Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Local versus organic: A turn in consumer preferences and willingness-to-pay

  • Damian C. Adams (a1) and Matthew J. Salois (a2)

Abstract

Demand for local food in the US has significantly increased over the past decade. In an attempt to understand the drivers of this demand and how they have changed over time, we investigate the literature on organic and local foods over the past few decades. We focus our review on studies that allow comparison of characteristics now associated with both local and organic food. We summarize the major findings of these studies and their implications for understanding drivers of local food demand. Prior to the late 1990s, most studies failed to consider factors now associated with local food, and the few that included these factors found very little support for them. In many cases, the lines between local and organic were blurred. Coincident with the development of federal organic food standards, studies began to find comparatively more support for local food as distinct and separate from organic food. Our review uncovers a distinct turn in the demand for local and organic food. Before the federal organic standards, organic food was linked to small farms, animal welfare, deep sustainability, community support and many other factors that are not associated with most organic foods today. Based on our review, we argue that demand for local food arose largely in response to corporate co-optation of the organic food market and the arrival of ‘organic lite’. This important shift in consumer preferences away from organic and toward local food has broad implications for the environment and society. If these patterns of consumer preferences prove to be sustainable, producers, activists and others should be aware of the implications that these trends have for the food system at large.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: damian.adams@okstate.edu

