Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Translator: Mercia Costa Reviewer: Denise RQ

  • I've invested a lot of my own money into organic and sustainable farming,

  • and to converting American farmland to organic,

  • and I'm here to dispel some misperceptions about organic food.

  • There is this prevailing notion

  • that organic farming is more expensive and less sufficient, right?

  • And that we need industrial agriculture and factory farms to feed the world.

  • "Feed the world."

  • Well, I'm here to dissect some of the assumptions behind that logic,

  • and to share some information that leads to a very different conclusion.

  • We all know organic food is expensive.

  • This is a fact.

  • And it's logical to therefore assume that it's for the 1%, the foodie elites,

  • the rich people, not for ordinary people.

  • Well, that's actually not correct logic, and I will show why in a second.

  • It also leads us to assume that if organic food is expensive,

  • organic farming must be more expensive, which then leads to wonder,

  • surely, it can't feed the world,

  • and back to concluding that it's only for the 1%.

  • Well, those assumptions actually are wrong as well.

  • The idea that organic food is only for the rich,

  • only for the 1% is a powerful one,

  • with huge implications on both business and policy.

  • And we need both business innovation

  • and policy change in this country to support organic.

  • Think about it, if you are a business person or a politician,

  • the way to be successful is to come up with products or policies

  • that cater not to the 1% but to ordinary Americans.

  • And so we need businessmen and policy makers to recognize

  • that organic food is not just for the 1%,

  • it's for everybody, it's for ordinary Americans.

  • And the first step in that change is to change that perception.

  • So, who is buying this expensive organic food?

  • Who in America is buying it?

  • According to Nielsen and NMI research,

  • three out of every four Americans have consciously chosen

  • to buy organic food in the past year.

  • Some of them might have only bought a single organic product,

  • but there is a subset that there are the so-called devoted organic shoppers,

  • that represent the vast majority of all organic food consumption in this country.

  • These so-called foodies are not 1%,

  • they are 25%, one out of every four Americans.

  • Now let's look at these elite foodies.

  • What does the elite foodie look like?

  • Two out of five of them have an annual household income

  • of less than 50,000 dollars.

  • One out of five has an annual household income

  • of less than 30,000 dollars.

  • These elite people are about 20% people of color,

  • and another 15% Hispanic.

  • Six out of ten of them shop at Walmart.

  • How does that profile compare to the general U.S. population?

  • It's exactly the same.

  • The general U.S. population is about two out of five income less than 50K,

  • one out of five income less than 30K.

  • About 20% people of color, 15% Hispanic, and about six out of ten shop at Walmart.

  • In every respect,

  • the foodie elite who are buying organic are the average ordinary American.

  • And it's one out of four Americans,

  • and they're already buying organic in spite of how expensive it is.

  • Just imagine how many more Americans would be buying organic food

  • if it wasn't so damn expensive.

  • Well, we actually know some of the answers to that.

  • Walmart asked its consumers

  • and found that 91% of them would be buying organic.

  • So, why is organic food so darn expensive?

  • It must be because organic farming is more expensive, right?

  • Not true; organic farming actually saves a ton of money

  • on a lot of very expensive inputs.

  • Fossil fuel is expensive.

  • Fertilizers are incredibly expensive.

  • The chemicals, the antibiotics that are used by factory farms.

  • These things are very expensive.

  • Not just their externalized costs,

  • but their actual dollar costs are very high.

  • Well, so maybe organic farming saves money but perhaps it produces less food.

  • That's not necessarily true either.

  • This is not a blanket statement, it varies by crop and region,

  • but there are lot of ways in which, when done right,

  • organic sustainable farming can produce more food.

  • One part of that is crop and livestock rotations,

  • so that nutrients are recycled into the soil.

  • Growing multiple crops at the same time, increasing the revenue of the land.

  • Exploiting natural synergies.

  • One of my favorites examples of this is sheep and asparagus.

  • Sheep love to graze but they do not like the taste of asparagus.

  • And so, when the asparagus farmer has a weed problem,

  • rather than spending a lot of money

  • buying a chemical herbicide to spray in the fields,

  • they can invite in a sheep farmer.

  • The sheep will clear the weeds.

  • The sheep farmer gets free pasture for his or her animals,

  • and the asparagus farmer gets free weed control.

  • And, the sheep add fertility to the soil.

  • You must be thinking: "Well, great,

  • but industrial agriculture, for all of its ills,

  • surely at least the one thing it has is that it's more efficient, right?"

  • I would say that it has the illusion of efficiency,

  • and it's a short-lived one.

  • For example, think about the topsoil.

  • America's topsoil,

  • perhaps the single, greatest national treasure this country possesses,

  • this rich topsoil, is like a bank account that we're drawing on every year.

  • Withdrawing money and not putting it back in.

  • That's not efficient.

  • It's inefficient and unsustainable.

  • Similarly, the way we treat nutrients.

  • Nutrients are supposed to come from the soil,

  • go through the body of a plant, into the body of an animal,

  • and back into the soil.

  • We all learned that in high school.

  • And that's not how the vast majority of North American agriculture works today.

  • Instead, we're mining minerals in Morroco, shipping them across the Atlantic,

  • spraying them on the fields,

  • only to have them wash off into the waterways,

  • and end up in dead zones, and places like the Gulf of Mexico.

  • That's not efficient, it's incredibly wasteful.

  • Not just ecologically, but economically.

  • Similarly, what I said earlier about fossil fuels,

  • antibiotics to feed the factory farm animals.

  • And all of this to increase the yield of corn and soy.

  • Crops that humans don't even actually eat.

  • We're maximizing the yield per acre of corn and soy,

  • yet the vast majority of American farmland does not feed humans.

  • It's either used to create ethanol or to feed livestock.

  • About less than 10% of the corn crop in this country

  • actually goes to feed humans.

  • This is the system that is supposed to feed the world?

  • Well, it's actually not feeding the world today.

  • If you measure, the right way to measure productivity in agriculture

  • is not the yield of corn per acre or soy per acre,

  • but the yield of human food per acre.

  • And when you measure how much human food is produced per acre,

  • America is not a leader.

  • We're not even average.

  • We're behind the world average,

  • and we're behind countries like India and China,

  • that are making a much better job of feeding the world population than we are.

  • So, if you were smart, you would realize what's really behind that status

  • is the fact that these other countries consume less meat that America does.

  • And, so, who is going to produce all the increasing appetite for pork in China,

  • And surely, American industrial agriculture and factory farms

  • are going to step forward to supply all the meat.

  • Well, I'm not sure that's true either.

  • The leading exporter of pork in the world today is Denmark.

  • Denmark is a country that has for many years banned

  • the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock.

  • One of the most disgusting and reckless practices of American factory farms

  • has been banned in Denmark,

  • yet Denmark has continued to maintain high yields and low prices for their pork,

  • and is the number one exporter of pork to places like China.

  • Ironically, China has recently banned pork imports

  • from several U.S. pork producers because of the use of antibiotics.

  • The real question though is:

  • What's the most efficient way to produce food

  • if people are going to eat more meat?

  • Well, if you look at one acre of corn,

  • it can produce about enough corn to feed one head of cattle.

  • This is an approximation, this is not very exact math.

  • That same acre-I wouldn't advocate planting organic corn to feed the cattle -

  • that same acre can produce about enough grass to feed one head of cattle.

  • Now, it's not an exact math.

  • I'm approximating,

  • and there is a lot of other things that change the equation.

  • Corn is a more efficient crop in a lot of ways.

  • It's a wonderful crop, it allows for a lot more control,

  • it has less seasonality,

  • but it also has a lot of other costs on the balance sheet.

  • At the end of the day, it's not a slam dunk

  • that industrial agriculture is more efficient, even for producing meat.

  • Now, the truly more efficient way to feed humans is to use that land