Organic Consumers Confused over Food Safety

US - Not all consumers of organic poultry understand food safety issues, warn University of Arkansas researchers.
calendar icon 9 December 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

In their paper in the Journal of Applied Poultry Research, P.G. Crandall of the University of Arkansas and co-authors explain that organic and all-natural foods have become an alternative in most mainstream retail food outlets. Organic foods, although only three per cent of total retail food sales, account for an estimated $17 billion in sales in the United States, and this category has been growing at a rate seven times faster than the average food category, maintaining a sustained growth rate of more than 15 per cent per year.

Organic meat is the fastest growing sector of the organic market, and organic poultry is considered to be a gateway food, drawing in consumers who are just beginning to purchase organic foods.

The researchers say that current organic consumers are a bimodal population consisting of one group in their twenties and a second composed of aging baby boomers. The income distribution is also bimodal, with young parents re-budgeting to pay the higher prices for organic foods at one extreme and older Caucasian families with household incomes in excess of $80,000 at the other.

African Americans, Hispanic Americans and persons with personal or family health issues are more interested in purchasing organic foods than members of the general population.

Organic food consumers have traditionally insisted the foods they purchase be raised by local farmers with a strong respect for the environment and, as is the current organic standard, to be free from growth hormones and synthetic chemicals.

One of the principal beliefs is that organic foods are safer than conventional foods. Many consumers base this belief in the safety of organic foods on the prohibition of pesticides and chemicals in raising the organic food. However, their understanding of the risks from pathogenic microorganisms on organic foods is not clear.

Crandall and co-authors say that researchers have documented many common consumer food safety errors in handling conventional poultry. Whether organic poultry has similar food safety issues has yet to be determined.


Crandall P.G., S. Seideman, S.C. Ricke, C.A. O'Bryan, A.F. Fanatico and R. Rainey. 2009. Organic poultry: Consumer perceptions, opportunities, and regulatory issues. Journal of Applied Poultry Research, 18: 795-802. doi:10.3382/japr.2009-00025.

Further Reading

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