Here in China, food is a way of life. From traditional farming methods to splendid modern cuisine, there is growing interest and concern in China about eating food that is healthy and safe. Because our first priority is providing food that is safe, natural, and high quality, FIELDS promotes and sells a variety of natural and organic products.
Defining Our Terms
There is growing buzz surrounding the word "organic", which is nowadays synonymous with "good". With overuse, there's always a danger that a true understanding of any term can be lost. It can also be a challenge to weed out the organic products that live up to expectations of quality, safety, and taste. Part of this challenge comes from the simple fact that many companies are "greenwashing" their products as a means to improve corporate image, without making real and meaningful investment in organic as a signifier of optimum natural products. This may unfortunately be the case for some certified organic products in China, which may be labeled as organic, but would not pass any test for the presence of chemicals or pesticides.
So what do "natural" and "organic" actually mean?
Natural foods are minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and additives. They contain no growth hormones, antibiotics, hydrogenated oils, stabilizers or emulsifiers.
Organic refers not just to the food itself but to the whole production process. By definition, all organic foods are natural foods but in addition they must be grown and processed using farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity.
The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) defines organic agriculture in the following terms:
"Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved."
Organic processes prohibit the use of synthetic chemicals, irradiation, sewage sludge or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Moreover, the farmland on which organic foods are produced must be free from contamination of these prohibited substances for at least three years. It normally takes more than two years to convert conventional farmland into organic farmland; this transition must be properly documented if food is going to be certified organic in future.
Processed organic foods must contain no less than 95% certified organic raw materials and any auxiliary materials must be free from synthetic additives, seasonings and colorings.
Organic Certification in China
In 2005 the China National Organic Product Standard (CNOPS) came into force. CNOPS and "The Rule on Implementation of Organic Products Certification" together define and outline the scope, normative standard, certification procedure, requirements for certification bodies, use of organic product certification seal, labeling and importation of organic food products to China.
The International Trade Center, a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and United Nations, describes China's laws on organic foods as:
"Based on international norms with added emphasis on contamination by pollutants and prohibited materials and quality management systems, especially record-keeping and traceability."
The international norms to which they refer are those set by IFOAM. In July 2012, the Certification and Accreditation Administration of China (CNCA) rolled out a new policy on China's Organic Agricultural Certification, which is regarded by many as the world's strictest standard.
In line with Chinese law, all products sold in China as organic must be in compliance with the CNOPS. Chinese Organic Certification Bodies must all be registered with the CNCA, and inspectors must be registered with China National Auditor and Training Accreditation Board (CNAT). Private Chinese organic certification bodies are permitted to certify against their own standards as long as they adhere to the national regulation. Private bodies are also required to publish publically their standards and certification procedures. There are currently 23 certification bodies operating in China.
One Step Further…
FIELDS is committed to producing foods free from GMOs and harmful pesticides, as organic legislation dictates. However, we go one step further by testing fervently for toxic metals in all our produce. Cadmium, mercury, lead and aluminum are too often present in fresh produce in China and over time, their build up in our bodies can lead to higher blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, malignancy and premature aging.
FIELDS performs rigorous and regular SGS tests on all products to ensure that only foods free from any trace of toxic metals reaches your table.1 And as well as undertaking frequent tests and inspections of our farms and suppliers, we often perform surprise spot checks so that we can guarantee our partners are operating at the highest standard all of the time.
FIELDS has developed very close relationships with our suppliers, so that we can gain an intimate knowledge of their individual production standards. We're particularly interested in our network of local farms within a two-hundred kilometer radius of Shanghai, such as our partner in South Anhui who supplies us with the tastiest eggs we've found. Eating local brings enormous benefits. Not only does food picked within a few hours of delivery taste fresher and better, but the shorter distance that it travels between the field and your front door significantly decreases the harmful impact that transportation exacts on our environment. And by supporting our local farmers, we're supporting the local economy, which provides the farmers with the incentives they need to practice responsible land development and farming in farming in future. It's really the key to long-term sustainability.
FIELDS brings you some of the best natural and organic options available in China, by working with suppliers we trust. Our goal is that you may browse our website and discover a variety of natural and organic products from farms and manufacturers that you can also trust. For example, FIELDS strawberries are truly outstanding, and are locally grown by a partner in Shanghai. Other FIELDS signature products include our spinach, blueberries, and almond milk. For some organic products, FIELDS is the exclusive provider in China.
The Cost Factor
But we also believe that not all foods need to be "organic" to be healthy and sustainable. Many natural products, like avocados and other fruits and veggies that are peeled before eating, are very safe and nutritious without needing to be organic. Often the best quality products come from our local farms that cannot afford to undergo the expensive procedures necessary to be certified organic.
Because every family budget is important, FIELDS works to make organic options available and affordable. This raises the question of why many organic products may have a higher price than their standard counterparts. Generally, additional costs are incurred in how organic food is grown and harvested. For example, organic cauliflower requires nearly twice as much time to grow, and is a labor-intensive crop that demands careful watering, soil pH-balancing and proper space to spread out into big, creamy white heads.
