How organic is your organic food really

How organic is your organic food really

The market for organic food is a profitable one, growing double digit. Nowadays, organic food is available almost everywhere, including at supermarkets, hypermarkets and discounters. While this is definitely a positive development because it increases the accessibility of organic food and peoples' awareness for this kind of food, we should be very clear about the differences between organic produced in and for the masses and small-scale organic food from a local farm - and about the risk that the "industrial" organic might eventually "kill" the "real" organic.

The following table summarizes some of the key differences, without any aspiration to be complete or 100% correct. It is on purpose presented in a rather black-and-white fashion to demonstrate the major differences. There might be cases where this classification does not apply.


Industrial organic

Small-scale organic

Available in big supermarkets, hypermarkets, discounters, but could also happen at some bio shops or markets if they source their food from wholesalers.

Available directly from the farm, on farmers’ markets, through farmers’ cooperatives, in certain bio shops. 

Produced by (relatively) large farms that have a contract with the supermarket or food companies.

Produced by small-scale farmers.

Is produced with profit in mind. 

Is produced with a philosophy in mind

 Pressure on prices (and thus risk of compromised quality / cheating). Farmers often underpaid

  Farmers receive a fair renumeration.

Monocultures possible

No monocultures

Animals are (often) still exploited and live only somewhat better than conventional ones.

Animals are (usually) treated with respect and fed/held according to their natural needs (although there are still huge differences in the approaches)

Animals are (usually) grain-/soyfed.

Animals are (at least partially) grazing on grass/pasture.

Produce can come from far away and waste a lot of resources for transportation and packaging.

Produce usually comes from close by and is only minimally packaged.

All produce is available all year round (imports).

Only seasonal produce is sold.

 Produce is selected on basis of "cosmetic" criteria (size, beauty...) and a lot of food is wasted.

 Also less beautiful produce is sold.

Minimum organic standards (often pushed to the max into the grey area)

Often higher than “necessary” standards.


The following table shows the differences per bio-label in Germany: 

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