Farmers are facing increasing pressure to change the way they produce food. That pressure is coming from a new class of grocery shoppers who are increasingly concerned about what modern farming methods are doing to the environment.
In just the past few years, awareness about the use and overuse of environmentally dangerous pesticides and herbicides has grown among the average shopper. More and more, people are choosing to bypass traditional grocery stores to shop at farmers markets, or big outlets, such as Whole Foods, that deal in organically grown products guaranteed to have minimal impact on the environment.
Another huge factor driving changes in shoppers is concern for the welfare of animals. Millions of people no longer want to eat meat if it means that a cow, pig or chicken was not raised with as little suffering as possible.
The move toward animal-friendly and environmentally sound food is not a passing fad. Industry experts are calling it a sea change that will almost certainly grow more important in coming years.
For example, major brands such as Wheaties, cake mixes by Betty Crocker and pre-packaged meat products are suffering from flat sales. The simple fact is that people are buying less of these heavily processed foods made in an industrial agriculture regime. Shoppers are aware modern farming means a high degree of environmental degradation, such as water pollution, soil erosion, and meats that are tainted with unwanted substances, such as antibiotics.
What it all means is that agriculture must change the way it produces food. It must move away from petro-chemical dominated methods that use artificial fertilizers and gas-guzzling machinery to process crops. Farmers must adopt organic, small-footprint methods of planting, harvesting and fertilizing — favoring a less mechanized approach from seed to shelf.
Another significant outcome of the new food awareness will be a closer link to where food is grown and where it is sold. Today, people want to know where their food is coming from. They strongly prefer to buy local. It suggests that the way food is distributed must transition away from long-range shipping to localized options for buying food, such as farmer’s markets and small stores that buy directly from the farmers who operate close by.