The organic food industry has been growing rapidly for the past several years. From 2003 to 2009 the organic food market increased 142% from $2.1 billion to $5.2 billion in 2008. (Organic Food-US-October 2008, Mintel) Even with the steep downturn in the economy, sales of organic foods are expected to continue growing, but at a slower pace. As Barbara Haumann of the Organic Trade Association puts it, “It may be fair to say that sales will continue to grow, but at a slower rate – but when you figure that sales have been growing phenomenally for so many years, it even makes sense that they can’t continue to grow exponentially.” (Supermarket News, February 9, 2009)
Organic sales are only part of the story. Consumers are becoming more educated about food choices. Factors such as the carbon footprint that a particular food represents are playing an increasing role in consumers’ decision making. Ironically, even the major players like Wal-Mart, Dean Foods, and Costco are pushing ‘sustainability’ with their suppliers. They are exploring having individual food items list their carbon footprint.
Organic is important to many consumers, but so are local and transparent choices. Food safety plays an increasingly important role in consumer preferences. With all of the food recalls and scares of late (spinach, jalapenos, tomatoes, hamburger, peanuts) consumers are spending their dollars more diligently. The shear scale of these recalls boggles the mind. For instance, in 2007 the Topps Meat Company recalled 21.7 million pounds of hamburger due to possible E. coli contamination. The real appeal of small-local farms is that consumers can actually see where their food comes from, meet the people that produce it, and not be overwhelmed by the ‘scale’ of the operation.
Raising grass fed beef mimics the production model of bison and other wild herbivores. The foundation of this model is lush, high organic pastures that are able to store vast amounts of carbon. “If every cow producer in the country would use this model, in less than 10 years we would sequester all the carbon that’s been emitted since the beginning of the industrial age. It’s really that simple. Without question, grass-finished, mob-stocked beef is the most efficacious way to heal the planet.” (Joel Salatin, March, ’09, OpEdNews)
The real strength of Grass Roots Farm is its proximity to a local, well-informed public, and the underlying emphasis on working with nature through low-input agriculture. The beef produced carries a small carbon footprint, is humanely raised, is healthy, and totally pleasing to the palate. In these times of million-pound hamburger recalls and animal abuse horror stories, Grass Roots Farm offers a sane alternative.