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Is Olive Oil Worth It?

October 07, 2023 5 min read

Is Olive Oil Worth It?

Numerous articles discuss the high price of olive oil that have increased dramatically worldwide as supply of olive oil has shrunk and demand for it keeps rising.  What are the reasons for this?

1) Environmental: heatwaves (especially during flowering season, which destroys the blossoms that need to turn into fruit), drought, wildfires and lastly floods have had a drastic diminishing impact on the olive fruit the olive trees produce.

2) Availability of labor: the much needed seasonal laborers that would come in from countries such as Albania, Bulgaria and others, to help harvest the millions of Greek olive trees, were not allowed to travel during the Covid pandemic. As they had to make a living to survive, they transitioned to other occupations, largely never to return to seasonal field work or to Greece. Coupled with the general inflationary pressures, labor has become both scarce and very expensive during the crucial time of the harvest.  When fewer workers have to harvest all these trees, a proportion of them will not be harvested at the optimal time, resulting in lower qualities of olive oil.

3) High energy cost: due to geopolitical circumstances, energy costs have soared over the last 3 years.  This affects everything.  The olive press needs energy to work and energy is needed to transport olives from the field to the olive mill.  Energy is needed to make bottles or other containers for the oil etc.

4) Land use: there is increasing competition for land use everywhere.  The highest bidder tends to win.  So will land that was dedicated to olive groves for eons will remain so? Will it go to developers for tourism or homes, to solar energy uses, to infrastructure?  What will remain when farmers are priced out of growing the food that feeds us?  Olive growers increasingly cannot cover their costs and are forced to abandon their groves.

So is it still worth it to seek out, the increasingly rare, good quality olive oil?

Good quality olive oil is unparalleled in its health benefits and taste among culinary fats.  

Invest in Good Olive Oil for its Taste  

Good quality olive oil comes in many flavour profiles, depending on factors such as olive variety, terroir, practices on the field and in the mill and others.  Similar to fine wine, it can be milder or more intense and can lift and brighten the flavour of almost any meal.  It has this amazing capacity to create an alchemy with other ingredients and often produces unexpected results in food pairings.

Good quality olive oil can be used in virtually all home cuisine applications from salad dressings, in dips and marinades to roasting meats, poultry and veggies in the oven.  From cooking stews and soups on the stovetop to baking cakes and breads and even paired with chocolate, coffee or ice cream.  Olive oil has been the backbone of the Mediterranean Diet, the healthiest diet worldwide, for millennia.

Invest in Good Olive Oil for its Health Benefits

In the world of culinary fats nothing is as beneficial as plantbased, anti-inflammatory olive oil. 

Most oils are inflammation-causing. Inflammation is the precursor to disease.  Even when a seed oil advertises itself as "lower in saturated fat than olive oil" this is only to detract from the fact that it is very high in Omega 6's (we don't want these as in the UK we already consume 16x more of them than we should), contains no antioxidants and has a high load from chemicals both on the field (pesticides and fertilisers) and in production (hexanes, other industrial dilutants and anti-clumping agents).  Often there are other issues as well, such as genetic modification (GMO) affecting corn, soy and other crops.

Populations that grow olive trees and that consume antioxidant-rich olive oil as their main source of fat are healthier and live longer.

There is plenty of scientific evidence that good quality olive oil can prevent heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease, amongst others.  It is not a surprise that both under European and under US laws, the best quality olive oils are recognised as having nutritional supplement status. 

The simple truth is that if you don't invest in good quality food that's healthy, you will soon spend your money on healthcare later.  Nothing can substitute for a poor diet.  Sadly there isn't enough good quality food available for everyone in the world.  Investing in healthy food is not necessarily a mark of wealth, but rather one of priorities and knowledge.  Do you prioritise your lifespan and healthspan?

Invest in Good Olive Oil for Environmental and Social Reasons

Olive groves absorb rather than release CO2 and contribute to fighting against climate change.  They further keep soil from eroding thereby preventing desertification.  Olive groves, when cultivated with best agricultural practices, represent a richly biodiverse ecosystem which helps maintaining equilibrium in the environment as a whole.

Supporting small producers rather than just buying from large corporates that dictate their own interest ignoring the needs of everyone else, gives us all more choice, diversifies the options for the consumer and does not make slaves out of both the producer-suppliers and the consumers to the large corporates. You're doing a good thing for yourself supporting independents and it helps them too.

Overall it is a resounding *YES* as to whether investing in high quality extra virgin olive oil is worth it.

How to Invest in Good Olive Oil

It can be tricky finding truly good olive oil. It's not necessarily the most expensive olive oil you see advertised.  Lesser quality olive oil can be more expensive than it should be when it is peddled by dubious operators and/or has to go through a long chain of middle-men to get to you. If the people selling your oil do not hail from the country it comes from, by definition they are middle men/women, who represent at least one extra layer of cost rather than contribution. 

Try to buy from farmers themselves whenever you can.  Avoid large corporates.  There isn't enough good olive oil produced in the world to fulfil the supply needs of a large corporate, it means they can never maintain a high standard.

Do not buy blends of oils from different countries, olive varieties and producers.  They are the pre-cursor to adulteration and to blending-in things that shouldn't be there.  You wouldn't buy wine that is a "blend of different countries of origin"?  There is good reason for single variety being best!

Buy from EU countries.  Olive oil produced in EU countries is generally subject to much stricter regulations than in other regions, including hygiene and disclosure regulations.

Look for any disclosure on oleic acidity levels on the label.  While this is not the whole story of a good olive oil, it is an good indicator. Look for less than 0.5% acidity.  If the label does not mention it, you can safely assume it is at the regulatory cut-off limit of 0.899%, so more than double that of an actually good olive oil.  

Filtering olive oil costs money.  It is a mechanical process (similar to filtering coffee grinds through a paper coffee filter) and not at all the same as refining oil by using chemicals.  Naturally filtered olive oil: a) stays fresher and more nutritious for longer (it is the suspended solids that cause oxidation of the oil first) and b) has a higher smoke point than unfiltered (it is the solids that ignite and smoke first when heated) making it much more useful in cooking. Buy filtered, clean, properly made olive oil.

Do not buy olive oil in transparent or clear containers.  These do not adequately shield the oil from damaging UV light.  Buy oils in protective special dark glass bottles.   

Seek out guided olive oil tastings conducted by specialists.  This is fun, refines your knowledge and makes you a true connoisseur of this precious food.   

Choose zero-airmiles oils, like our fine extra virgin Opus Oléa olive oil, for the sake of our environment.

Don't buy just the marketing.  Know what you buy.  Follow our blogs and social media to be a confident consumer.  Invest in our carefully made fine extra virgin olive oil from Greece.