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Infographics of the organic food industry
June 28, 2010 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Infographics of the organic food processing industry. Infographics of the organic food retail and distribution industry. Infographics of the organic farming industry. Infographics of the seed industry structure. A QuickTime animation of the consolidation of the organic food industry. A QuickTime animation of the seed industry consolidation.
posted by slogger (14 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
If I'm reading that first chart correctly, that's a pretty depressing reality. There's just no getting away from the big boys, huh?
posted by Gilbert at 1:00 PM on June 28, 2010


Wow, I've been looking for just this thing. Very informative, thanks for sharing.
posted by lexicakes at 1:24 PM on June 28, 2010


With the animation of the consolidation of the food industry: How did they choose which brands to include? And did no new brands appear during that time? In other words, they may have A) chosen to start with the brands that later were acquired or acquired others; and B) not included new, independent brands that cropped up. With a different data set we might have seen some consolidation but an explosion of diversity at the small level. Or not. But it would be nice to know.
posted by argybarg at 1:39 PM on June 28, 2010


To me, the seed industry consolidation is more worrisome than big food companies snapping up smaller "organic" outfits. With the former, there will definitely be less variety available, more terminator seed-type innovations, and tighter vertical monopolies.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:41 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


argybarg: that animation is a composite of the charts found on this page (first link of the FPP). Not necessary saying you'll find the answer to your question there, but taking a look at some of the source papers may give you a clue to the researcher's methodology.
posted by slogger at 2:05 PM on June 28, 2010


So, it seems that people who were convinved by marketers that environmental credentials were something they could simply buy may have been sorely mistaken! Who would have seen that coming?
posted by Jimbob at 2:07 PM on June 28, 2010



So, I had the opportunity to speak with someone I know this past weekend about organic farming. He was a dairy farmer his entire life, still lives on the family farm with his wife of 57 years (although they lease the land and barns out now). 6 of his 8 sons still farm in that area, and it's as Midwestern American Gothic as you could hope to get.

He thinks the organic food movement is just peachy. He's a huge proponent.

In his words: "Those east coast liberal faggots will pay 4 times as much for a steak thats "organic". We (the farmers in the area) haven't changed a thing about how we farm, but we can certify easily enough, and they'll buy it right up. Hope noone tells 'em it don't cure aids! Those hippie morons need to be communists, they're too stupid to have all that money. Spends the same to me though."

He's got hundreds of channels on his satellite dish. He only watches one, though.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:49 PM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not a secret that huge conglomerates own some "organic" companies. Regardless, the USDA/NOP have certifiers that enforce their standards. The USDA organic labels aren't total BS.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 3:27 PM on June 28, 2010


He thinks the organic food movement is just peachy. He's a huge proponent.

I'm sure. But if you talk with any small family farmer, you discover it's not worthwhile to try to compete with the big producers. The label "organic" may be meaningless to some of the farmers who have taken it on for profit, but the standard established by the USDA is not meaningless, and a lot of the producers don't see it that way.

There's just no getting away from the big boys, huh?

Sure, there are plenty of independents, like Amy's Kitchen, Lundberg, Eden Foods, etc. Scroll down the page from that first link. Also, if you buy straight from the farm with farm shares, you know exactly who produced your food - not possible everywhere, but there are more farms like this all the time. Most of the people involved with CSAs and co-ops care as much about the food as the people who are buying it - for the most part, they're really not into it for the money. It is often the case that an inherited family farm will be converted to this type of business in order to keep going, so that they won't be forced to sell to the bigger farmers or for land development.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:34 PM on June 28, 2010


East coast liberal faggots pay $69 a kilogram for a beast that a Tasmanian beef farmer sold for about $5 a kilo.

The article doesn't say whether the meat was organic, but considering that a cut like a Scotch fillet typically retails for around $30/kg, I'd assume that this was sold as absolute prime organic meat.

(I suspect a bit of apples & oranges here, as the farmer was said to have sold "a beast" for $5/kg, which to me would suggest if not a living animal, then at least an entire carcass - bones, offal & all. The meat that was selling at $69 would've been the very best cut, and even then, it's a phenomenally high price to pay, in a wealthy inner-city neighbourhood)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:24 PM on June 28, 2010


So, it seems that people who were convinced by marketers that environmental credentials were something they could simply buy may have been sorely mistaken! Who would have seen that coming?

Not sure what you mean here. Are the "people convinced by marketers" the megacorporations who bought up the organic companies?

It's not new for a company to market a Product A at the exact same time as also selling its rival - either a direct rival or a niche substitute. It's a nice way of building a quasi-monopoly whilst offering choice to consumers from different market segments.

In this case, the majority of organically-inclined consumers are still going to choose Heaven's Gate Organic Family Farm products from the supermarket shelves over Kraft, even if Kraft is the parent corporation.

I doubt that a significant proportion of shoppers really investigate, care, or can even see a way around those kinds of corporate ownership issues. Just so long as they're getting their cancer-prevention crunchola, they're happy.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:45 PM on June 28, 2010


I doubt that a significant proportion of shoppers really investigate, care, or can even see a way around those kinds of corporate ownership issues. Just so long as they're getting their cancer-prevention crunchola, they're happy.

The point I was trying to make is that it, likely as not, it won't even matter. The family farmers don't care about much beyond trying to make their buck. The "organic" cows he sends to slaughter are treated more or less the same as the cows he sent to slaughter 10 years ago before organic was in vogue, but now he makes more money for pretending to play along.

From the consumer end of it, there's no way to tell. So, up and down the chain from the large producer to the small, the whole market is rife with abuse of the "organic" label and ideal. And in the end, since it doesn't have a (arguably, sure) detectable effect on the product, any sort of market solution won't be effective.

So most consumers will just buy what doesn't look too bad and in their budget - same as it ever was. It's the people who think they can spend their way out of the problem that will get taken for a ride. The only real way to know how your food has been raised is still to know the farmer.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:44 PM on June 28, 2010


Not sure what you mean here.

Well, what Pogo_Fuzzybutt said is really what I mean: It's the people who think they can spend their way out of the problem that will get taken for a ride.

It's the holy, blessed label "Organic" that gets to me. As your previous link pointed out, that beef from Tasmania that was sold for $69 a kilo in Surrey Hills, was probably marketed as "Organic", but that says nothing about the environmental costs of its refrigeration, transport, packaging. But I guess I feel this way because my main concern is for the environment, rather than supposed benefit of "Organic" food to my own health, and I don't see that "Buying Organic" is doing any more than a number of other strategies to help the environment. There are scenarios where organically-produced food can be worse for the environment - lower yield means more land is required, which means more habitat destruction, for example. I'm not saying this is always the case, but an "Organic" label says very little about what you're doing to the earth, and very little about what it's doing for your health.

I agree that there's not necessarily that much to be concerned about evil nasty conglomerates owning "Organic" brands. But personally, I'll take chemically-laden vegies from a local market over "Organic"-labelled produce from Woolworths any day.
posted by Jimbob at 9:06 PM on June 28, 2010


To me, the seed industry consolidation is more worrisome than big food companies snapping up smaller "organic" outfits.

If you have a garden, order your seed from these folks. Their site is a therapeutic browse in the cabin fevers of deep January.
posted by clarknova at 12:47 AM on June 29, 2010


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