References

Hide All
1Pollan, M. 2006. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin, New York, NY.
2Kingsolver, B., Hopp, S.L., and Kingsolver, C. 2007. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating. HarperCollins, New York, NY.
3Thilmany, D., Bond, C.A., and Bond, J.K. 2008. Going local: exploring consumer behavior and motivations for direct food purchases. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90(5):13031309.
4USDA-AMS. 2008a. Number of farmers markets continues to rise in U.S. Available at Web site http://www.ams.usda.gov/ (verified May 12, 2009).
5Crossroads Resource Center. 2009. Direct farm sales rising dramatically, New Agriculture Census Data Show. Press Release, 2 February. Available at Web site http://www.crcworks.org/ (verified May 12, 2009).
6LocalHarvest. 2009. Community supported agriculture. Available at Web site http://localharvest.org/csa/ (verified August 14, 2009).
7Brown, C. and Miller, S. 2008. The impacts of local markets: a review of research on farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA). American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90(5):12961302.
8Tropp, D. 2008b. Emerging opportunities for local food in U.S. consumer markets. USDA-AMS. Available at Web site http://www.ams.usda.gov/ (verified May 12, 2009).
9Tropp, D. 2008a. The growing role of local food markets: discussion. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90(5):13101311.
10Guptill, A. and Wilkins, J.L. 2002. Buying into the food system: trends in food retailing in the US and implications for local foods. Agriculture and Human Values 19:3951.
11Adams, D.C. and Adams, A.E. 2009. De-placing local: consumers' attitudes, experiences, and impressions of local foods. Unpublished manuscript.
12USDA-AMS. 2008b. Value through verification: USDA National Organic Program. Available at Web site http://www.ams.usda.gov/ (verified May 12, 2009).
13Guthman, J. 2004b. Back to the land: the paradox of organic food standards. Environment and Planning A 36:511528.
14Buck, D., Getz, C., and Guthman, J. 1997. From farm to table: the organic vegetable commodity chain in northern California. Sociologia Ruralis 37(1):320.
15Organic Trade Association. 2007. Manufacturer survey: Executive summary. Available at Web site http://www.ota.com (verified May 12, 2009).
16Tovey, H. 1997. Food, environmentalism and rural sociology: on the organic farming movement in Ireland. Sociologia Ruralis 37(1):2137.
17Hart, J. 2006. Beyond organic. Utne Reader 133:7071.
18Hightower, J. 2003. Voices. Earth Island Journal 18(3):48.
19Guthman, J. 2004a. The trouble with ‘organic lite’ in California: a rejoinder to the ‘conventionalisation’ debate. Sociologia Ruralis 44(3):301316.
20Constance, D.H., Choi, J.Y., and Lyke-Ho-Gland, H. 2008. Certified and non-certified organic farmers in Texas. Southern Rural Sociology 23(1):208234.
21Sligh, M. and Christman, C. 2003. Who Owns Organic? The Global Status, Prospects and Challenges of a Changing Organic Market. Rural Advancement Foundation International USA, Pittsboro, NC. Available at Web site http://www.rafiusa.org/pubs/OrganicReport.pdf (verified December 10, 2008).
22Howard, P.H. and Allen, P. 2006. Beyond organic: consumer interest in new labeling schemes in the central coast of California. International Journal of Consumer Studies 30:439451.
23Guthman, J. 2003. Fast food/organic food: reflexive tastes and the making of ‘yuppie chow’. Social and Cultural Geography 4(1):4558.
24Feenstra, G.W. 1997. Local food systems and sustainable communities. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 12:2836.
25Hightower, J. 1973. Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times. Schenkman, Cambridge, MA.
26Hightower, J. 1975. Eat Your Heart Out: Food Profiteering in America. Crown Publishers, New York, NY.
27Berry, W. 1977. The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. Avon, New York, NY.
28Gussow, J. 1978. The Feeding Web: Issues in Nutritional Ecology. Bull Publications, Palo Alto, CA.
29Gussow, J. 2001. This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, VT.
30Kneen, B. 1993. From Land to Mouth: Understanding the Food System. NC Press Ltd, Toronto.
31Allen, P. and Sachs, C. 1991. What do we want to sustain? Developing a comprehensive vision of sustainable agriculture. Issue Paper 2. The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, University of California, Santa Cruz.
32USDA-ERS. 2009. Table 2, U.S. certified organic farmland acreage, livestock numbers, and farm operations. Available at Web site http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/Organic (verified September 25, 2009).
33Congressional Research Service. 2008. Organic agriculture in the United States: Program and policy issues. Available at Web site http://www.fas.org/ (verified May 12, 2009).
34Morgan, K., Marsden, T., and Murdoch, J. 2006. California: the parallel worlds of rival agri-food paradigms. In Morgan, K., Marsden, T., and Murdoch, J. (eds). Worlds of Food: Place, Power, and Provenance in the Food Chain. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. p. 109142.
35Delind, L.B. 2000. Transforming organic agriculture into industrial organic products: Reconsidering the national organic standards. Human Organization 59(2):198208.
36Clunies-Ross, T. and Cox, G. 1994. Challenging the productivist paradigm: organic farming and the politics of agricultural change. In Lowe, P., Marsden, T., and Whatmore, S. (eds). Regulating Agriculture. David Fulton Publishers, London, UK. p. 5374.
37Smith, E. and Marsden, T. 2004. Exploring the ‘limits to growth’ in UK organics: beyond the statistical image. Journal of Rural Studies 20:345357.
38Lockie, S., Lyons, K., and Lawrence, G. 2000. Constructing ‘green’ foods: corporate capital, risk and organic farming in Australia and New Zealand. Agriculture and Human Values 17:315322.
39Lockie, S. and Halpin, D. 2005. The ‘conventionalization’ thesis reconsidered: structural and ideological transformation of Australian organic agriculture. Sociologia Ruralis 45(4):284307.
40Iles, A. 2005. Learning in sustainable agriculture: food miles and missing objects. Environmental Values 14(2):163183.
41Hamer, E. 2008. Corporate organics. The Ecologist 37(10):3942.
42Buttel, F.H. 1992. Environmentalization: origins, processes, and implications for rural social change. Sociologia Ruralis 57(1):127.
43Kloppenburg, J., Hendrickson, J., and Stevenson, G.W. 1996. Coming in to the foodshed. In Vitek, W. and Jackson, W. (eds). Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. p. 113123.
44Lyson, T. and Guptill, A. 2004. Commodity agriculture, civic agriculture and the future of U.S. farming. Sociologia Ruralis 69(3):370385.
45Krystallis, A. and Chryssohoidis, G. 2005. Consumers' willingness to pay for organic food: factors that affect it and variation per organic product type. British Food Journal 107(4/5):320343.
46Thompson, G.S. 1998. Consumer demand for organic foods: what we know and what we need to know. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 80:11131118.
47Tregear, A., Dent, J.B., and McGregor, M.J. 1994. The demand for organically-grown produce. British Food Journal 96(4):2125.
