Organic Food Trend Grows In Rural Areas

Apr 15, 2014

organic food store checkout
An organic-only store opened in Logan on Tuesday. Elaine Taylor explores why organic food has become more popular.
Credit Elaine Taylor / Utah Public Radio

Organic foods used to be reserved for Chaco-wearing granola types, but these days the industry is growing quickly. New organic grocery stores have opened across the state in the past year. Logan saw the grand opening of Natural Grocers on Tuesday, a chain store that has seen success in less urban areas.

Utah State University professor Tamara Steinitz says people are becoming more interested in knowing their food’s history.

“It’s one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the food industry. People are more interested in knowing where their food comes from, how it’s grown, what’s put into it or not put into it, care of the animals, use of pesticides, hormones, things like that,” Steinitz said.

The new store was busy Tuesday afternoon, with many families and college students wandering the aisles. Many shoppers said they were excited to have a wider organic selection available. A few, like Evan, a shopper who we caught up with outside of the store are still a bit skeptical of organics.

“People can slap it on things and go, ‘It’s organic,’ and you go, ‘Oh, that sounds cool,' but it just means it’s different somehow," Evan said. "I mean, I guess the evidence has to be presented that it actually is what they say it is on the tin."

Steinitz says confusion about the health benefits of organics stems from comparing the amount of nutrients in specific foods. She says two apples, one organic, one not, may have similar nutrient content, but that’s not the whole story.

“We need to look at farm workers exposure to pesticides, the pesticides going into the groundwater or elsewhere in the environment, treatment of animals. It’s not just comparing two apples side by side, it’s looking at the whole picture and I think it’s real important to remember that our health doesn’t end where our skin ends. Our health is in our environment too,” Steinitz said.

According to the USDA, sales of organic foods in the U.S. reached $35 billion in 2012.