Eating ‘organic’ food is like keeping Kosher. It’s about piety, not taste

What fun to read in the Mail today that volunteers in an experiment couldn’t tell the difference between organic, ‘ethically sourced’ products and ordinary versions of the same thing. In fact, they emerged from the study looking like complete twits:

Volunteers were asked to taste and score identical products after some were identified as having been produced ethically.

Having tried the apple juice, chocolate and biscuits, the volunteers gave samples described as ethically produced – either organic or Fairtrade – much higher scores for taste.

The research was carried out by the University of Abertay – Dundee’s second university, in case you were wondering – and will embarrass the organic/Fairtrade lobby.

Indeed, I get the distinct impression that it embarrassed the academic leading the project. Have a look at this quote:

Dr Boyka Bratanova found the ‘moral satisfaction’ that comes from eating ethically produced food has a measurable impact on the enjoyment of that food’s taste.

She added: ‘What is absolutely central is the consumer must believe that ethical food production is important.

‘If they don’t value the reasons behind Fairtrade or organic food production then they will not experience the moral satisfaction effect.

‘However, if you are interested in animals being raised humanely or farms being run on organic principles, then it seems you are able to gain even more enjoyment from eating that ethical food.

‘There has been a huge, sustained increase in demand for ethical food around the world, and in the UK in particular.’

That’s one way of putting it. Or you could say that Fairtrade and organic food doesn’t taste any better than stuff produced by chain gangs of Third World peasants at the point of a gun. But if you think it’s ethically sourced, then suddenly… yummy! Ooh, these biscuits were allowed to roam free rather being kept in captivity and they’re simply delicious!

The Abertay experiment strengthens my thesis that eating organic or Fairtrade food is a quasi-religious practice. It’s like keeping Kosher – only this time the Book of Leviticus has been written by Gaia instead of God. But that’s fine with me. If you want to pay a surcharge at the checkout for your moral satisfaction, then go right ahead.



  • JS

    On offer even from Twinings, now that Clipper has given them a run for their money; ‘tea ceremony’ taste tests show ethical labels to be on a par with other lines.

    Re: the measurable impact of generosity producing personal gratification, well yes and, as they say, ‘there’s a blessing in the water.’

  • Jadissock

    Organic labels are valueless to me when attached to foreign produce – ditto “Farmers’ Market” produce which is impossible to grow in quantity in this country. The relentless chilling in the supermarket also takes away the flavour. However, the best local organic fruit and vegetables are perforce fresher and more vitamin-rich if bought in season so I buy them when I can, direct from farm enterprises or small shops, preferably registered with the Soil Association. The meat is always properly hung and not fed on junk like fishmeal so tastes better by far, and the milk funds kinder treatment of cows. I may go out and buy some organic sugar this week just to wind up Damian though.

    • Snag

      Ah yes, the Soil Association. The last hideout of the British Nazi Party.

      • Jadissock

        You are mixing it up with the Green Party – a bunch of intolerant fascists who plan to impose Soviet style collectivisation just as soon as they have sorted out Brighton’s bin collection.

        The Soil Association is apolitical – and organic food is impossible to produce in the dreary homogenised factory style we imported from Stalin’s USSR. It favours small local producers, local accountability for the state of the water table, and employs more humans. It is also difficult to get away with feeding bits of dead animals to herbivores.