Slow Going for Organics

Wal-Mart’s peddling of eco-friendly produce hasn’t had the negative impact on organic standards that critics had feared—but is that just because nobody is buying the megamart’s organic offerings? As Reuters reported this week (via Chews Wise), companies that had expanded their organic lines to meet expected demand in Wal-Mart stores aren’t seeing an explosion in sales, and some execs are worried. And, Samuel Fromartz explains in his Chews Wise post, the slower-than-anticipated growth in the big-organics market could have ramifications all the way down the supply chain:

There are shortages [of certain organic goods] now as products come on line but what happens if the ‘mainstream’ customers don’t show up? Will farmers get stuck with a lot of excess organic acreage … and milk?

Hedging against this possibility, some food manufacturers are also marketing “natural” fare, Reuters reports. While some of these companies (Hormel, for one) are actually in favor of developing strict standards for labeling products as such, “natural” basically means nothing at this point. So as mixed as my feelings are about “big organic,” it would be a real shame if mainstream manufacturers abandoned their important first steps toward greening our food system and started pushing faux natural instead.

Food blog The Ethicurean has a slightly different take on the Reuters story, though:

We think this story is a plant by Big Food—too lazy to educate consumers about what the organic label actually means—to put pressure on organic suppliers to lower prices. Let’s hope the media doesn’t fall for it.

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