“Before Wild Oats or Whole Foods Market decide to enter a new region, they want to see a high density of college-educated adults because such people are more likely to pay a premium for food made without pesticides or artificial preservatives, according to natural food industry analysts. The willingness to buy organic and natural food is closely linked with education levels, said Jay Jacobowitz, a Vermont-based consultant to the natural food industry. Wild Oats and Whole Foods prefer entering markets where at least 35 percent of the adult population (people 25 and older) have a bachelor’s degree or higher.” Tampa Tribune, April, 2006

Unfortunately I cannot find the exact article to trace this to its source. I snagged this bit from a lesson in my chocolate certification program. The biggest interest I have in this is the college-educated adults. I would like to know the demographic breakdown of this, as I am betting the biggest age range is 25-30 year-olds who are making these purchasing decisions.

Why do I find this important all? I am well educated. I have two bachelors degrees, one in English and one in Biology, and my Master’s in Nursing. I might soon add a Master’s in Business to this list. I was also thinking of getting my personal trainer’s certification and my Registered Nutritionist license. Can you tell I love to learn and add notches to my belt? Guess who falls into the demographic laid out above? This might be a long post.

Organic food is expensive. Comparing apples to apples, you pay a dollar more for organic than you do non-organic. Not a big deal for apples, but beef to beef you can see the prices start to jump. My last food bill for two people for a week of food was close to $200. I am not stingy on my food budget, and we just moved so I am rebuying some of the staples we threw out before moving cross country. My normal budget is $150 a week, with normal amounts being around $120 or so. If everything on my list jumps to being an extra 33%, my bill goes from $120 average to $160 average. That is an additional $2000 a year in food. I have other bills to pay!

But, Julie, the money you spend now will decrease the money you spend later in healthcare costs. Maybe. Humans tend to be dubious about advancements in our understanding of science, relying much more heavily on anecdotal evidence. Science is scary and hard to understand and they use really big words! It is the boogyman of modern people and what scares us, intimidates us, and is confusing to us is obviously bad for us. AKA, there hasn’t been enough research done on certain aspects of current farming practices compared to organic farming practices that suggest organic is better.

For instance, GMO’s create large controversy for many, many people. I am not an expert in GMO’s, I have done little research into them, but when I do see articles on GMO’s most of the time their are negative and inflammatory without a lick of actual research to support them. This post could digress further and further into the minutiae of research and how it is handled, conducted, paid for, etc. but that discussion is for another post. Let’s all agree that, for the most part, scientists have a moral compass that they stand by that is devoid of bias, lest they be marked a fraud by their. This article deals with GMO’s risk to humans and/or the environment. It costs money to read and I only read the abstract. If you are in college, invest some time to use your University’s access to scholarly articles. This research article talks about the lack of risk assessment in GMO use and release. This is an abstract about consumer beliefs about GMO’s after a positive experience with them. This is an independent study on rats eating GM plants over three months. There is a ton of information out there on GMO’s. As far as research goes that I have seen, little indicates adverse effects on humans. With that being said, I do not avoid GMO’s.

All in all, it has less to do with organic for me, and more to do with sustainability. Our current system is proving to be unsustainable. Consider the recall recently on on Dole salads on Jan. 22. Suddenly the world was without salad! That is an exaggeration, but it is creepy to think so much of our salad comes from one place. A third of the US had their salad recalled. That is not sustainable. Diversity is what sustains a food chain. Diversity in product as well as manufacture (read grower here but principle applies elsewhere).

However, organics has not led to super sustainable systems either. The Wall Street Journal seems to think these systems are only for the rich. However The Cornucopia Institute disagrees with Wall Street, asserting that the article is misinformed. This research article found an environmental hazard from organic farming. Nature found that organic farming is rarely enough, as does a growing body of research. Worrisome to say the very least.

Even if the health benefits of ‘organic’ food increases my life expectancy an additional 5 years, it wouldn’t be enough to convince me to buy it at the cost of so many future generations. Somewhere in here there has to be a balance between modern research, sustainable farming practices with high-yield foods and low-impacting environmental concerns, married to living wages and desired lifestyles. Whew, what a tall order.

All in all, I suspect that the demographic of college-educated adults who sustain the ‘organic’ food industry are the high-moderate income to the rich and the fresh out of college adult. For those of us on a moderate to low income, there is no way we can buy organic consistently. It doesn’t make economical sense. For those of us not fresh off of our high from graduating (and forgetting the bills associated with our education), we have realized that ‘organic’ is not as socially or environmentally conscious as we assumed when we wore those rose colored glasses. Before I get smashed, this is a generalization. I am unwilling to give up certain things to make organic purchases feasible. Others might be willing to. There are a large chunk of college graduates that don’t have those rose colored glasses and I was one of them. I do know, and did know, a lot of graduates who were trying to make their mark through purchasing power. Then it got expensive, they did some research, and stopped. I could be wrong in my assumption of who buys organics. Intuition tells me I’m not, but I have nothing to back this up. Let me know if I am wrong and why you buy organics. I would love to know!




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