Chris Ashworth, chair of the Animal Agriculture Alliance and technical service veterinarian for Elanco Animal Health, wants you to believe they are, if we are to trust a story in the West Central Tribune.
Tribune staff reporter Gretchen Schlosser reports in Animal science conference wrangles with food production challenges, opportunities:
Ashworth cited a white paper prepared by Elanco president Jeff Simmons, including that by 2050 the expected 9 billion in the world will require 100 percent more food, with 70 percent of that food coming from efficiency-improving technology.
A pdf of Simmons' white paper, Making safe, affordable and abundant food a global reality, is available online at the link. There's much to chew on in the report, although other sources suggest that technology alone will not bridge the gap.
Schlosser reports that Ashworth believes that the media inflates consumer desire for local and organic food, creating "perceived issues" in the "developed world" . . . "with technology, especially how technological advancements relate to the production of their food."
A international consumer survey conducted by The Nielsen Company in 2010, Ashworth claims, paints a far different picture:
An international consumer survey conducted by The Nielsen Company in 2010, reviewing 28 studies from 26 countries involving 97,000 consumers, shows a much different picture, with 95 percent of consumers choosing food products from modern, conventional agriculture with taste, cost and nutrition as their leading concerns.
In contrast, only 4 percent are “lifestyle” buyers who pursue luxury or gourmet products and organic and local foods. The study identified the remaining buyers as “fringe” buyers supporting food bans, propositions and restrictions.
“We cannot let a small fringe speak for the rest of us,” Ashworth said. “It is really important that you and I have choices in food.”
Ashworth used an interesting statistic to illustrate his point: there are about 350 Whole Foods stores in the country, gaining significant press coverage and social media buzz for marketing organic foods. In contrast, there are 21,000 Dollar General stores in the nation, not getting much press at all, but the company is the second highest seller of gallon containers of milk in the country.
Take that, dirty hippies. We certainly can't have minority dictating choices.
Unfortunately, the study itself, reported in Simmons' white paper, doesn't say that only four percent of food buyers purchase organic and local foods. What it does say:
Research shows that the two groups tend to overlap in many areas, depending on personal tastes and preferences. In other words, these are not distinct market segments. In 2010, 75 percent of traditional food buyers in the United States also routinely bought organic foods, even if they cost more. Barcode scanner data prove this, just as they show that no U.S. consumers purchase only organic products. Similarly, many “locavores” regularly purchase products that can’t be grown in their local climate, such as the bananas and coffee beans enjoyed by citizens in the EU.
Thus, while the study created a category of elite "Lifestyle Buyers," painting this group as the elite club that grabs media attention for organic and local foods, as Ashworth does, distorts actual buying patterns, wherein three-quarters of the population routinely organic foods. Fringy weirdos all, we're sure.
As far as those Dollar General stores, Bluestem thinks that they most have had explosive growth in 2013, since the Star Tribune's Janet Moore reported in January 2012's The rising value of the dollar store:
. . .Dollar General recently announced that it would open 625 more stores this year -- almost two a day -- across the country with "some" in Minnesota, said Tawn Earnest, spokeswoman for the Tennessee-based chain. She declined to be more specific. Although it is the largest chain nationally with more than 9,800 stores, Dollar General only has 16 stores in Minnesota, many of them outstate. . ..
That's nearly 10,000 new stores in 2013 to reach Ashworth's figure of 20,000 Dollar General, and we're only in the beginning of October. Alas: a trip to Dollar General's Investors' Relations page claims that the chains counts over 10,700 stores.
Maybe Ashworth means all dollar stores in all chains. Huffington Post Business reported in late August that the industry is closing in on 25,000 stores.
A Nexis All-News search for "Dollar General" in the last month fetched 1579 hits, while Whole Foods Market fetched up 1005 hits, so Ashworth must not get out much if he only sees media about Whole Foods.
Perhaps he can pick up a gallon of milk at a Dollar General on the way back to the airport and tweet a selfie holding the jug to help the cause.
Photo: Dr. Chris Ashworth
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