Wal-Mart Organic Food

by

Last spring Wal-Mart announced it would start selling organic food. Their stated goal is to sell a large selection of organic products at just 10 percent over the cost of similar non-organic products. This story has been covered by large news organizations such as The New York Times and Business Week.

The idea of big box stores selling organic products is pulling some people in two directions. In one direction, the publicity organic food gets with announcements like this can be a good thing. The more people who come to view organic food, and other products, as a mainstream choice, the bigger the market for these products becomes. On the other hand, the bigger the market becomes, the more pressure there will be to change the supply chain of organics. If Wal-Mart is going to sell organic products at just 10 percent over their regular prices, something might have to give.

My concern is that what will give are things like the certification process or where organic food is grown. Wal-Mart may find that the easiest way to lower the cost of organically grown food is to lobby for reduced certification requirements and standards, and to buy from suppliers in the same third world countries where they buy or manufacture most of their other products. I do agree with Wal-Mart that the much higher cost of organic food versus conventionally produced food is a problem that limits the wider acceptance of organic products. Addressing these higher costs is a topic for another post, however.

The pragmatic side of me tells me we will have to deal with and guide this change. Consumers have come to expect apples, grapes, and peppers year round. This expectation will not change. If organic food is to become accepted by the masses, then availability will have to match what the consumer has become accustomed to. I am a huge supporter of buying locally produced products. Even I, however, have come to rely of the availability of produce outside of our local growing season. This is a dilemma with no easy answers. Food will continue to be produced where production works best and then flown and trucked to the consumer. This is an energy wasting procedure, one that may have to change, and again, a topic for another day and another discussion.

What really needs to be talked about when discussing the entry of big box stores into the organic market is this….. Many people think of organic as meaning more than grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Organic food, in particular, has meant food produced in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. Organic food producers have typically included a higher percentage of people with a commitment to responsible production methods. This has already changed a bit with the entry of larger companies into the market, but organic food is still usually grown locally and grown responsibly. I am a big proponent of sustainability and local food production, but occasionally need to be reminded that those important issues stand somewhat apart from organic food. Organic food can be produced using methods of farming and production that I might not endorse, but technically that does not make the food any less organically certifiable.

It may be that “organic” can become the new expectation and norm, but if it is to happen, it will need to be easier for all consumers to find and afford the products. Those of us committed to a food supply beyond one merely free of chemicals, one that is healthier for the environment, land, farm worker, and end consumer, will need to offer creative solutions. In addition to the organic label, we may need to develop additional certifications and labels for production methods. Local, sustainable, and earth or worker friendly labels, are a few possibilities. The Smithsonian’s “Bird Friendly” coffee certification is one that comes to mind as going beyond just the organic or fair trade labels. We can encourage and educate people on the advantages of taking time to buy food at a variety of places, rather than one big box store. We can support local grower’s markets in the summer. We can shop at local food co-ops, health food stores, and roadside farm stands. We can write and talk about these issues locally and globally.

Those of us that have long been proponents of a healthy and sustainable food supply need to realize that increased demand will cause inevitable changes to the organic food industry. We also need to look for solutions that make healthy sustainable products available at a price that is not 50 percent, or more, higher than conventional products. We will need to try to constructively influence the progression of these changes, taking care not to be perceived as environmental or health food snobs. The masses are starting to demand affordable organic products. The people involved in providing these products and information need to take care to educate, inform, talk, and work with a calm, and professional manner. Shrill, confrontational tactics should be a thing of the past. We need friends, supporters and converts to a more sustainable way of producing and consuming. The big box chain stores are coming and we need to be ready to influence the changes they will bring.

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn
Will Sig
1 Organic Baby Food

I haven’t really found too much organic food at Wal-mart. Maybe it isn’t properly labeled, but I haven’t found much, if any there. At Safeway here in Sacramento, CA, they have really increased the amount of produce that is organic… but the price is a huge hindrance for me, since you get smaller fruit for more money if you go organic.

Reply

2 Will

I don’t really shop at Walmart, so I don’t know how much organic food they actually have these days. The much higher price of organic food is a complaint I hear all the time though. And sometimes that increased price even gives me pause.

Reply

3 Shazia

so great, thanks for sharing information of Organic food.

Reply

4 nintendo

Most people who apply don’t likely really know what they are How much did you do?
Only worked there a few days; took at least eight of their sessions.
Did they increase the price, increasing margin but possibly.
You can no longer even buy non-“organic” frozen vegetables at Costco.

Reply

5 Katie

The problem though isn’t Wal-Mart, it’s us. My husband works for WM and he tells me that when they try to get locally made items like sausage, people just don’t buy it. Brand loyalty is a problem. People would rather fill themselves with high fructose corn syrup, while having a familiar brand than get rid of the crap ingredients and eat something similar but locally made.

If you want the stores to carry something that they don’t have, you can ask and they may try it if there is a market for it. However, try convincing most people that those sugary cereals are bad for their children. Then tell them about pesticides and genetic mutation. They won’t be phased a bit and may even tell you off because the truth hurts.

I prefer to buy organic produce and local ingredients for my cooking. Wal-Mart could help with this IF they would try just a little bit.

They do have some organic produce, but only 1 or 2 items, not what I expect from a retail giant. They could go local, it would actually save them money because items wouldn’t have to be shipped from all over the country (and world) to our stores.

Reply

6 Will

Sad but true, Katie. Local food might never replace the big box stores, but as you say if you want good, healthy food, buying local is usually your best bet. It is amazing what most people eat and drink!

Reply

7 peio revuelta

It is a really helpful information about organic foods. I live in a village and organic foods are very important for us,
there is also a very useful guide that i got great informatin about organic foods:

http://agricultureguide.org/

Reply

Cancel reply

Thank you for your comments

CommentLuv badge
My full comment policy is linked here, but please do not use a keyword as your name. For great referrrals and backlinks, link to your site in the box and by using CommentLuv

Previous post:

Next post: