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Organic production is an overall system of farm management and food production that combines best environmental practices, a high level of biodiversity, the preservation of natural resources, the application of high animal welfare standards and a production method in line with the preference of certain consumers for products produced using natural substances and processes. The organic production method thus plays a dual societal role, where it on the one hand provides for a specific market responding to a consumer demand for organic products, and on the other hand delivers public goods contributing to the protection of the environment and animal welfare, as well as to rural development.
Organic food production is based, at its heart, upon modern, sustainable farming systems which maintain the long-term fertility of the soil, use less of the Earth’s finite resources to produce our food and which put animal welfare at the heart of farming practice.
This ethos extends into the production of food and other items using organically farmed ingredients, usually referred to as organic processing.
Organic techniques have been developed from an understanding of, and research into, soil science, crop breeding, animal husbandry and ecology. The maintenance of soil fertility relies principally on the use of legumes, crop rotations, the application of composted animal manures, green manures and ground rock minerals. Weeds are controlled by mechanical methods while pests and diseases tend not to be a problem due to the inherent biodiversity in the system.
Artificial fertilisers, herbicides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives are prohibited.
Whilst the sector is still a relatively small part of the UK’s overall food production, organic farming has expanded at a dramatic rate in recent years, both in this country and around the world.