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More Organic Assumptions

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, October 17, 2006

Business Weekhas a cover story on organic food that rehashes many of the key issues such as locally grown vs. nationally shipped, currently splitting the organic world. But there is an assumption in the piece without any evidence:

Next time you’re in the supermarket, stop and take a look at Stonyfield Farm yogurt. With its contented cow and green fields, the yellow container evokes a bucolic existence, telegraphing what we’ve come to expect from organic food: pure, pesticide-free, locally produced ingredients grown on a small family farm.

You read a line such as “…what we’ve come to expect from organic food: pure, pesticide-free, locally produced ingredients grown on a small family farm.”And you would think the article would reference a study or other indication that “we’ve” come to expect anything of the sort.

On the shelves at Publix, you can buy Kellogg’s brand Organic Frosted Mini Wheats — and I can’t think of a reason consumers would expect that the ingredients are produced locally on a small family farm.

In the absence of evidence it seems that this is just the reporter’s bias, a buy-in to the propaganda of certain sectors of the trade that they are the “true” organic vision.

It is just as reasonable to think that various consumers have various reasons for buying organic from “wanting to try something new” to “don’t like chemicals” to “it is expensive so it must be best.”

If people’s motivation was to preserve small, local, family farms, one would expect an even distribution of organic sales across all types of products. The fact that there is a disproportionate boom in products such as organic baby food indicates that an awful lot of consumers are focused on the health of their babies, not the health of family farming in the U.S.

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