Certification vs. conversation – the question of ‘organic’

Every now and again we will be asked why Husk & Honey granola isn’t certified organic, particularly when we source the highest quality ingredients from carefully chosen farmers, growers and suppliers who share our passion for environmentally and socially responsible production, flavour, provenance, and nutrition.

The Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) defines organic agriculture as a systems approach to production that is working towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production, and relies on crop rotation, animal and plant manures, some hand weeding and biological pest control in the place of man-made, chemical solutions or genetic modification.

Organic food can be broadly understood as the product of this farming system, but for a food to be certified organic, it has to be approved by an organic certification body that carries out regular inspections to ensure the food meets a strict set of detailed regulations relating to production methods and labelling. For composite foods made up of multiple ingredients, such as our granola, to be certified as organic, at least 95% of the ingredients must come from certified organic plant or animal products.

Whilst these requirements work to guarantee certain standards, they operate within a closed-loop, self-referential system which can indiscriminately exclude small farms and micro-scale producers, as well as those using hybrid methods as they undergo a transition from conventional to organic or regenerative agriculture. What’s more, in our experience, the certified organic label works to close down conversation rather than encouraging curious, thoughtful interactions led by our customers.

Organic is often read as a shorthand for ‘good’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘healthy’. However, this black-and-white way of thinking isn’t well suited to subjects as complex and multidimensional as food, health, and the environment. Many of our ingredients come from certified organic suppliers, such as our beloved oats from Alfordshire. However, by making the conscious choice not to be certified organic, we keep the horizons open to be able to select our grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and other ingredients on an individual basis, and to work with growers who share our values of environmental and social responsibility.

We are proud of all of our suppliers and work closely with them to understand their production methods as well as their products inside out. As a result, we love being asked questions by our customers as it gives us the opportunity to share, educate and have a real authentic interaction, which we believe results in greater trust and transparency.

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Written by Emma Louise Pudge | @emmahitsthespot