Consumers want organic food, and yes, they will pay higher prices to ensure the finest quality. The need and popularity for organic products is continuously growing, with consumer demand for organically produced goods showing double-digit growth during most years since the 1990s. (1) Over 20,000 stores now offer organic food products. Findings in 2012 show more than $28.4 billion were spent on organic food, and that number has only grown since then. (2) According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food sales totaled $39.1 billion in 2014, up 11.3 percent from the previous year. (3)
The organic meat sector is currently one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. organic food industry, with poultry accounting for two-thirds of the sector. (4) There are numerous reasons for the increase in demand for organic chicken, but some include concerns about antibiotics and growth of hormones in chickens, animal welfare, health issues, and environmental concerns. (5) This issue is of particular importance for Maryland farmers because it involves both the grain (chicken feed) and poultry production industries.
For chickens to be certified organic, the chickens must only receive food grown without irradiation, synthetic fertilizers, certain pesticides, or genetically modified organisms. (6) In addition, the chickens need access to the outdoors, and cannot be given antibiotics or hormones. (7) The most significant limiting factor for the production of organic chicken is insufficient quantities of organic chicken feed. (8) Less than 1 percent of U.S. corn and soybeans, the main ingredients for chicken feed, is certified as organic. (9)
Farmers and individuals interested in learning more about organic farm production should attend the “Organic Production & Marketing Workshop” on March 17, 2016 at Chesapeake College, Todd Performing Arts Center, in Wye Mills, MD, from 8am – 4 pm. Topics include buyers of organic grains, dairy, poultry and vegetables; Maryland’s young farmers who have diversified their farming operations with organic production; organics 101; latest research on organic production from USDA-ARS sustainable agricultural systems lab; and much more. Register by calling the Queen Anne’s County UME Office at 410-758-0166410-758-0166. Pre-registration required.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Organic Agriculture (2015), available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment/organic-agriculture.aspx.
2. Christina Sarich, Natural Society, Sorry Monsanto: Organic Food Demand Absolutely Exploding, http://naturalsociety.com/sorry-monsanto-organic-food-demand-absolutely-exploding/ (Feb. 15, 2015).
3. Maggie McNeil, Organic Trade Association, U.S. Consumers Across the Country Devour Record Amount of Organic in 2014 (2014).
4. World Poultry, More Organic Poultry Meat and Eggs in U.S., http://www.worldpoultry.net/pagefiles/21846/001_boerderij-download-wp6798d01.pdf (2007).
9. Shruti Date Singh, Bloomberg Business, Here is Why Organic Chicken Costs More than $10 a Pound, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-26/here-s-why-organic-chicken-costs-more-than-10-a-pound.