The which? report

You may have read that consumer group Which? has suggested that there appears to be little or no nutritional or taste benefits to growing food organically.

It is very hard to make a sensible comment without knowing how the vegetables were grown, the size of the trial or whether it was replicated as would normally be expected. I would never claim that being organic necessarily guarantees better flavour or nutritional quality. In our experience, flavour and (probably) nutritional quality are a result of:

1. variety

2. soil type

3. growing conditions

4. stage of ripeness or maturity at harvest

5. freshness (time from harvest and post harvest treatment)

I can’t speak for our other growers, but at Riverford we work hard to combine all these factors to give the best flavour. A poor variety grown quickly on Fenland peat with excessive nitrogen can be organic but it can also be disappointing to eat.

On the whole organic growers tend to be more interested in getting these things right, so organic veg is usually better; but it doesn’t have to be. There are of course many other reasons for buying organic, including environmental, animal welfare and absence of pesticide residues.

Guy Watson

11 responses to “The which? report

  1. Stuart Walters

    Did you send your comments to Which?

  2. I find this report strange to say the least, it contradicts other tests results which have been carried out for a number of years which show that Organic veg have higher vitamin content and better flavour.
    Still, if ‘Which’ want to believe that conventional crops are better for you, with their herbicides, pesticides and chemical feeds as an addition to the food that’s fine. Myself, I will continue to eat food that I know wont harm either me or the environment.

  3. I’m not sure what impact this information would have on veg box buyers like Riverford customers. I primarily buy Riverford because I want to support English farmers and I want seasonal products that have been picked recently and not shipped across the world. I also hope, as Guy Watson says, that if produce is organic, then perhaps the farmers are more considerate and thoughtful in their growing and how it impacts on the environment – it’s not the easiest technique after all is it? I think the organic issue has always been complicated and multi faceted and it’s not easy to tell in what way organic means “better”.
    Having said that, I personally have always found my Riverford fruit and veg to be extremely tasty when compared to supermarket shopping. When I shopped in a supermarket it seemed that many items would be tasteless and/or go from rock hard to mush overnight. I very occasionally get a tasteless item, and in many years of veg box shopping, I have never had something go to mush.
    Which? Won’t change the way I shop.

  4. I am told that homeopathy does not work either.

  5. I have my own opinions on Which? because of inaccurate reporting on another topic but it’s probably not appropriate for publishing here. I will say, however, that I agree with Petra above on the reasons for buying from Riverford. The Which? article certainly won’t be changing my buying habits.

  6. Angela Waithira

    Thank you for a carefully considered, constructively critical and
    informative reply.

  7. I personally find organic food to me MUCH more flavourful with richer colour and feels better in my body than manufactured food.

  8. Yet another report telling us that there is absolutely no benefit in eating organic. I personally do not believe this. I also buy from Riverford because the flavour, quality & price is exceptional & the service is excellent. I also love the fact that the money is going straight to the producers & cuts out the rapacious supermarkets. So I will not be taking any notice of this either. Rock on Riverford!!

  9. Barbara Teszler

    I have always thought that the main idea behind organic food was to ensure there’s no artificial chemical nasties on your plate. If organic food has the same nutritional value or the same taste as non-organic one I do not care that much, as long as it has any. The point is to eat healthy products, not poisons.

  10. To be honest I used to think that organic anything was just a money making gimmick and 12 months ago I would probably of believed every word of the report-however,since having regular deliveries from riverford I know this just isnt true.The fruit,veg and dairy products that I have tried so far taste much better than any other that I have bought from supermarkets or other retailers.

  11. There are repeatedly reports that say that organic veg is no better/no tastier than any other kind and I believe there are simple reasons for this.

    1. We don’t choose organic for higher nutritional value, we choose organic because we don’t want to be eating a lot of chemicals.

    2. The organic veg that are tested are usually those from supermarkets – veg that have been travelling around the country and lying in warehouses – of cours they are neither as tasty or nutritious as the very fresh veg we get in our weekly boxes!

    I think you should draw the attention of the @Which’ people to the fact that there is a huge difference between supermarket organics and vegbox organics – to the point where they are different products, making their tests invalid if they don’t treat them as such.

    Having recently subscribed to Which after a gap of about 20 years, I have to say I agree with someone above and I won’t be renewing my subscription.

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