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FAQs

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions from our customers.

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How is “organic” different?

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“Organic” designates holistic and sustainable high-quality food production using methods of farming the soil that are as respectful as possible. Chemical fertilisers and plant-protection products as well as genetic modification are prohibited. Whether it be dairy cattle, pork or poultry, all animals must be treated in the proper manner. This means that they have enough space, that they can go outside, benefit from fresh air, receive high-quality organic fodder and can live according to their needs. Prophylactic treatment with antibiotics and the administering of growth hormones are prohibited.

Organic products are some of the most controlled foodstuffs there are. The finished products are free from artificial colours, preservatives and flavour enhancers, since the processing of organic food is also subject to strict rules. This is clearly noticeable in the flavour.

Click here for a full overview of the differences between conventional farming and organic farming.

How do I recognise organic food?

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The term “organic” is protected at European level under Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products. Products described as “organic” must comply as a minimum with the criteria of the European Organic Production Regulation. These criteria set a minimum content of organic ingredients at 95%. Since 2010 all pre-packaged foods produced in an environmentally friendly manner in an EU Member State and which meet the criteria of the European Regulation have displayed the European organic label in the form of a leaf. In the same vein, the place of production of the agricultural raw materials and the code number from the competent environmental audit institutions must also be indicated. The code number from the inspection authority is composed as follows: initials of the country – indication of organic production – reference number of the institution comprising a maximum of three digits (for example LU-BIO-04).

The introduction of the European organic label has not reduced the diversity of other eco-labels. National organic labels, which often go even further, such as Bio LËTZEBUERG, the hexagonal organic label (German) or the French organic farming label (Agriculture biologique française, abbreviated to AB), may be used alongside the European organic label. The same goes for the logos of organic farming associations (such as Demeter, Bioland and Naturland) and private commercial brands. However, the Demeter logo for biodynamic products clearly stands out, since it goes far beyond the European minimum requirements.

One should exercise caution with terms like “close to nature” or “natural”. They do not mean the same thing as “organic”. The expressions “integrated farming” or “sustainable agriculture” designate an improved form of conventional farming, which is not, however, comparable to organic farming.

Click here for an overview of our most important European organic labels.

Are foreign organic products really organic?

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All the organic products imported into the European Union are subject to the same strict rules as an organic product produced within the European Union. Organic foods offered in the European Union, whether they come from within or outside the EU, must also meet the standards set out in the European Organic Production Regulation.

How do I verify whether a product labelled “organic” really is organic?

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Organic food is the most controlled food there is. It is subject to not only the European Organic Production Regulation, but also national legislation, which defines minimum standards. In order to guarantee that the inspections are equivalent in all the countries in the European Union, all the inspection institutes must meet certain minimum European standards in terms of quality and document management. The inspection system includes each stage of processing. Thus, when bread is made, the farmer who grows the cereals is inspected, as is the mill that grinds the cereals and the baker who makes the bread from them.

Under the European Regulation, each operation must be inspected at least once a year. Moreover, ad hoc inspections are also conducted without warning. A farmer needs to be able to prove, with supporting documents and accounts, that he is working according to the European Organic Production Regulation. Added to the document analysis is an inspection of the operation. If the farmer or the processor are members of an association like Demeter, Bioland or the Vereenegung fir Bio-Landwirtschaft Lëtzebuerg asbl, the latter awarding the Luxembourg quality label Bio LËTZEBUERG, they must be inspected on additional aspects. In addition to the controls on compliance with ecological standards, all organic companies also undergo standard food inspections and routine quality controls at their production sites.

Why buy from an organic store if I can also find organic products in the supermarket?

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Before organics became fashionable, organic food could only be found in organic stores or health food shops. Many organic stores like NATURATA have built up their customer base over several decades. They needed plenty of persuasion and passion to establish themselves.

Today, you will not find as complete and varied a range of organic and biodynamic food anywhere else apart from an organic store. Not only will you find knowledgeable and specialist advisers in store, but you will also find that topics like ecology, biodiversity, environmental protection, waste reduction, sustainability, regionality and fairness are taken seriously on a daily basis. This makes stores specialising in natural food a fertile ground for ecological and social progress. Many sustainable innovations can be found in the organic sector, whether they be biodegradable plastics, natural plant-protection products, targeted staff development or new forms of cooperation in economic life.

