When I had my first baby, over 20 years ago I fed him jars of ready made baby food, mainly because it was so convenient and he enjoyed them. Just like today, some mums were a bit concerned about feeding their child convenience baby food, mainly because they assumed it was full of preservatives and additives.
I remember turning to my own Mum for some guidance on this issue, as she was raised in the fresh food trade (Her Father once a farmer, then a Greengrocer), she tended to be a bit fussy with food and was very strict with treats for the family or any foods that contained additives. My Mum wouldn't buy juice, fizzy drinks, chocolate bars, crisps or anything classed as junk in her grocery shop. Even at Halloween, Trick or treaters would be given an orange instead of sweets.
So, I trusted Mum when she explained to me that jars of baby food are made specifically for a developing babies needs, whereas homemade food isn't necessarily always best. For an example, you might be cooking a homemade cottage pie for your family. You lovingly prepare and cook a tasty, mouth watering recipe. You spoon out some and blend it up for baby, you then let it cool before feeding, but have you thought about all the ingredients you used, the salt you added, or where exactly the meat you used came from or the vegetables? Can you trace back all the ingredients that you used to make that tasty homemade dish?
Cow & Gate can with all their baby foods. In fact, you can pick a jar from any supermarket shelf and every ingredient used in that jar can be traced right back to the place it was grown.
OK, so how do I know this for sure? My answer is simple, because I have been there and watched the process with my own eyes. I was invited over to the Czech Republic by Cow & Gate to visit their orchards, to meet the farmers, the processing and storage managers. I saw where the apples are grown, stored and processed.
(Pavel, The Apple Man)
Along with Ella from PurpleMum and Duncan from Mums TV, we met supplier quality development manager Pavel, the apple expert who works hard to build long standing professional relationships with hand picked farmers across the Czech Republic, farmers who are committed and share Cow & Gates passion for top quality ingredients. Pavel has a PHD in plant protection, he really knows his stuff and what this guy doesn't know about apples and baby food probably isn't worth knowing.
While visiting the orchards I discovered that apples for Cow & Gate are specially grown away from any potential cross contamination, ensuring only the best quality baby grade ingredients, with no hidden nasties making their way into our babies food. Baby grade ingredients are the best you can get and the quality requirements for Cow & Gate baby food are so high that even organic is not actually any better, like most people might assume. The regulations for pesticides are so strict that legally only 10 parts per billion are allowed which is an extremely low amount.
The apple farmers are also keen to use alternative methods of pest control on their orchards, and on lots of the apple trees they had these red twist ties (left) on the branches, they are called pheromone dispensers.
Pheromone dispensers are designed to disrupt the mating of pests, predominantly moths who can cause a problem to farmers with moth infestation. This small gadget distributes sex pheromones which prevents male moths finding the females, thus hinders mating.
From the orchards we made our way down to the apple farm, an idyllic setting, the place oozes a powerful apple aroma. I learnt from Pavel that when the apples are picked they are packed into plastic crates that are all immediately labelled with a bar code, ensuring complete traceability. They are transported one way in to the farm and one way out which reduces the risk of any cross contamination.
Once in the farm the apples are gently washed, dried, inspected and sorted. They are then stored in huge sealed rooms that look like giant fridges. Inside these fridges the apples are stored with extra low oxygen which prolongs storage time. Longer storage time guarantees that the production of baby food can be produced using fresh ingredients twelve months of the year.
After storage, the apples are peeled. pureed, cooked and pasteurised ready for their jars to be sent to our supermarkets. No sugar or preservatives are added, every label is coded & dated. The whole process is completed away from the non baby grade apples, to guarantee no cross contamination.
I came away from my trip to the Czech Republic with complete confidence in the way Cow & Gate process their baby foods. Their attention to detail is evident and impressive and as a Grandmother, I feel I would now be very happy to recommend their baby foods to my children, to feed their babies. I know for a fact, that each and every jar is full to the brim of the nutrients required for baby to thrive, with no hidden nasties.
(The Cow & Gate Apple Men)
*Massive Thanks to Cow & Gate for inviting me along on this informative and interesting trip to the Czech republic.