Biological Food in the Netherlands – Big Presence, but Ambiguous Labels, Cost and Disparities Still Issues

When I first arrived in Amsterdam, I was thrilled to see that there was a good-sized and well-stocked organic market on the corner of the street I was staying on. I immediately saw that the awareness of and demand for biological (organic) foods was widespread. I saw organic markets littering many neighborhoods in Amsterdam, along with biological options for almost any kind of food offered in regular supermarkets. In many of the restaurants and cafes I visited, there was often an asterix next to the meat on the menu, with “biologische” in the footnote. The only chain fast-food restaurants I saw were in the busiest most tourist-ridden part of the city. However, my initial enthusiasm was a bit blunted by my eventual discovery that the Netherlands seems plagued by some of the same food systems issues as the United States.

German biological lemonade

German biological lemonade popular in the Netherlands

After Amsterdam, I moved on to visit a friend for a week in University town about 30 minutes away by train, Ütrecht. Ütrecht was also littered with biological markets and even clothing stores. I saw the same presence of biological foods in menus, supermarkets, cheese shops and butcher shops. I began to believe I needed to move there.

I went into a couple of cafes that did not advertise themselves as organic, but in fact, had all biological items on the menus. At one such café, the waiter told me that you have to be careful when considering businesses’ and products’ claims of being organic. It is his impression that there is very little enforcement of biological guidelines in the Netherlands for meat production and produce farming, so it is wise to be wary about what you are being sold. The owners of this café had decided to provide food produced in ways they believed in (organically). They know their meat sources and butchers and have visited them multiple times. But because of the lack of credibility in organic advertising, they operate their business without it. Read More >