Don’t Help Wal-Mart Degrade the Quality of Organic Food

November 6th, 2009

Wal-Mart Organic FoodWal-Mart stores are well known for their variety and low prices, but are often criticized about the questionable approach to their success. Among the many negative impacts that Wal-Mart is often accused of, their tremendous influence is degrading the quality of organic food.

Wal-Mart is the largest public company in the world and is the largest grocery retailer in the United States. They are able to offer such low prices because they use their prominence to pressure wholesalers into selling them goods at a significant discount. Although this is a great business tactic, it encourages wholesalers to compromise their level of quality in order to meet the demand. One such compromise is the use of cheap offshore labor. In fact, Wal-Mart has been accused multiple times of dealing directly with foreign suppliers that run sweatshops and is even known for treating their own employees poorly.

How Wal-Mart’s Cost Cutting Practices Affect Your Food

When suppliers cut corners to meet the price demands of large retailers like Wal-Mart, it usually leads to a reduction in quality. In most cases, cheaper materials are used, production is accelerated, and the final product is compromised. This may not be such a big deal with a piece of furniture or a small appliance, but it most certainly is a big deal when it degrades the quality of the food that your health and longevity depend on.

Through the use of chemicals and other unnatural farming practices, modern industrial farming is destroying our land and has greatly reduced the quality of our food. Even whole foods like meat, fruit, and vegetables aren’t guaranteed to be healthy anymore and are often contaminated with traces of agricultural chemicals and contain much less nutrition than they did just a few decades ago. With Wal-Mart as the leading grocery retailer in the United States, this can only get worse.

The Irony of Wal-Mart Selling Organic Food

Our last hope of having an abundant supply of healthy and nutritious food for many years to come and an adequate amount of fertile land to produce it on is slowly fading away. The people who are keeping this hope alive are the farmers who understand the importance of sustainable farming and the superior nutritional and health promoting qualities of organically raised produce and pasture raised livestock.

We’ve spent millions of years depending on the foods provided to us by nature which is one of the many reasons why natural, sustainable, and responsible farming is so important. There’s a limit to how quickly and easily nature can produce our food, but this conflicts with the interests of a retail giant like Wal-Mart. However, like many other large corporations, Wal-Mart has recognized the growing popularity of organic food and isn’t about to let nature interfere with their ability to take advantage of this rising trend.

Although the USDA certification requirements for organic food enforce a basic standard of quality, this standard is far from perfect and leaves plenty of room for questionable farming methods, particularly in regard to raising livestock. Wal-Mart’s practices encourage their organic food suppliers to take advantage of this by cutting every corner possible, and several of them have even violated a number of the USDA’s requirements. This could very easily cause a ripple effect and pressure other organic food suppliers into doing the same. The remaining farmers who are unwilling to compromise the quality of their food are often unable to compete and can ultimately be forced out of business. If this trend continues, it can have a significant impact on the quality of organic food in general

Not All Organic Foods are Created Equal

The organic milk that Wal-Mart sells under their own “Great Value” brand is a perfect example of how their influence can negatively effect the quality of organic food. This milk is supplied by Aurora Organic Dairy which is a large company that supplies other retailers such as Safeway, Costco, and Target as well. Aurora Organic has been accused on multiple occasions of selling organic milk that is in fact not organic. Horizon Organic is another large distributor of organic milk that also supplies Wal-Mart and has been accused of the same thing. Based on this, the Organic Consumers Association has called for a boycott of both suppliers.

In 2007, USDA investigators found Aurora Organic to be in violation of 14 organic dairy requirements and threatened to revoke their certification. Legal complaints have also been filed against Horizon Organic. Unfortunately, no further action was taken and both Aurora Organic and Horizon Organic continue to flood the market with low quality “organic” milk. For more information on this issue, visit the Cornucopia Institute’s page on Aurora Organic Factory Dairy.

The USDA’s policy for organic dairy requires that cattle have access to a pasture, but this is only required in a limited amount. As such, the cattle can still be kept in feedlots part time and can still be fed grains as long as they’re organic. Because cows don’t naturally eat grain, this compromises their health as well as the quality of their milk regardless of how good the grain is. This is just one example of the many opportunities that farmers have to cut corners while staying within the USDA’s requirements for organic certification and is exactly what corporations like Wal-Mart are encouraging.

Don’t Be Part of the Problem

It only takes a little common sense to recognize that corporations like Wal-Mart have no interest in the true benefits of sustainable farming, and as a result, are jeopardizing the future of organic food. If you have any interest in preserving the availability of the high quality food that our health depends on, please, don’t buy your groceries from Wal-Mart. Instead, buy as much of your food as possible directly from local farmers. They generally produce the most nutritious food available and are the people who truly deserve our support. If you’re unable to buy from local farmers, the next best option is to buy organic products from reputable companies.

You can visit EatWild.com or LocalHarvest.org to find local farmers, or you can order online from places like U.S. Wellness Meats, Vital Choice Seafood and Organics, and Blackwing Quality Meats.

I like saving money just as much as anyone else, but when it comes to Wal-Mart or any other retail giant, the savings often incur significant costs elsewhere. Every time you buy something from Wal-Mart, you’re contributing to their influence and the degradation of organic food. If you need more convincing, I suggest you read the action alert from the Organic Consumers Association explaining why you should boycott Wal-Mart.

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