FIELDS Meat and Poultry
For many types of meat and produce, growing a truly organic product is time and labor intensive. It's extremely difficult to guarantee that any meat is wholly organic since, under the strictest terms, even the grass and grain on which the animals feed should be certifiably organic. More important than the organic label is providing access to meats from animals that are raised without growth hormones, unnecessary antibiotics or steroids. Safe meats are those produced from animals fed GMO free diets that are absent of any animal by-products. This is something that FIELDS can 100% guarantee about the meats we provide.
Free-range is another problematic and confusing term when applied to both livestock and poultry. Loosely applied, free range simply means that animals are permitted some access to outside areas. The regulations governing how large this area must be and for how long the animals should be outside are, however, almost negligible. At FIELDS, ethical farming is a major concern and we work only with farmers that ensure their animals are well treated during their lifetimes.
Organic Milk, UHT, HTST and Pasteurized
Organic milk is another often misunderstood phenomenon. While organic milk is free from hormones and antibiotics, it's often subject to Ultra High Temperature (UHT) processing, which kills all bacteria so that the milk has a longer shelf life. Unfortunately, UHT kills the good bacteria as well as the bad, and we need the good bacteria to keep our digestive tracts healthy. The very high temperatures to which the milk is exposed also compromises the proteins and enzymes, which means we absorb less protein from UHT milk than we would normally.
Pasteurized milk, organic or otherwise, is exposed to lower temperatures than UHT milk, which are sufficient to kill the harmful bacteria while allowing the milk to retain its nutritious value. The downside is a shorter shelf life. High Temperature Short Time (HTST) is a preferred pasteurization method that does exactly what it says and exposes milk to a high temperature for a short time so that good bacteria and probiotics survive. At FIELDS we've sourced a range of HTST organic milks for our customers to satisfy safety and nutrition needs.
A Balanced Ecosystem
When we visit our supplying farms, we're always on the lookout for signs of a balanced ecosystem, regardless of whether our farms are certified natural or organic. Trying to balance livestock agriculture with maintaining a water supply cleaned in such a way that it doesn't upset the environmental equilibrium is a huge challenge. We're fastidious about clean water being used to water crops and livestock so that no harmful foreign bodies are introduced to the environment through this means. And we want to see creepy crawlies on the farms! Spiders, flies, beetles, frogs and toads are all signs of a healthy functioning eco-system and they play essential roles in many farming processes. Bees, for example, are better pollinators than any artificial technologies out there. And the reward for patience is always in a superior tasting fruit or veg.
On The Table
From farm to table, our foods offer a return to basics. Natural and organic growing creates simpler food that is packed with nutrients and delicious taste, and guarantees the highest standards of safety. This way, your family can enjoy all the benefits of great food, with none of the dangers associated with pesticides, antibiotics, and other artificial additives that have become so common in mass and mechanized food production today. That's a FIELDS promise.
1 SGS is the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. They are recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With headquarters in Switzerland and more than 75,000 employees, they operate a network of more than 1,500 offices and laboratories around the world.
Seasonal Section: Autumn
Ice-cream sundaes and chilled white wine no longer sound so good now the days are shorter and turning cooler. When the leaves start falling, we want earthy flavors like pumpkins and sweet potatoes, and foods laced with warm cinnamon and nutmeg scents. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) explains these cravings for nourishing food as our body’s way of harvesting energy for the winter ahead. The masculine yang energy of summer starts giving way to the more grounded, feminine yin energy as we prepare ourselves to stay healthy in the next season.
According to TCM, our organs represent the five elements of the Universe: fire, water, wood, metal and earth. During Fall, our metal organs- lungs and large intestine- are most at risk. The dry cold winds that this season brings affect our skin and attack the lungs, meaning coughs are commonplace over the next months. And as the large intestine releases the last of the summer heat and is more susceptible to germs, gastro-intestinal problems are also more widespread in Fall.
Rather than treating the symptoms of sickness, eating seasonally is a great way to keep the body hydrated and healthy over the next months. Tofu, pears, apples, milk, pork, mushrooms and eggs are all good foods for warding off dryness this season. And pears also contain pectin, which is known to strengthen the gut and protect against upset stomachs. For the lungs, indulge in pungent foods such as ginger, fennel and nutmeg, but eat these in moderation at this time of year because you don’t want too much expansive heat in the body.
Those delicious root vegetables and earthy fruits used in pumpkin pies, sweet potato bakes and apple crumbles not only taste fabulous, they also fortify the blood for the cold weather. Baked foods, as well as hearty stews or heavy soups, are also preferable because they encourage warmth and movement.
At Fields we’ve expanded our Fall range of fruit and veg, making it easier for you to tuck into foods that warm both body and spirit. So soak up the rich flavors of the season and stay healthy and happy in the months ahead.