Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

Grocery giant, Walmart, has set its sights on organics planning to drive the market prices down nationwide announcing an exclusive partnership with Wild Oats. Walmart claims that they will sell a line of 100 organic products at 25 percent less than 26 national brand competitors.

“We’re removing the premium associated with organic groceries” says Jack Sinclair, Walmart executive vice president of grocery. Need I say more?

I believe that most of us are familiar with the Walmart plan and how they have operated in the past. Driving competitors out of business until it’s the only game in town and then having prices creep up hasn’t been in keeping with the mantra go to Walmart and watch prices falling!

From a farmer perspective the new Wild Oats deal tells me that it’s about capturing a rapidly growing organic market, 10 – 20 percent a year by most estimates, and driving the small sustainable organic family farmers out of business. In keeping with its history, Walmart tells the producer what it will pay for your product and you can take it or leave it. Walmart buys in large volume and to acquire the volume the company will need huge organic suppliers.

By the same token, Walmart customers are traditionally either/or from poor areas, low income, rural, or food stamp recipients. I do believe in food equality meaning that everyone should have access to affordable healthy food choices.

What I don’t believe in is driving the food prices paid to the farmer down to the point of the small scale family farmer becoming listed on the endangered species list!

Open the door for industrial corporate organic food production – I’ve written in the past about the “bastardization of organics” and as I’ve said before, it is not about the real organic food producers it’s about the “posers”. With ever increasing relaxed National Organic Standards occurring, the road is being paved by government regulations for anyone to claim organic. Obviously, history is repeating itself as it did when corporate agriculture took over mainstream food production ushering in vertically integrated food systems, contract farming, and the theory of get big or get out!

It remains to be seen if the new Walmart – Wild Oats plan will be successful. If my local Walmart is any example, I don’t believe that the store will capture new higher end customers. In finding a decent grocery chain, I drive 30 miles. To find a really exceptional grocer it’s 120 miles.

My local Wamart is disgustingly filthy, rotten produce is offered for sale, the employees are rude to the point if you ask a question they behave as if you’ve bothered them, and empty spaces on shelves abound. It has all of the qualities of “if you don’t like it, tough”!

Walmart’s increased sales have remained stagnant. The company sees a rapidly increasing organic market and the sound of cha- ching! The entire deal surrounds the almighty dollar. It’s definitely not based on any warm fuzzy feeling of doing the right thing or providing access to healthy food choices for the masses. I’ve not heard or read one word related to this deal about any claims of corporate social responsibility or being a good citizen in local communities.

Speaking to the local economy, the deal will not provide a boost. Walmart won’t be buying from local farmers they will be buying from centralized mass producers. Efficiency will be the name of the game which translates to cutting corners.

What I find humorous about the deal is that corporations, such as Walmart, have in the past viewed organics as a niche market equating those farmers to left over hippies. Corporate agriculture types snidely snickered over organics as not being technologically advanced in food production. I say, hop on the bus, Gus – be a poser!

Comments on: "The “Walmarting” of Organics" (2)

  1. Peter said:

    Spot on, Carol. I have grave concerns about this move. The only “organic” suppliers Wal-Mart will want to deal with are the “agribusiness organic” players – the handful of shady corporations which hide behind a bucolic looking organic label, but which have industrial-scale farming operations that are about as far as you can get from consumer expectations of what organic really means. We are talking organic systems that are intensive systems in all but name. As I know you already know very well, there are industrial-scale “organic” egg producers out there who manage their hens in barns with tens of thousands of birds per house, and where most of these poor animals will never see daylight or a blade of grass – and even if they could get outside they only have a dirt patch as “outdoor access”. These industrial-organic corporations aren’t interested in the organic principles and lobby hard to water down the organic standards. It’s scandalous. People have GOT to make sure the food they are buying comes from farming systems that truly match their expectations. The only hope here is that once people get bitten by the organic bug, they start on the journey to more sustainable food buying practices, and learn about the benefits of supporting independent truly organic farms… We can but hope.

  2. Could this be why the USDA and BigFood is working to weaken the organic label requirements? “The War Against Organics” http://sco.lt/6Qny1R
    The push is on to sneak GMO and Pesticides into the USDA “Organic” Labeling FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE CORPORATE-LED, USDA GOVERNMENT-SANCTIONED ATTACK ON ORGANIC STANDARDS THAT WILL ALLOW BIG AG FARMING PRACTICES TO TAKE OVER ORGANICS.

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