If you saw my TED talk from a couple of years ago you know that I basically blame the 'Grocery Store' for creating the monstrous agriculture system in this country that's devastated our rural economies.
So I was super joyful to see Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods as a huge step forward for American Small Diversified Farmers because this is going to drive Grocery Shopping Online.
Why? Because of a phenomenon known as The Long Tail.
The Long Tail is an internet phenomenon coined by Chris Anderson about a decade ago and described as:
"The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail."
If you put this in the context of recorded music it's pretty easy to understand. There used to be these things called record stores. They historically were small urban discovery zones and then morphed into record superstores like Best Buy and Virgin Megastores....If you wanted to buy a song, you had to hop in your car and visit one of these. The issue was that they 'Curated' what music you listened to. Even with a giant selections, they could only house a couple thousand songs.
Along comes iTunes and suddenly this entire model is disrupted and we all have millions of songs at our fingertips. This has been terrible for the mega stores, but amazing for consumers.
The other huge beneficiary has been musicians. Think about it....in the olden days (15 years ago) if you were a musician trying to make a living you either became a mega star or you starved. If you weren't big you were starving. There was no middle ground....no room for a musician who perhaps only made a decent living...
My 20-something kids now listen and attend concerts around the country by bands that most people have never heard of; Twiddle, Jill Andrews, Walk on the Moon, Future & The Wood Brothers.
All of these bands wouldn't have professional careers if customers weren't listening and paying for their songs online. That's the long tail. I would be suprised if all of these acts are bringing in revenue in the low millions (another great internet band)
What does this have with food and farming?
Everything. Grocery shopping is the last area of retail that is moving online and you are going to see the exact same opportunities for small producers for a bunch of reasons....
- I'm no longer tied to a store so I'll have unlimited choice. I can buy my soap from Dove, and still buy my meat from Tyner Pond Farm.
- There is no such thing as a LIST. Think about it. If you were going to the grocery store you only want to make one trip. If you are online you buy as you need it. Run out of Catsup? You order Catsup now. You're not going to wait until Saturday when you have a bunch of other stuff...that behavior is over. Every purchase will be one off and come from the vendors you choose....and I'm guessing most people are going to want to choose the best quality locally sourced products they can afford.
And I'm celebrating.
Have you been overwhelmed at the grocery store while selecting meat and produce? I sure have! What do all of the labels and terms mean? Are they true? Have they been verified or is it the agricultural equivalent of “greenwashing” marketing terms?
It can be confusing. Clear standards are essential to ensuring consumer confidence in the agricultural market for things like “grass-fed” and “organic”. We’ll help you decode some of these labels and definitions.
Industrial animal farms rely on corn and soy as a cheap source of protein-rich feed. However, cows’ stomachs were built to digest grasses and other forage. Therefore, when these animals are fed a grain heavy diet, they often have digestive problems, poor liver health, and can get more sick more often. Grass-fed animals eat grass from weaning to slaughter and therefore, they should not eat grain, animal byproducts, or synthetic hormones. Because grass-fed cows are eating what the stomachs of cows were intended to eat, they have a tendency to be healthier and require less (if any) antibiotics to prevent disease.
In general, pasturing is a traditional farming technique where animals are raised outdoors in a humane, ecologically sustainable manner and eat foods that nature intended them to eat rather than being fattened on a feedlot or in a confined facility. There is no agency that certifies and approves the use of this term.
In order to be labeled “organic”, a product, its producer, and the farm where the ingredients come from must meet the USDA’s organic standards and must be certified by a USDA-approved food-certifying agency. Organic foods cannot be grown using synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, or sewage sludge, cannot be genetically modified, and cannot be irradiated. Organic meat and poultry must be fed only organically-grown feed (without any animal byproducts) and cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics. Ruminants (cows) must have access to pasture but don’t actually have to go outdoors.
Learn more about new rules approved in January 2017 and Tyner Pond Farm’s approach here.
The “natural” label on meat and poultry does not validate anything about how the animal was raised or the food and additives that it was fed however “natural” should mean that the meat does not have any added artificial flavoring, color ingredients, chemical preservatives, or artificial or synthetic ingredients, and should be only “minimally processed” as defined by the USDA.
“No Added Hormones”
By law, hogs and poultry cannot be given growth hormones — so the use of the label on these meats is just marketing. To ensure that other meats were raised without added hormones, ask your farmer or butcher.
Antibiotic-free is not a label that is approved by the USDA. Typically, this label means that the animal has not received antibiotics seven to fourteen days before slaughter.
“Cage Free” (Chickens)
Chickens marked cage-free have the ability to roam freely. Cage free chickens differ from free-range chickens as they are still in an enclosed area, typically a grow house, barn, or shed.
Free-range does not guarantee that a chicken is also grown organically or is freely foraging for food. A number of free-range chickens are raised in grow houses with both limited and unlimted access to the outdoors. SustainableTable.org, a not-for-profit that promotes and provides education for sustainable agriculture, suggests looking for chicken that is both free-range and organic, and suggests looking for a label that says “Pastured” or “Pasture-raised” if you want to buy eggs or poultry that were raised outdoors.
If this is still overwhelming, Tyner Pond Fond suggests keeping it simple! Try buying meat from a local, sustainable farm so that you know where your food is coming from and how it was raised. All Tyner Pond Farm meat is grass-fed, pasture-raised, free-range, antibiotic-free, and natural.