wildlife conservation, and also in the removal of unnecessary and harmful food additives in organic processed foods.
The event we attended showcased some samples of organic produce and we had been asked to provide a sample loaf of Lochaberfarm sourdough which had been baked using organic Scotland the Bread flour.
This flour is milled from heritage wheat varieties, namely Rouge d’Ecosse, Hunter’s and Golden Drop, which were commonly grown in Scotland in the 19th Century, and which are now being organically grown in Scotland.
This was the first time I had worked with this flour and I noticed a difference straight away in how it felt. The texture of the dough was much more fragile and I had to be careful not to handle it too much. However, the finished loaf had a lovely texture to it, much more like that of a high percentage rye flour loaf, and the taste was much richer and fuller. The nutrient content of these flours is higher and they are well suited to being grown on Scottish soils, which makes them an excellent choice for anyone with an interest in baking, nutrition or the environment. All of the Scotland the bread flours are milled in a small scale mill and there is a high level of care and attention to quality – they are available to order from their website.
We heard from Chris Grierson of Feed in Edinburgh on his journey to sourcing organic meat for his burgers, pork ribs, and chicken wings for the St Vincent bar in Stockbridge in Edinburgh. The business has grown over a number of years and one of the things they are passionate about is being able to confidently offer the best quality meat they can find.
Feed works closely with a number of organic farms, including Peelham farm (see below) who supply top quality organic meat. Chicken wings and pork ribs are not the most valuable cuts of meat and many producers struggle to find a good market for these products. But with Chris on the scene and being passionate about being able to offer top quality produce, he has been able to use all of the wings and ribs he can get his hands on, making it a winning relationship for Feed, their organic suppliers and ultimately their customers.
One farm that supplies organic meat to Feed is Peelham farm in Berwickshire. Their organic meat is all produced from their own livestock and processed at their on-farm butchery. In addition to meeting all of the rigorous organic standards, the thought and attention to care of the animals at Pelham is seriously impressive – they have even designed a special handling system that enables the animals to be loaded onto lorries with the minimum of stress (this is important because stress hormones can affect the quality of the meat). Their organic meat is supplied to Feed Edinburgh, amongst many others. They are also the only UK producers of organic charcuterie, they are definitely worth checking out. Their products can be ordered from their website and delivered anywhere in the UK or picked up at Stockbridge or Leith farmers markets.
Non -meat organic products
The event wasn’t all about organic meat either, the Kedar cheese company produce organic mozzarella from their farm in Dumfriesshire. The milk for the cheese comes from their Organic Brown Swiss herd, which is the largest in the UK. Furthermore, there are zero carbon miles between the raw milk and the finished mozzarella. We brought home some samples of their smoked and fresh mozzarella, which lasted about half an hour – my mini taste testers have given it a big thumbs up. This premium product is available to buy at the farmers market in Edinburgh, amongst other places, listed on their website.
Mara seaweed harvest by hand, from the seas around Scotland and Ireland including along the Fife coastline. After harvesting, they dry and process the seaweed so that it can be added to almost anything you are making. The health benefits of seaweed are numerous as seaweed essentially absorbs and stores all the goodness from the sun and the sea. Think how good you feel after a day at the beach, when you put seaweed on your food it’s like adding a pinch of seaside to your meal. It’s also great way to season your food without a high concentration of sodium – the salty flavours come from potassium and magnesium which are much better for your health than traditional, high concentration sodium salt. Mara’s website contains loads of information about the health benefits of seaweed and also lots of recipe ideas.
The mini taste testers also devoured the seaweed samples.
So what does organic mean for me?
I can’t claim to eat or buy exclusively organic produce. However, when I see an organic symbol, I now have an idea of what the producer has been through in order to produce this product, and it’s an impressive commitment to the quality of produce and care of the environment. For this reason, organic suppliers and restaurants serving organic produce deserve our support where possible – look out for the symbols next time you are eating out or shopping.