The dramatic increase in organic food production provides an interesting subject for student researchers. According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, organic food production has increased 240 percent between 2002 and 2011. With numbers like that, health enthusiasts aren’t the only ones who are taking notice. The organic food industry is creating cultural and economic trends that have spurred market analysts to gather data to study the details of this phenomenon. These statistics provide ample data for research papers.
Define Organic Food
There are many debates over which type of foods are considered organic. Consumers become frustrated when food suppliers exploit the term “organic” for marketing purposes. To protect the organic farmer and the consumer from unethical marketing practices, the USDA has established requirements that must be met in order for a food to bear its “Organic Seal.” Define these requirements and explain what practices farmers use to ensure they are met. For instance, farmers must “support animal health and welfare.” The Organic Trade Association explains practices that support this objective, such as animals being fed organic feed and cows grazing on “rich, nutritious grass” for at least one-third their lives.
Explore Why People Buy Organic Food
If you ask a handful of consumers why they buy organic food, their answers may very well be different. The way people interpret the meaning of “organic” varies greatly, as do the reasons consumers purchase organic food. What determines whether a person will, or will not, buy organic food? Explore the motivations, perceptions and attitudes of organic food buyers. Factors could include marketing trends that influence consumers or access to information provided by special interest groups or health care providers. Discuss the effects demographics have on organic food purchases. For example, do people of a certain age buy organic food more frequently than others? Do college-educated, white-collar consumers tend to buy organic food more than their blue-collar counterparts? Do city dwellers buy more organic food than people living in rural areas?
Examine the Health Benefits of Organic Food
Is organic food healthier than non-organic food? A research paper can explore the reality of this claim. Include data that supports or challenges the assertion that organic food is better for the consumer’s health because it has a higher nutritional value and fewer toxic chemicals. Cite studies that conclude that organic foods provide higher levels of nutrients such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, as well as provide a higher level of antioxidant activity than their non-organic counterparts. Report how these factors will benefit the public health by connecting them to a reduction in ill health effects.
Explore the Economic Effects of Organic Food
A report issued by the Organic Trade Association says organic farming is good for the economy. Explore the various jobs created by the organic agricultural industry. The production and distribution of organic food requires more farm labor than conventional methods of farming. It also creates the need for small local markets and subsequently, employees to work in them. Organic agriculture has also created the need for an industry to be responsible for the certification of organic food. Define these new jobs and markets and report on their effect on the economy.
- Agricultural Marketing Resource Center
- Journal of Consumer Behavior: Who Are Organic Food Consumers? A Compilation and Review of Why People Purchase Organic Food
- Organic Trade Association: Organic Foods Industry Creates More than a Half Million Jobs
- National Institutes of Health: Organic Foods Contain Higher Levels of Certain nutrients, lower levels of Pesticides, and May Provide Health Benefits for the Consumer
- USDA: America’s Organic Farmers Face Issues and Opportunities
- USDA: Organic Agriculture
- Organic Trade Association: Animal Health and Welfare
About the Author
Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.