Given that organic food is increasingly available in conventional supermarkets, it has become more and more common within society. However, the objective cannot be to sell organics as cheaply as possible, thus putting pressure on the prices charged by farmers and other producers until they can’t cope. Even in the supermarket, organics need to be fair!

Why are organic products generally more expensive?

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Organic farming provides jobs for numerous people who work in the fields, in the milking parlours, in the processing plants, in wholesale, in retail or in the inspection institutes, in order to guarantee that the strict criteria of organics are being adhered to on a daily basis. In organic farming, the ecological and social quality of a product is worth much more than simple revenue based on quantity or area. Often, organic farms have fewer animals, which are fed with organic fodder, high quality seed is used, weeding is done by mechanical means, there is no use of fodder that favours growth or chemical fertiliser, the crops are mixed, and green areas are reserved for plants and wild animals as well as insects. In comparison with factory farmed crops and livestock, organic farming is therefore more sustainable, but also requires more work, time and investment.

Specialist organic stores offer numerous products prepared with all the expertise and attention to detail of an artisan. Nowhere else will you find as varied a choice of artisan bread, traditional cheese, or meat prepared by expert hands. Instead of countless flavours, flavour enhancers, synthetic sweeteners and other additives, natural organic ingredients are used, which are generally more expensive. On the other hand, conventional processing is often synonymous with entirely automated production processes, heavily standardised due to the use of adjuvants and other artificial additives, and “optimised” according to purely economic price criteria. A glance at a label will be sufficient for one to understand that natural ingredients are often replaced by cheaper, artificial ingredients. Consequently, the price falls for the end consumer, but the production moves further and further away from agriculture and nature.

Regardless of the differences in production and processing, the price difference between organic and conventional is down to the fact that the real costs of food production are not shown on the till receipt. They are simply externalised – that is, paid for elsewhere – for the environment and the consumer. For example, the conventional farming and food economy involves external costs related to residues of nitrate, phosphate and pesticides in surface water, and it also involves the excessive use of resources, plastic waste, reduction in soil fertility, loss of biodiversity and the acceleration of climate change. If all these indirect damages were calculated into the price of production, it wouldn’t take long to reach the conclusion that the indirect costs of conventional production are far higher for the environment and society in the long term than the apparent higher costs of organic food.

Why don’t the NATURATA stores sell only Luxembourg fruit and vegetables?

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At NATURATA you will find fresh fruit and vegetables, which are organic and biodynamic. Where possible, we opt for produce from local and regional growers of organic and Demeter fruit and vegetables. Our aim is to support the growing and consumption of seasonal produce and to reduce the emissions linked to transport as far possible. In Luxembourg, we collaborate closely with the company Bio-Gäertnerei op der Schanz in Altrier, the market garden projects Am Gaertchen in Diekirch and Am Gaertchen sud in Contern, as well as with the farms run by the Schanck family in Hupperdange, the Fischbach family in Enscherange and the Kleer family in Everlange. All are members of the Bio-Bauere-Genossenschaft Lëtzebuerg (BIOG) cooperative.

Despite strong regional cooperation, NATURATA and the organic wholesaler BIOGROS cannot always meet the demand for Luxembourg fruit and vegetables. Also, certain popular fruits cannot be grown in Luxembourg due to the climate. Given that customers of organics are not willing to give up oranges and lemons and want to eat tomatoes, cucumbers and apples all year round, NATURATA endeavours to find a balanced compromise between the demands of the customers and production methods that respect the climate as much as possible. Thus, NATURATA makes a conscious choice to sell strawberries through BIOGROS in hot weather only. The range of organic and Demeter fruits from overseas is limited by BIOGROS and NATURATA, who ensure that bananas, mangoes and avocados come from sustainable agriculture and fair trade, and that they are transported by boat and not by plane.

Where do the BIOG brand products come from?

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Since the year 2000, the cooperative Bio-Bauere-Genossenschaft Lëtzebuerg (BIOG) and the wholesaler BIOGROS have continued their common development under the name BIOG. Today, the BIOG range encompasses around 300 products. BIOG milk, cheese, cereals, flour, eggs, carrots and potatoes are typical of the goods produced by the Luxembourg BIOG members and sold under the BIOG brand. Given that the cultivation and production capacities of the small country that is Luxembourg are often not enough to meet the growing demand for organic products (to date, only around 4% of agricultural land is organic), the cooperative collaborates with companies that it knows in the Greater Region. In order to offer a varied range of products all year round, the BIOG brand also cooperates with carefully selected companies from outside the Greater Region. That’s how BIOG is able to offer, for example, tomato-based products from Spain or Peruvian coffee.

In the long term, more and more organic regional products are expected to expand the BIOG range and fill the gaps, thanks to the development of organic farming in Luxembourg and the processing structures available on a local scale.

If you would like more information on the BIOG brand and its products, click here.

Why do some supermarkets offer organic brands that NATURATA doesn’t sell?

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Over the past few years, organics haven’t stopped evolving, because the demand for organic food has increased dramatically. We have every reason to be delighted by this evolution. However, it also means that certain organic brands are trying to carve out a portion of the “organic cake” for themselves by reducing rates as far as possible. This means that farmers and producers come under price pressure.

Our vision of fair trade is incompatible with this practice. According to our slogan “fair a kooperativ mat de Bio-Baueren”, all the OIKOPOLIS companies are committed to ensuring that not only the farmers but also the processors are rewarded fairly for their work and their produce. In fact, only fair prices guarantee that organic companies can continue to produce organic food in the future. That is why we verify the sustainability and equity of each product and each brand. If they don’t pass the test, they aren’t included in the NATURATA or BIOGROS ranges.

What are NATURATA and BIOGROS doing to reduce packaging waste?

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Often, there is no perfect solution to tackling the packaging invasion. For each product, we need to compare different factors like product protection, technical conditions, material properties and opportunities for recycling. What is considered the best solution today may not be tomorrow. In this ever-changing process, we constantly question our actions and never stop looking for the best innovation solutions.

Within the scope of its possibilities as a retailer, NATURATAhas already taken a number of measures to reduce packaging waste. Fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, cheese and meat are generally sold loose in its stores. In collaboration with the health authorities, NATURATA has come up with a hygienic system that allows its customers to bring their own packaging or containers from home, and fill these with bread, cheese, or meat. NATURATA is also taking part in the Ecobox project of the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development in conjunction with SuperDrecksKëscht. The green Ecobox is available for a deposit in the NATURATA Bio-Restaurant in Munsbach and in the NATURATA Bio-Bistros, so that customers can take away any of their leftovers. Each Box is reusable, dishwasher-proof, cold and heat resistant, and can be recycled. In addition, we use thermal till receipts with no chemical colour developers, real wax packaging paper for cheese, with no mineral oil film or plasticisers, as well as washable nets in organic cotton for vegetables and PET shopping bags with the name SUPERBAG.

You can find out more about NATURATA packaging here.

The wholesaler BIOGROS , too, continuously strives to reduce packaging waste. Unfortunately, it is impossible to envisage organic food being transported without any packaging. This is because products must survive intact on their journey from the producer to the consumer. Secondary packaging is therefore needed, to protect the product during storage and transport. This is why BIOGROS uses secondary packaging for most of its products, notably cardboard cases that are then transported on trolleys or wooden pallets that are reusable or returnable. To avoid it slipping on the pallets during transport, the secondary packaging is wrapped in a plastic film. After delivery to the merchant, BIOGROS recovers all the bits of transport packaging, sorts it and sends it for recycling.

A huge range of organic items is produced and packaged for BIOGROS under the BIOG brand. There again, BIOGROS is committed to using sustainable and eco-friendly packaging materials without overlooking the protection of the food. The wholesaler therefore seeks the optimum solution for each product. You can find out more on the subject here.

What is NATURATA doing to reduce food wastage?

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Every piece of wasted food is a waste of work, valuable resources and packaging. Imperfectly shaped or bruised fruit and vegetables, tiny eggs, yesterday’s pastries, or dairy produce close to its use-by date are too valuable to end up in the bin. We give them a second chance by avoiding throwing them in the bin without thinking and by applying a 30% reduction on the initial price. You can identify Zweet-Chance products by their orange label. Goods that are unsold despite the price reduction are given to our staff for free.

NATURATA is also taking part in the Ecobox project of the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development in conjunction with SuperDrecksKëscht. The green Ecobox is available for a deposit in the NATURATA Bio-Restaurant in Munsbach and in the NATURATA Bio-Bistros so that customers can take away any of their leftovers. Each Box is reusable, dishwasher-proof, cold and heat resistant, and can be recycled.

What is the difference between pasteurised milk, ESL milk and UHT milk?

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Nowadays, there are three different methods of preserving milk. We draw a distinction between traditionally pasteurised milk, ultra heat treated sterilised milk (UHT) and ESL milk.

In traditional pasteurisation, the milk is heated for several seconds at 75 °C. This short rise in temperature is enough to kill most of the bacteria and germs in the milk, which means it can be kept for ten days (provided it's refrigerated!). Given that pasteurised milk is not entirely free from bacteria (see below: “bactofugation”), if the cold chain is interrupted or if the use-by date is exceeded, it could “turn”, in which case it will give off a sour smell and have a thicker consistency. Pasteurisation is the gentlest method of preserving the milk. Rapid heating only has a very slight impact on the composition of the milk and the way it tastes.

Sterilised milk(UHT milk), unlike pasteurised milk, is heated to a much higher temperature (135-150 °C) and can therefore be stored in its packaging at ambient temperature for up to six months. UHT milk is therefore very practical: there is no need to worry about the cold chain (requiring a constant 4 - 6 °C) during transport of the milk from shop to home and the milk can be kept for several months at home without any problem. However, the raised heating of the milk alters the structure of the proteins and caramelises the lactose, which can be clearly identified by the “cooked taste” of UHT milk. The content of valuable elements like vitamin B diminishes. Also, UHT doesn't develop either a sour odour or a thick consistency and it is therefore difficult to know when it has gone off.

ESL milk (ESL = Extended Shelf Life) lies between pasteurised milk and UHT milk in terms of shelf life. To make ESL milk, the micro-organisms naturally contained in the milk are separated mechanically before being heated to preserve it for longer. Thanks to the micro-filtration, the milk doesn’t need to be heated as much as pasteurised milk to last longer. ESL milk tastes like “fresh milk” and can therefore be designated thus. However, an effect of micro-filtration is that numerous valuable ingredients in the milk are eliminated along with the lactic bacteria. Given that ESL milk is completely free from germs, it doesn’t turn sour, and it is more difficult to know whether it has gone off.

Bactofugation is an additional process that the BIOG dairy uses before pasteurisation: as part of a purely mechanical separation process, bactofugation eliminates any spores that may be contained in the raw milk, which has a positive impact on the shelf life of the fresh product. Due to its gentleness, this treatment still preserves all the valuable ingredients (the vitamins and minerals, proteins, fats and lactose) as well as the typical taste of our milk. When the cold chain is adhered to (transport and storage between 4°C and 6°C), this milk, as has been proved in numerous stress tests, can be kept beyond the use-by date.

Why do the NATURATA stores also sell meat and other animal produce? What is the OIKOPOLIS group's relationship with the vegan movement?

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NATURATA and all the companies in the OIKOPOLIS group have set themselves the mission of processing and marketing produce from Luxembourg organic farmers. Luxembourg farming focuses heavily on livestock, particularly cattle. Cattle can process grass into milk and meat, and they improve the fertility of the soils with their excrement. Animals are therefore part of the life of a well-functioning farm. However, organic and biodynamic farming is subject to much stricter obligations in terms of the number of animals per farm, their food and the way they are reared.

While the number of small butchers has been falling for years in a context of factory stock farming and slaughter, NATURATA and BIOGROS are consciously opting to revive the artisan butcher. From cutting to mincing to finishing, our qualified butchers know their job and the value of the animal produce. What’s more, virtually every part of the animal is used.

For those customers who prefer a diet that doesn’t contain much meat, the range of organic vegetarian and vegan products has developed considerably in recent years.

We explain here in more detail the differences between conventional and organic farming.

Who is responsible for advising organic companies in Luxembourg?

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In Luxembourg, companies are advised by the Institut fir Biologesch Landwirtschaft an Agrarkultur Luxemburg (IBLA). IBLA carries out research in all areas of organic farming, emphasising the protection of natural resources, biodiversity, the conservation and improvement of soil fertility, the examination of varieties, and animal welfare. IBLA directly transmits the result of its research work to organic farmers, market gardeners and wine growers.

Those farmers that are interested can book different advice modules from the IBLA, partly or fully funded by the State. Any participation by members of the Vereenegung Biolandwirtschaft Lëtzebuerg asbl is entirely covered by the association two or three times a year. Conventional companies that are interested in operating their farm organically, who wish to convert to organic, or who have questions on growing legumes and on the ideal crop rotation, can rely on the services of the IBLA.

Who is responsible for accrediting and certifying organic companies in Luxembourg?

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In Luxembourg, applications for an organic certificate for a company are managed by the Agricultural Technical Services Administration (Administration des services techniques de l'agriculture or ASTA). In Luxembourg, the inspection and allocation of certificates in accordance with Regulations (EC) No 834/2007 and No 889/2008 are often conducted, at ASTA’s request, by the inspection institute Kontrollverein ökologischer Landbau e.V.from Karlsruhe (Germany). After receiving its certificate from the inspection institute, the company is authorised to market its farm produce as organic produce after a conversion period of around two years.

If Luxembourg organic produce must also carry the Bio LETZEBUERG and/or Demeter label the association Vereenegung Biolandwirtschaft Lëtzebuerg asbl will appoint an external inspection institute to conduct an investigation, and will proceed with the final allocation of the certificate with the Bio Lëtzebuerg or Demeter label depending on the results of the inspection.

Which BIOG products contain produce from the BIOG farms – and why does the whole of the BIOG range not come from one Luxembourg producer?

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BIOG farmers mainly produce cereals, milk, meat, eggs, and root vegetables like potatoes and carrots. This organic produce is offered to the consumer under the BIOG brand, but it also gets processed. For example, wheat is ground and delivered to bakeries that process it into organic bakery products. The milk is processed at the BIOG-Molkerei zu Käerjeng dairy and at the BIOG farm cheese dairies at the Schanck-Haff and Kass-Haff farms into organic dairy produce for the BIOG brand. Organic eggs are sold, among other things, as BIOG eggs, and are used at Dudel-Magie to make superior quality egg pasta. Organic meat, on the other hand, is distributed by Bio-Maufel and the Boucherie Niessen and can be found, for example, at the NATURATA Bio-Boucherie organic butcher’s counter. Boiling fowl are processed in the OIKOPOLIS group’s Cuisine Artisanale into fillings for vol-au-vents.

BIOG fruit and vegetables, harvested in Luxembourg, can be found in the fruit and vegetable section of the NATURATA Bio Marchés and are valuable ingredients in various dishes prepared in the Cuisine Artisanale, for example BIOG soups and salads. Potatoes and carrots are sold in the NATURATA stores, offered ready to cook to large-scale kitchens and are processed in the Cuisine Artisanale into carrot salad, potato salad, mash and much more besides.

At first sight, therefore, you can’t see how much agricultural produce from BIOG farmers is in BIOG products.

At Forum pour l’Emploi, white cabbage and beetroot are processed into sauerkraut and beetroot salad. However, the production of other canned fruit and vegetables is not possible, because the organic yields are too low in Luxembourg and the expensive machines for the production of canned food would not be fully utilised. That’s why most BIOG canned goods come from Germany or France.

Every year, we encounter similar problems with apple juice. Many of Luxembourg’s orchards are not certified organic and, as a result, the pressed apple juice from apples from these orchards cannot be sold as organic apple juice. NATURATA therefore offers apple juice from Luxembourg orchards as its only non-certified organic product. For several years, we have been collaborating with Georges Schiltz from Rosport. Among the products he bottles is organic apple juice for BIOG. As the quantities of organic apples vary from one year to the next, if necessary we buy organic apple juice produced by Beutelsbacher, a family firm with whom we have been working closely for many years.

If we had to exclusively sell organic products of Luxembourg origin under the BIOG brand, we would not have a range that we could offer all year round – we would always be missing something. Not only would the consumers be inconvenienced by temporary gaps in the range, but the BIOG products would also lose their place on shop shelves. However, the BIOG range was created to make the produce from the BIOG farmers accessible to consumers. That way, when organic regional produce is available, it is also offered under the BIOG brand. Once the harvest has been sold, imported organic produce guarantees continued stocks and secures the placement of BIOG products on the shelves.

Imported goods also add to the variety of the BIOG range and help BIOG farmers receive a fair price for their products. In addition, the purchase of organic products in neighbouring countries supports organic farming in general – an aspect not to be underestimated either.