Organic Foods Make Up Only 3% Of Sales. What Would Change That?

OrganicChoice3Glad to see someone in the organic community recognize income inequality as a reason for poor organic food sales.  Ronnie Cummins from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) asked:
What’s Holding Back The Organic Revolution?, OCA, 20 August 2014

Cummins says:

“Organic and climate-friendly food today represent no more than 3% of combined U.S. grocery and restaurant sales.”

And asks:

“If the overwhelming majority of U.S. consumers say they prefer organics and would like to buy and consume healthier and more sustainable food, then why aren’t they doing so?”

And answers:

“[Reasons] include the addictive nature and omnipresence of “chemically engineered” processed foods; lack of money and time; rampant nutrition and cooking illiteracy; and labeling fraud.”

I don’t think American consumers are illiterate about cooking or nutrition or labeling. The reason an “overwhelming majority of U.S. consumers say they prefer organics and would like to buy and consume healthier and more sustainable food” is because they are not illiterate. There is knowledge, it’s just not accompanied by behavior. Why not?  I think the most potent reason among Cummins’ list is “lack of money.” I won’t even say lack of time because if you have enough money you can buy others’ time. You can either purchase prepared food or arrange to have someone at home doing the food preparation.

As to his first reason, I think sales of processed foods with nefarious ingredients would decline if demand for them declined, which becomes possible when people are able to purchase what they say they prefer.

The solution for lack of money? Cummins said:

“But in fact U.S. organic and grass fed foods (especially non-processed organic foods) would not be that “expensive” if we lived in a society where there were meaningful and sustainable jobs for everyone willing to work; where the minimum wage was $15 an hour, rather than $7.25 (federal); where healthcare costs were not double what they are in other industrialized nations; and where rent, mortgage, educational and transportation costs were more affordable.

The solution to the relative “high costs” of organics in comparison to so-called conventional food is not to pay organic farmers, ranchers or food chain workers less money, but rather to raise the standard of living of everyone, so that Americans can afford to go organic and take control of their health.”

There’s a multitude of factors that affect people’s food choices. Even though Cummins says the majority of consumers prefer organic, I don’t think increasing their standard of living will in and of itself cause them to buy organic. It would, however, remove an obstacle.

The economist, best-selling author, and former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich says reducing income inequality would benefit not just the currently strained and slowly disappearing middle class (who want to buy organic, and a lot of other things, but can’t), but those at the top too. Increasing the middle class’ purchasing power would create jobs, generate tax revenue, and grow the economy … everything that’s good for business.1

Obama was correct in December when he called widening inequality “the defining challenge of our time.”

1 Why Widening Inequality is Hobbling Equal Opportunity, Robert Reich, 5 February, 2014

9 thoughts on “Organic Foods Make Up Only 3% Of Sales. What Would Change That?

      1. anrosh

        To control wealth, you have to control peoples health. and they put the highest price tag on health.
        So the government ( the carnegies, the rockfellers , the kennedsy’s etc control the wealth ) controls the supply and distribution and ALSO the How of growth. REsearchers work hard at this . Pharmaceutical scientists work HARDER at this and then the government will pick and choose whom to hand out a dole, a spoon , a bowl or a plate
        If weather can be manipulated , toxifying the soil , “pesticiding” the soil and plants is a mad man’s game !
        the true terrorists are you know who now – they that keeps their people enslaved with TOXIC food. And Hippocrates said – Food is medicine, not me . Hippocrates said – Not me. I reiterate.

        Th. You


    1. Bix Post author

      It’s the free part I don’t get. Land isn’t free. Plants and seeds aren’t free. Labor isn’t free. How can you distribute food for free when all the inputs aren’t free? Who pays?


  1. Bix Post author

    I don’t think food will ever be free, Anrosh. I can’t even conceive of it. I don’t understand how the people who wrote and published this article think there is all this free organic food just waiting to be snatched up. Where?

    I think the couple in this video are privileged to have the land, the inputs, the labor, the time, … the OK from their township to tear up their yard. The organic soil? (Even farms that want to sell organic have to wait three years for chemicals to degrade, some at least.) They have so much. I wonder if they even see it.


  2. anrosh

    my dad has been growing vegetables for the fly during the season. he only buys those he does not produce. he got the seeds from the relatives . can food be free ?. there are enough seeds to go around to grow our food. that is how food grew – till people left home and cultivation started for the bulk.

    We only had soil without toxins once upon a time . WE CHANGED everything and now we try it hard to conceive even the idea – backyard yards are a good example ?. dont you think


    1. Bix Post author

      It was in my mind to say what you did. So, I can only agree with you here, “till people left home and cultivation started for the bulk.” I read recently that the rise in industrial farming coincided with the movement of people from farms to cities.

      I just looked up some statistics…

      “As of September 10, 2014, the United States has a total resident population of 318,713,000, making it the third-most populous country in the world. It is very urbanized, with 81% residing in cities and suburbs as of 2014 (the worldwide urban rate is 54%).”

      “There are over 313,000,000 people living in the United States. Of that population, less than 1% claim farming as an occupation (and about 2% actually live on farms).

      Wouldn’t it take a major exodus of people out of cities and onto land, land suitable for farming? And wouldn’t it take a major change in what people do for a living – from engineering, computers, medicine, teachers, law and government, retail, social services, construction, to farming?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s