48Browne, A.W., Harris, P.J.C., Hofny-Collins, A.H., Pasiecznic, N., and Wallace, R.R. 2000. Organic production and ethical trade: definition, practice and links. Food Policy 25(1):6989.
49Hawkes, G.R. and Stiles, M.C. 1986. Attitudes about pesticide safety. California Agriculture 40:1922.
50Sachs, C., Blair, D., and Richter, C. 1987. Consumer pesticide concerns: a 1965 and 1984 comparison. Journal of Consumer Affairs 21(1):96107.
51Goldman, B. and Clancy, K. 1991. A survey of organic produce purchases and related attitudes of food cooperative shoppers. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 6(2):8992.
52Sparling, E., Wilken, K., and McKenzie, J. 1992. Marketing fresh organic produce in Colorado supermarkets. Final Report to the Colorado Department of Agriculture and USDA Federal State Marketing Improvement Program. Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University, Fort Collins.
53Govindasamy, R., Italia, J., and Liptak, C. 1997. Quality of agricultural produce: Consumer preferences and perceptions. P-02137-1-97. New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Rutgers University, New Brunswick.
54Kezis, A.S., King, F.R., Toensmeyer, U., Jack, R., and Kerr, H. 1984. Consumer acceptance and preference for direct marketing in the northeast. Journal of Food Distribution Research 15(3):3846.
55Lockeretz, W. 1986. Urban consumers' attitudes towards locally grown produce. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 1:8388.
56Eastwood, D.B., Brooker, J.R., and Orr, R.H. 1987. Consumer preferences for local versus out-of-state grown selected fresh produce: the case of Knoxville, Tennessee. Southern Journal of Agricultural Economics 19:193194.
57Bruhn, C.M., Vossen, P.M., Chapman, E., and Vaupel, S. 1992. Consumer attitudes toward locally grown produce. California Agriculture 46(4):1316.
58Underhill, S.E. and Figueroa, E.E. 1996. Consumer preferences for non-conventionally grown produce. Journal of Food Distribution Research 27:5666.
59Gallons, J., Toensmeyer, U.C., Bacon, J.R., and German, C.L. 1997. An analysis of consumer characteristics concerning direct marketing of fresh produce in Delaware: a case study. Journal of Food Distribution Research 28(1):98106.
60Zumwalt, B. 2001. Attracting consumers with locally grown products. Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Food Processing Center. Available at Web site http://www.foodmap.unl.edu (verified May 8, 2008).
61Wolf, M.M. 1997. A target consumer profile and positioning for promotion of the direct marketing of fresh produce: a case study. Journal of Food Distribution Research 28:1117.
62Wolf, M.M., Spittler, A., and Ahern, J. 2005. A profile of farmers' market consumers and the perceived advantages of produce sold at farmers' markets. Journal of Food Distribution Research 36(1):192201.
63Kezis, A., Gwebu, T., Peavey, S., and Cheng, H. 1998. A study of consumers at a small farmers' market in Maine: results from a 1995 survey. Journal of Food Distribution Research 29:9198.
64Ross, N.J., Anderson, M.D., Goldberg, J.P., Houser, R., and Rogers, B.L. 1999. Trying and buying locally grown produce at the workplace: results of a marketing intervention. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 14:171179.
65Jekanowski, M.D., Williams, D.R., and Schiek, W.A. 2000. Consumers' willingness to purchase locally produced agricultural products: an analysis of an Indiana survey. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 29(8):4353.
66Loureiro, M.L. and Hine, S. 2002. Discovering niche markets: a comparison of consumer willingness to pay for local (Colorado grown), organic, and GMO-free products. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 34(3):477487.
67Brown, C. 2003. Consumers' preferences for locally produced food: a study in southeast Missouri. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 18:213224.
68Schneider, M.L. and Francis, C.A. 2005. Marketing locally produced foods: consumer and farmer opinions in Washington County, Nebraska. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 20(4):252260.
69Darby, K., Batte, M.T., Ernst, S., and Roe, B. 2008. Decomposing local: a conjoint analysis of locally produced foods. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90(2):476486.
70Toler, S., Briggeman, B.C., Lusk, J.L., and Adams, D.C. 2009. Fairness, farmers markets, and local production. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 91(5):12721278.
71Zepeda, L. and Leviten-Reid, C. 2004. Consumers' views on local food. Journal of Food Distribution Research 35(3):15.
72Hartman Group. 2008. Consumer understanding of buying local. Harbeat 27. Available at Web site http://www.hartman-group.com/hartbeat/2008-02-27 (verified December 9, 2008).
73Giovannucci, D., Barham, E., and Pirog, R. 2010. Defining and marketing ‘local’ foods: Geographical indications for US products. Journal of World Intellectual Property 13(2):94120.
74Ikerd, J. 2008. Reclaiming the heart and soul of organics. Presented at The Organic Summit, Boulder, CO, 25–27 June.
75Dimitri, C., Tegene, A., and Kaufman, P. 2003. U.S. fresh produce markets: Marketing channels, trade practices, and retail pricing behavior. Agricultural Economic Report No. 825. USDA-ERS. Available at Web site http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/aer825/ (verified September 20, 2009).
76Cloud, J. 2007. Forget organic: Eat local. Time, 12 March, p. 4551.
77Thomson, J.S., and Kelvin, R.E. 1996. Suburbanites' perceptions about agriculture. The challenge for media. Journal of Applied Communications 80(3):1020.
78Nichol, L. 2003. Local food production: Some implications for planning. Planning Theory and Practice 4(4):409427.
79Severson, K. 2009. When ‘local’ makes it big. The New York Times, 13 May. Available at Web site http://www.nytimes.com (verified May 14, 2009).
80Horovitz, B. 2009. Frito-Lay pitches its Lay's Potato Chips as locally made. USA Today, 12 May.
81Gambrell, J. 2008. Wal-Mart stores stocking more locally grown produce: It's a way to cut transport costs and reassure customers. The San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 July.
82Norton, F. 2008. Wal-Mart Expo ‘A lot like dating’: World's top retailer dangles a chance for local food vendors to sell to its stores. The News and Observer, 17 April.
83Bodini, A. and Naspetti, S. 2008. Consumer perception of local and organic products: substitution or complementary goods? International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences 3(2):111122.
84Hughner, R.S., McDonagh, P., Prothero, A., Schultz, C.J., and Stanton, J. 2007. Who are organic food consumers? A compilation and review of why people purchase organic food. Journal of Consumer Behaviour 6:117.
85Whole Foods. 2009. Locally grown: The whole foods market promise. Available at Web sitehttp://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/locally-grown/ (verified September 20, 2009).

Keywords

Local versus organic: A turn in consumer preferences and willingness-to-pay

  • Damian C. Adams (a1) and Matthew J. Salois (a2)

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed