The Truffler: Organic dairy products, foie gras

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Indy Lifestyle Online

There's no excuse for buying imported organic dairy produce. The UK produces plenty of organic milk ­ if anything, we're approaching a surplus ­ yet some dairy foods are imported from Denmark and Germany (the Harmonie brand is Scandinavian).

There's no excuse for buying imported organic dairy produce. The UK produces plenty of organic milk ­ if anything, we're approaching a surplus ­ yet some dairy foods are imported from Denmark and Germany (the Harmonie brand is Scandinavian). So try home-grown organic dairy foods, such as Greek-style yogurt from Rachel's Dairy, which was the UK's first organic-yoghurt maker, and Rocombe Farm ice creams ­ and drink British organic milk. Our own organic milk suppliers have started a campaign to encourage us to drink it, so the UK farmers who've converted their herds to organic get support from the public (where there hasn't been enough demand for the amount of organic milk produced some have had to sell organic milk as non organic, and get a lower price for it). The campaign is being run by the Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative, the largest group of organic dairy farmers in the UK, whose milk you'll find in supermarkets. It benefits 1,200 square metres of organic countryside.

¿ While we're not taking advantage of all the UK's organic milk available, overall around three quarters of the organic food we buy ­ most of which is from supermarkets ­ is imported. Thoby Young of the Fresh Food Co (020-8969 0351, www.freshfood.co.uk), one of the first organic food delivery companies, goes against the reliance on imported produce by sourcing locally 75 per cent of the organic food he supplies. To support British farmers further, he's introduced a box of 100 per cent home-grown fruit and vegetables ­ an instant allotment service ­ which can be delivered nationally. As the concept of organic becomes more deracinated, it marks a small, but healthy return to its roots.

¿ There's one born every minute, you might think, if offered a bottle of Smucker's slime-coloured Simply Nutritious "mega green detox fruit juice drink with spirulina, chlorella, green grasses and other green foods", one of which is our old friend carageenan and its frequent food industry companions locust bean gum, xanthan gum and sodium alginate. But when pressed to drink it, it wasn't so bad, after all; it tasted of the apple and white grape juices that make up three quarters of the contents, and not, mercifully, of the barley and wheat grasses of which it boasts. A 473ml bottle costs £1.99, and may leave you thirsty afterwards. Which reminds me ­ water's quite good for detoxing, too.

¿ Damned if you do and damned if you don't? Foie gras upsets animal rights organisations, who question whether it can ever be humanely produced. But many top chefs continue to use it, because they believe their customers expect and enjoy it. Gordon Ramsay's Amaryllis restaurant in Glasgow was recently picketed by animal rights activists who would like to see it taken off the menu. Now they're challenging Ramsay's claim that his Hungarian foie gras comes from free-range birds which are not force fed. Advocates for Animals would like to know who his supplier is so it can check his claims, but Ramsay hasn't yet revealed any more. Traditionally, foie gras comes from France, where ducks and geese are force fed so that their livers become engorged to several times their natural size. Ducks and geese will voluntarily gorge themselves but not, campaigners say, to the degree required by EU regulations which specify what qualifies as foie gras. These stipulate that a goose liver must weigh 400g – more than three times its natural average weight. Can a goose, or a duck (whose liver must reach 300g to qualify) reach these weights of their own accord? Advocates for Animals doesn't thinks so. They say that if birds aren't force fed their livers may not be large enough to be qualify as foie gras, and it's a breach of EU legislation to describe it as such. Advocates for Animals' campaigns manager, Ross Minett says, "We'd been keen to find a more humane alternative, if Mr Ramsay could provide us with the location of his supplier."

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