It might not say it explicitly on the label, but there are hidden benefits to organic produce that you might not have thought about.
Organic farmers use natural fertilizers that derive from plant and animal waste, with a strong focus on preserving the organic matter and microbial life in the soil. According to Dr. Elaine Ingham, just one teaspoon of compost-rich organic soil may host as many as 600 million to 1 billion helpful bacteria from 15,000 species. Ingham notes that on the flip side, one teaspoon of soil treated with chemicals may carry as few as 100 helpful bacteria. Moreover, for every 1 per cent increase in soil organic matter, the first foot of soil is able to hold an additional 16,500 gallons of water per acre. That means less flooding, and less agricultural runoff, into our waterways.
Many of the farmers we work with at Farmdrop, such as Horton House Farm, practice regenerative agriculture, a method of farming which aims to rebuild soil matter through methods such as crop rotation, natural fertilizers, and pasture cropping. Sara Gregson, a Director at Pasture For Life (PFLA), an organisation that advocates 100% grass-fed diets, explains why mob grazing is such a big deal.
‘It’s amazing for building soil health, because a lot of animals come in to a small area of a field, eat the top third, trample the middle third, and the last third is left in the field to recover and they move to the next section. That way of taking vegetation down and letting organisms pull the organic matter into the soil is the best way to improve soil health.’
The Earth is losing more than 18 million acres of forests per year – equal to about 27 football fields every minute. The majority of this comes in the form of soy farming, most of which is then used to feed intensively farmed animals.
Under organic standards animals are free to graze and forage on pasture, keeping it as natural as possible. This natural diet is not only better for the animal but better for the environment too. At Farmdrop we pride ourselves on working with farmers who are dedicated to making a positive change to our agricultural system. For example, cattle herds at The Story Group in Somerset graze outside on average for 200 days a year compared to the zero-grazing found in conventional systems. They’re fed a grass-rich, GM-free diet that is 60% grass-based as a minimum, rotating between various types of clovers, peas and vetches throughout the seasons.
Biodiversity is under threat from intensive farming. Pesticides and other chemicals kill most insects and microbial life and makes it hard for wildflowers to grow, with over 97% of wildflower meadows being lost since the 1930s. Species-rich grassland now only covers a mere 1% of the UK’s land area. This has a huge knock on effect for wildlife, especially wild bees.
By comparison, organic farms encourage healthy ecosystems that don’t rely on chemicals to control pests. In fact, on average, plant, insect and bird life is 50 per cent more abundant, and there are around 75 per cent more wild bees on organic farms.
Overfishing and dredging of the seabed is damaging marine wildlife and habitats. Dredging significantly destroys the natural seabed and jeopardises the organisms that depend on it maintaining its original composition. The solution to this is to eat fish that has been responsibly caught. Plymouth fishing collective, Sole of Discretion, puts an emphasis on using sustainable methods while still providing a high quality fish.
“The biggest differentiator between our fish and others is that our fishers use very selective fishing methods. Hand line fishing with a single line is one of the oldest ways to fish and has the least environmental impact of any fishing method (although diving also has as little impact).” Caroline Bennett, Founder Sole of Discretion.
Animals farming has a role to play in healthy and environmentally friendly farming systems however the welfare of many of intensively farmed animals is far from acceptable. Poultry accounts for 42 per cent of the UK’s meat consumption, with over one billion hens being slaughtered in the UK in 2019, and yet only one per cent of these were farmed in an organic system.
When it comes to organic animal products, the key distinguishers are animal welfare and antibiotic usage. Animals are not stressed or overworked, they get to live long, healthy lives, and are given the space and freedom to explore their surroundings by being completely free-range.