Making the Change to Organic & Gluten Free
Historically, organic farms have been relatively small family-run farms – which is why organic food was once only available in small stores or farmers’ markets. Now, organic foods are becoming much more widely available – organic food sales within the United States have enjoyed 17 to 20 percent growth for the past few years while sales of conventional food have grown at only about 2 to 3 percent a year. Organic baby food is popular too, sales of which increased 21.6 percent in 2006, while baby food overall has only grown 3.1 percent in the same year. This large growth is predicted to continue, and many companies are jumping into the market.
Fresh Organic Foods
Fresh, “unprocessed” organic food, such as vegetables and fruits are purchased directly from growers, at farmers’ markets, from on-farm stands, supermarkets, through speciality food stores, and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects. Unprocessed animal products like organic meat, eggs, dairy, are less commonly available in “fresh” form.
In Australia and elsewhere, organic eggs must be from free-range hens, rather than from battery chickens. Animals for the organic market may not be fed growth hormones or drugs such as steroids or antibiotics.
Identifying organic food
At first, organic food comprised mainly fresh vegetables. Early consumers interested in organic food would look for chemical-free, fresh or minimally processed food. They mostly had to buy directly from growers: “Know your farmer, know your food” was the motto. Personal definitions of what constituted “organic” were developed through firsthand experience: by talking to farmers, seeing farm conditions, and farming activities. Small farms grew vegetables (and raised livestock) using organic farming practices, with or without certification, and the individual consumer monitored.
Consumer demand for organic foods continues to increase, and high volume sales through mass outlets, like supermarkets, is rapidly replacing the direct farmer connection. For supermarket consumers, food production is not easily observable, and product labelling, like “certified organic”, is relied on. Government regulations and third-party inspectors are looked to for assurance.
A “certified organic” label is usually the only way for consumers to know that a processed product is “organic”.