A popular culture

A few years ago I was researching the availability of organically certified baker’s yeast for the book. If I remember rightly, the only evidence I could find for such a thing was on a German manufacturer’s website; I was unable to find a supplier to the domestic market at all. Since then, however, several organically certified yeast products have appeared on the home-baking market. Shipton Mill is now selling Bioreal organic compressed yeast by mail order, which is manufactured entirely without the use of chemicals. I haven’t tried it yet, but hope to do so soon.

The issue of what actually constitutes ‘organic’ food is an interesting and sometimes controversial one. The Soil Association, which was founded in the UK in 1946, pioneered organic certification, though there are now many different organisations around the world with their own certification standards. The Soil Association’s definition of an organic food product is one containing at least 95% of ingredients that meet the association’s standards for organic food production. Given the relatively small proportion of baker’s yeast that anyone would normally use in a yeast-leavened product, that means it isn’t currently necessary to use organic yeast for the product to be considered ‘organic’. More importantly for professional bakers and other food producers is how worthwhile certification itself is. In order to gain certification from any of the various bodies that award it, producers have to pay. For many smaller businesses, the cost makes it unviable – even if they are strict about only using organic ingredients!

I’m rather pragmatic in my own approach to organic food. Organic production is obviously a good thing for many reasons, and I do buy organic – but not exclusively. Supporting small producers and businesses in the face of the huge corporations that dominate food production and supply is more important now than it has ever been, and doing the right thing doesn’t always mean doing the organic thing.