Guy’s Newsletter: nature, intuition & nutrition

Many of us are inclined to believe that a natural diet is likely to be a healthy diet; that means eating less processed food with fewer additives, and trying to stick to foods that we evolved to eat, and ideally growing them in as natural a way as possible. It is obvious to many (especially gardeners) that the way food is grown affects how it looks, feels, smells and tastes. Indeed, studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition conclusively show organic food to be different; simply put, you get more of the good stuff and less of the bad.

The most recent study, published this week, shows organic dairy products and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids (widely understood to reduce the risk of heart disease and dementia) compared to nonorganic equivalents. The nutritional differences are down to organic livestock eating more grass and clover and less grain and soya, i.e., a natural diet that ruminants (cows, sheep and goats) evolved to eat. Riverford cows typically produce 5000 litres of milk a year from a diet which is 95% grass, clover and silage. This compares to an intensive dairy cow producing 8,000-12,000 l/year from a diet with less grass, very little clover and up to 50% of calories from grain and soya. Meanwhile, our beef is almost 100% grass fed; organic grain is just too expensive anyway. Last year, another BJN study showed organic vegetables contained 18-79% higher levels of anti-oxidants, alongside lower levels of toxic heavy metals and pesticide residues. Again the differences are down to being grown in conditions that are a little closer to nature.

So many claims are made around our health and diet that I am reluctant to add to them in this way, especially when I have such undeniable self-interest. Perhaps you should disregard me too, but do listen to your intuition; mine firmly tells me that the closer we stay to the diet we evolved to eat, made up of (largely) plants and (small amounts of) animals, the healthier we will be. Better still if that food is raised in organic conditions, bringing the many benefits to wildlife, the soil and our environment that are intrinsic to this way of farming.

Guy Watson

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8 responses to “Guy’s Newsletter: nature, intuition & nutrition

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing the statistics. Thanks for caring.

  2. Wise and honest words. If only our govements would see this and ensure that all people can afford organic food.

  3. If I ever have to enter a supermarket, all I want to do is run out again. In today’s world of fast commercialism, is it fair of me to distrust almost all of the food on the shelves? The weird lists of ingredients turn me off for a start. Thankfully for years, we have enjoyed the fruits of everyone’s labour at Riverford, and feel fit and healthy and well-nourished as a result! Interesting to read that your statistics endorse our own view. It will also be interesting to see if we really do live healthier for longer! My sadness is that we are such a small group of people who treat our food and animals in this organic life-affirming way. In our own country, people do not seem to want to cook daily from scratch anymore, (well done to Riverford’s recipe boxes!) and with the world’s ever growing population, it appears food has to be produced as quickly as possible to meet the demand with little thought for anyone’s welfare. I feel very lucky that my family at least benefits from all that Riverford stands for.

  4. I enjoyed this post – as always – but I think I have a slight disagreement on your thesis that we were evolved to eat mostly plant matter with just a little meat.

    My understanding is that one of the reasons why early Homo Sapiens did so well against other hominids was their ability to thrive on very varied food sources. So in the winter months, the species could live on the most available (& nutritious) food source: flesh, from a variety of sources, and could switch to a less dangerous-to-acquire food in the summer: vegetable matter. The very high calorie value of meat was a key driver in enabling larger & more complex brains to develop – and thus enable the species to colonise and adapt to new environments.

    Nevertheless, I am fully convinced that in our modern world, too much emphasis is put on meat being the focal component of a meal. Convincing the men in my family, I regret, is proving trickier … (I hate to appear “sexist” but that is how it divides, in this family of four …)

  5. I agree with everything you say. Common sense alone tells us that. It’s not just Guy who has a vested interest in the virtues of organic over chemical intensive farming. All of us who value the benefits of natural food have a vested interest in the future health and prosperity of Riverford. It always infuriates me when they have these foodie progs on tv comparing organic with the intensively farmed agro-chemical product. They just look at taste and appearance, then sniffily dismiss organic as no better than its intensive counterpart. No one ever analyses the veg to find out nutritional content. I don’t think they dare. While I’m venting, I get really cross hearing intensive farming described as ‘traditional’ while organic is viewed as the new kid on the block. Traditional farming is the Riverford way, the way my great- grandfather farmed, the way his great- grandfather farmed.
    And animals are sentient creatures, not industrial components.

  6. Vivien Cruickshank

    Totally agree Barbara. Organic food is just food, which we have eaten for thousands of years, the other stuff is pesticide food which we have eaten since WW2.

  7. Totally agree vivien.. ‘organic’ should be the default.. Toxic, poisonous, processed food should be the one with the skull & crossbones label on !

    Also, organic food isn’t just about taste and aesthetics.. Think who’s profiting from your hard earned money when you hand over your £££’s for non-organic produce..
    Massive corporations who are in bed with agro chemical companies who love you getting ill cause they’ll profit EVEN MORE when you get your prozac prescription (or whichever ailment of civilization you’re struggling with)..

  8. Hi Guy I agree with most of what has been said already but even saying drop your animal consumption by 50% would be even better for most peeps.
    I have noticed that there has been a lot of vegan/veggie restaurants opening up or more vegan options on regular menus in the last few yrs, as well as pop up supper clubs offering vegan/veggie gourmet foods.
    Facebook has a lot more veggie groups as well over the last 5 yrs so there is a trend of diet changing going on already. So maybe more veggies will be in demand? and less meat will happen whether for health reasons or political reasons but would still help our environment.

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