Walmart To Drive Down Organic Prices With New Cheaper Line

WildOatsBlackBeansSays Clare O’Connor at Forbes:

“Starting this month, the big box giant aims to drive down the price of organic food nationwide with its new in-house line of 100 or so products in exclusive partnership with Wild Oats, a pioneering health brand of the 1980s.

Walmart’s new Wild Oats organic products — including kitchen cupboard staples like olive oil and black beans — will cost about 25 percent less than those sold by competitors, based on price comparisons of 26 national brands.”

By the way, Tim Worstall, also from Forbes, also discussing Walmart’s move , says:

“There’s no difference in the nutritional quality [of organic] as opposed to conventionally farmed.”

As you know, that’s not true. Just one example: my previous post describes a study that found alpha-tomatine, a naturally-occurring compound which fends off sarcopenia or muscle wasting, “is higher in organically grown tomatoes compared to conventionally grown tomatoes.”

This was interesting, from Reuters:

“Organic foods accounted for roughly 4 percent of total U.S. food sales in 2012.”

That’s not much, and it all but completely excludes the low-income sector: “Organic foods often cost more than their conventional rivals, and that has limited purchases by the legions of lower-income U.S. shoppers.”

This move by Walmart will increase access to organics.  If it ends up increasing demand, that would have several outcomes (at least on food), some desirable, some not so. It could erode the way organic food is currently produced (however, that is regulated by the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board) or it could put pressure on conventional agriculture to employ more organic and sustainable methods. I think both will happen.

12 thoughts on “Walmart To Drive Down Organic Prices With New Cheaper Line

  1. Bix Post author

    I’m reading that there are people who want to continue to restrict access to those with low-income, or that they are “reserving judgement.” People who already have access are “concerned” that those without resources might gain access to organics, ruining their own access, or soiling organics’ appeal … or they are undecided. Is it low income people who are undecided about whether they should partake in better food?

    Reply
  2. Melinda

    Just out of curiosity, where are you reading about *this* appalling and bizarre attitude? “I’m reading that there are people who want to continue to restrict access to those with low-income, or that they are “reserving judgement.” People who already have access are “concerned” that those without resources might gain access to organics, ruining their own access, or soiling organics’ appeal … ” I’ve never heard of such “class-ism” vis-a-vis food options. Would really like to get to the source of it, given my work at the farm. I’d be grateful if you could give me a citation–thanks!

    Reply
    1. Bix Post author

      You’ve never heard of classism vis-a-vis food options? Worstall, in the link I provided, describes a term economists use for it, a Veblen Good.

      Worstall:

      “this means that people purchase whatever it is in order to show that they’re well off enough to purchase said good.”

      And when goods are priced at Walmart prices…

      “some current purchasers would go off and buy some other high priced brand precisely in order to mark themselves out as being different from those who only buy cheap [goods].”

      “People buy organic foods simply because this demonstrates that they’re the type of people that buy organic foods.”

      And…

      “I don’t think it’s revealing anything terribly new to state that those who preferentially buy organic are often those who would prefer not to be thought of as Walmart shoppers.”

      There are comments paired with this article, as well as others around the web, that show this in action. People of means are “concerned” that organics may lose its snob-appeal. Then what will they do.

      Reply
      1. Melinda

        Good grief, Charlie Brown. No, I had never heard about that. You’d think they could be satisfied with sporting “Whole Foods” organics and still sneer at Walmart organics. Thanks for the references–I’m still sort of stunned by it.

        Reply
        1. Melinda

          Another thought re organics–the jury’s still out re whether they are more nutritious than conventional–many opinions both pro and con; a lot depends on the particular growing methods used by particular organic farmers. It also depends on how fresh the produce is. But what is true (at least I think so) is that organics lack the quantity of toxic residues (pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, etc.) found in conventional foods. That’s why I buy organic foods when I can. And while I have no scientific proof whatever for the following comment, I do believe that the apparent epidemic of cancers nowadays is due in part to the ingestion of so many toxins. Not necessarily any one particular toxin, but just increasing your body’s overall toxin load (air, water, food, household cleaners, etc.) with what you eat. So (harking back to a study you posted on a little while ago), it’s quite possible that eating certain foods does *not* prevent cancer, but eating foods drenched w/ toxins in the growing process, a number of which may be carcinogenic, certainly *might* foster the development of cancer. Just my opinion. And you also have to wonder who funds the studies showing there’s no difference b/tw conventional & organic foods. You talked about not trusting Big Pharma–I feel the same way about Big Ag (as well as Big Pharma!)

        2. Bix Post author

          I think toxins in foods are a problem. By “toxins” I mean plastics, pesticides, and other modern synthetic pollutants that act as endocrine and neural disruptors.

          But I believe the food people eat, apart from these pollutants, contributes to disease, and may play a larger role. I read that Egyptian mummies had atherosclerosis. Did they have factory farms and pesticides back then? To be clear … I think a lot of animal food – animal protein and animal fat – contribute to chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis.

  3. Melinda

    I just read the Worstall article in Forbes (which, btw, is a rich person’s magazine, with which Worstall may enjoy associating his public persona). It’s quite interesting, that Veblen Effect, and now I can understand the organic food phenomenon better. I’m not with him, though, on his “ex cathedra” comment that the toxins on foods are 99% natural to the plant itself. I do agree, as you’ve pointed out before, that most plants naturally contain some elements toxic to a greater or lesser degree. But when you add to that the extra toxins from conventional growing, you’re just increasing your toxin load, which is really not a good thing if it’s avoidable. Personally I don’t believe his offhand (and unsupported) comment about the negligible amount of pesticide/herbicide residues on conventional foods. I can’t prove it, but the Organic Consumers’ Assoc, a dot-org (not a profit making entity) has many articles talking about just such issues.
    Sorry to blather on like this–but it all is very interesting, all the factors that influence buying patterns that have less to do with the product than with the consumer! Veblen Effect. Whoda thunk?

    Reply
  4. Melinda

    Oh, about the Egyptian mummy w/ artherosclerosis–Egypt was part of the Neolithic period, when people settled down, built communities, and stopped being hunter/gatherers. So part of Egypt’s problem in those early days was the shift to a more sedentary life style, at least among the upper classes. Plus they lived in close proximity, for the first time, to animals they domesticated, which caused a string of diseases passed from animals to humans & vice versa (though not artherosclerosis, obviously). But the mummies we have available to us today are the bodies of Egypt’s wealthiest people, those who could afford to eat a lot of meat, poultry, fish. If one could even *find* the body of, for example, one of the slaves who built the pyramids, it probably wouldn’t have this degree of artherosclerosis, due both to a much less meat-rich diet and a lifetime of hard physical work.

    Reply
  5. Melinda

    Sorry for the redundant comment about class difference in ancient Egypt leading to dietary difference. I hadn’t actually read the Egyptian article when I commented on it under another post. Now I have–mea culpa!

    Reply
  6. Melinda

    I will say, though, as an art historian, that we have spiritually violated these people by digging them up to study them–it’s a complete violation of their religion. Their soul (ka) had to have a physical place to reside, either in the mummified body, or in a statue or statuette, from which the body has also been separated.

    Reply

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