While conventional food products are still dominating American market, the phrase “healthy eating” is gradually gaining popularity. To supplement this new trendy belief, a wave of organic products is sweeping across this nation’s grocery stores. But do people really realize the differences between conventional and organic products as they mound their shopping carts? Do they know that the main differences between the two categories of foods actually lie in their processing procedures, advertising strategies, and product ingredients?
When people look at an organic product, the first thing they are most likely to notice is its cost. Which, under normal circumstances, is remarkably higher than average products. Since people have the misconception that the word “organic” on food labels means “all natural,” they accepted this phenomenon as a necessary price to pay for a healthy life, but it merely indicates that the product is minimally processed and is preservative free. The true reason behind the intimidating price of organic product is because organic production prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides as well as genetic manipulation of plants. These standards require greater labor input from organic farmers to provide a purer product, and at the same time help to protect our environment.
People expect a “fair price” for conventional foods, because they are well informed of its manufacturing process. Modern machinery allows factories to undergo mass-production, thus little manual labor is required. This not only leads to increments in the yield, but also lowers the overall cost of production. Though the reasonable price of conventional products is beneficial to one’s budget, chemical preservatives are used during the manufacturing process. Conventional cropping practices may also include a combination fungicide/insecticide treatment to protect the seed from soil diseases and insects, which poses potential harm to our health and environment.
Since the prices of organic products are far from alluring, and at the same time tend to have less variety, organic producers advertise their products by their nutritional appeals. Ostentatious statements such as “good for life”, or “nature’s best” are printed unsparingly on the packages; accompanied by idealized pictures of nature. TV commercials for organic products are rarely seen; if people happen to see one, they will find themselves viewing a beautiful field of crops or a lively farm with cows mooing and chickens cackling. A middle-aged man in agrarian overalls will then come along to accentuate the freshness of their products with earnest.
The popular demand for conventional food generates large profit for conventional food producers, which enables them to innovate more varieties of products and to advertise their products more efficiently on TV commercials. The majority of these commercials take place away from rural settings; they are either in a nice house, a fancy restaurant, or some imaginary land. While the well-dressed actors and actresses are feasting on the food products, a confident male voice will pop up in the background to announce that their products are better than those of others. Other than well-animated TV commercials, imagery also plays a key role in packaging. The producers wrap their products up in boxes that are covered by bright colors and decorated with popular food icons to attract consumers’ attention. Messages such as “50% more volume” or “free CD inside” can also be found on packages for promotion purposes.
Nutritionists are placing an unprecedented amount of emphasize on organic products, which makes people feel compelled to read the list of ingredients before buying it. That’s when the buyers will be pleasantly surprised to discover that they can actually understand the list. For instance, the ingredients of organic milk are simply: certified organic grade A milk, and Vitamin D3. This unique feature not only helps consumers to identify an organic product, but also provides a sense of security when people consume the product.
When people pick up a conventional product, they glance at it to check for defects, and then toss it into the cart. It is unlikely that anyone is going to read the ingredient list closely. Not only because people are so used to the products they use, that they tend to neglect the details, but also because the ingredient list of a conventional product is nearly meaningless to the consumers. Reading the ingredient list of a processed food is like reading data from a chemistry book; it is incomprehensible and boring. For example, a simple bottle of conventional milk can consist up to four kinds of added chemicals. Therefore, the long list of scientific components does nothing more than bewilders the customers.
Even though organic foods differ from conventional foods in many aspects, study shows that there are no substantial differences between their taste and safety. Buying an organic product is more of an act of protecting the environment than promoting one’s own health. If consumers’ budget allows, they should buy more organic products, because it is a simple way of giving back to the Mother Nature, and help to preserve biological stability on earth.