A look at the organic food stats shows how this industry has grown in recent years as consumers embrace the advantages that it has to offer. Many factors have played a role in the surge of desirability of organic produce despite the oftentimes higher price of these foods.
History of Organic Farming
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the organic farming industry began in the 1940s. The industry back then was not the cohesive practice that is known today. It was not until the 1990 with the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act did the industry have a specific direction with the draft of the definition of "organic."
Organic Food Stats
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that there were over 4 million acres of land in the United States devoted to organic farming. Nearly 40 percent of organic farming and gardening is in fruit and vegetable production, with sales of over $1.2 billion in 2008.
Organic Farming Costs
An underlying factor of organic food stats is the higher cost of production that farmers face due to the increase in regulation in order to become certified organic. This explains why organic foods cost more. According to the USDA, organic farms spend over 57 percent more on farming expenditures than all other farms nationwide.
One way in which farmers cut their costs is to reduce their transportation costs. More than 44 percent of organic produce is sold locally within 100 miles of its outlet. As a consumer, you gain the satisfaction of knowing that your organic food purchases have less of a carbon footprint than other types of food.
Despite their high expenses, organic farming is likely to grow, with over three-quarters of farmers indicating that they will maintain or increase production, according to the USDA. This fact is likely to play a key role in the future of organic food and other products.
Why Buy Organic?
Consumers may have many reasons why they choose to buy organic. By regulation of the National Standards on Organic Agricultural Production and Handling of 2000, organic production forbids the use of genetic engineering and ionizing radiation. Consumers may feel organic foods are safer without these methods.
Also, organic farming uses no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. If you have concerns about pollution caused by agricultural runoff, organic farming may offer a safer, eco-friendly alternative.
Another motivating factor may be nutritional quality. The perception of organic foods is that they are more nutritious because harmful chemicals are not used in their production. There may be some truth to this line of thinking.
A 2010 study published in PLoS ONE found that organically-grown strawberries contained higher nutritional quality and antioxidant activity. The flavor of the berries was sweeter and better tasting. The nutritional quality of organic foods may be influenced by the soil in which it is grown.
Soil bacteria and micro-organisms are essential so that nutrients are made available for uptake by plants. This is one advantage that organic farming has with its avoidance of synthetic chemicals. The use of natural products can encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria, improving soil quality.
The USDA estimates that 65 percent of organic farms use green or animal manure to improve soil quality and thus the nutritional value of organic foods. The USDA Agricultural Research Service found that manure from cows which produce certified organic milk had higher levels of phosphorus, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.
The difference is in the type of feed that cows consume. The slow-release of nutrients from manure can also help prevent runoff into surface water sources, adding more value to this industry. These findings show that organic farming can help booster the industry by its own meanings, perhaps some of the more compelling of the organic food stats.
As consumers lean more toward natural and organic foods, the organic farming industry offers ways to make better choices for better nutrition with less negative environmental impact. For the consumer and the farmer, it is a win-win situation.