See it on Canadian Geographic’s blog HERE
An iconic product, maple syrup is touted as “all natural” and “purely Canadian.” The technology used to produce it has advanced, but the product still tastes the way it did hundreds of years ago. Nevertheless, there’s a new trend on the rise – organic maple syrup.
“It’s my opinion that there’s not much of a difference between organic and regular maple syrup,” says Simon Trepanier, director of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.
“Most of the maple syrup producers are organic, but without the certification. If they ask for it they will receive it, but they just don’t want to pay for it.”
The Federation’s website claims that while syrup is “100 per cent natural” only 12 per cent of the syrup produced in the province is organic. Essentially, the difference between natural and organic lies in the legal certification of the producer.
Canada has the world’s largest output of the sweet treat, with Quebec producing 77 per cent of the global total alone. Every year Canadians produce 27,254,964 litres, enough to fill roughly ten Olympic-sized swimming pools.
In Quebec, though, only 421 out of the 7,400 syrup producers are certified organic, producing roughly 20 per cent of the province’s total volume. With organic labeling they can charge more for their product; a pound of organic maple syrup is 15 cents pricier than its non-organic counterpart. But is the added cost worth it?“Consumers are looking for syrup that is organically certified and are ready to pay a little bit more,” Trepanier says. “Some are calling us to say ‘I want high quality maple syrup and that’s why I buy organic.’ Just because it’s organic doesn’t automatically mean it’s high quality.”
Since organic regulations have little to do with the actual boiling process, both organic and non-organic syrup is held to the same quality standards. “If you compare organic and regular maple syrup it will be very difficult to taste the difference,” he says. “Organic labeling simply means you’re respecting the guidelines.”
These guidelines include limiting the number of taps per tree, ensuring diversity in the forest to ensure farmers don’t cut down other competing tree species, using only stainless steel tanks and boilers and using all-natural cleaning products on the equipment.
Trepanier does hint, however, that none of these organic guidelines actually relate to the sap or syrup itself, but rather what happens before and after production.
With this year’s sugar bush season drawing to a close and new stock hitting the shelves, consumers should be aware of whether that ‘organic’ product is really all that different.