Mamas if your understanding of organic food has reached its peak, let us tell you this – there’s much more to it than muddy vegetables and higher prices. Organic Foods & Café explain what organic and biodynamic really means, why it’s better for us and which products they recommend making the switch to (did you know that non-organic apples hold the highest pesticide levels of ALL fruit and veg?!)
Feeling mobile? Head to their stores on Sheikh Zayed Road, Jumeirah Village Mall or The Greens to stock up on a whole range of produce (from fruit to laundry powder, breakfast cereals to fresh meats and everything in between – including amazing apples with no nasties) and enjoy coffee or lunch in-store. Too busy to get out and about but still want to make sure you’re eating the right kind of stuff? Then visit their website and order online for an organic delivery that’s out of the box.
What is organic and what does biodynamic mean?
Instead of using artificial chemical fertilizers or pesticides to boost yields, organic farming uses traditional, mostly natural methods to achieve the same ends.
Biodynamic farming is a holistic ‘farm-as-an-organism’ school of thought taking into account the interrelationship of the soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system; emphasising local production and distribution systems, combining the use of traditional local breeds and varieties with developing new ranges and using a sowing and planting calendar.
Is organic food really better for our health and worth the substantial difference in price? Why is organic food so much more expensive?
If you want superior quality you should be prepared to spend more! Although you might expect food produced without chemicals to be cheaper, organic food is often more expensive than conventionally farmed food for a variety of reasons, including the smaller quantities and much more labor-intensive way in which it’s produced.
How does Organic Foods and Café ensure they bring the best food to their stores?
Simple! Nils El Accad, the founder of the OF&C, visits all the farms he partners with at least once a year, checking on their methods, working conditions and ethics. All are small family-run farms where the owners believe organic is a way of life, as we do, and are in it for more than just the money, as we are.
Why doesn’t Organic Foods and Café use primarily local farmers in Dubai?
In fact we do and have a close partnership with a local farmer and have been building up the product range together. Our farmer has introduced composting too and the milk you find locally is from an initiative we have started with him. In the months Feb to end May the local produce is very good given the better climate.
One thing should be said, it is a lot harder to find crops that are dense in nutrients in thinner soils and when it’s extremely hot the crop grows so fast that the shelf life is short with spinach wilting very quickly. That is why we tend to have less local produce in hot months and loads in the better growing season from Feb to May.
To date there are no biodynamic farmers and while our local farmer is starting to move in that direction it will still take some time. In terms of produce our biodynamic produce is imported but I’m proud to say the air miles are offset and the crop arrived carbon neutral which has a better carbon balance than local crops.
The carbon balance is a very important factor to us and desalinate water makes crops have a huge carbon foot print which is why we are very selective on our local farm produce we sell. One of the main points of local produce after the freshness is the carbon foot print which we achieve with our imports through carbon offsetting and local farms which don’t use desalinated water. In fact for a while we have been discussing both with technology partners and our farmer to look at solar desalination in the east coast so there is no carbon foot print and we don’t use the ground water which is a limited resource. Local farming and trying to achieve a low carbon foot print and biodynamic farming is key in our strategy.
We see so many words on packaging these days such as Organic, Natural, Free-Range, Grass-Fed, Corn-Fed, non-GMO, to name a few. What should we look for on packaging these days?
You might spot the word ‘natural’ on a label and assume that natural means no nasty stuff right? Well, not necessarily. For one thing, consider this. Crude oil is natural but I wouldn’t want to eat it! Research the ‘buzzwords’ and watch out for certifiers like: USDA, Soil association, AB, BIO, Australian Certified Organic, JAS, EU, Canada Organic. Then, enquire about the farm or the firm itself as a lot of them don’t respect workers, don’t redistribute, don’t respect the environment, even if they have “organic” on their sticker!!!
If someone wanted to make the switch to organic, which products, fruit or vegetables would you recommend they buy change first?
Meat and dairy products – many chemical pesticides are fat-soluble and accumulate in fatty tissue.Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, tomatoes but mainly APPLES – they are the most pesticide laden fruit!