Natural & Organic Food
In the past, farms that produced Natural and Organic Foods were fairly small and run by individual families. This aspect contributed to why most Natural and Organic Foods were only available in farmers' markets and smaller sized stores. Over the past few years the United States has benefited from an approximate twenty percent increase in sales of Natural and Organic Foods as they are much more readily available in national chain stores. With the sale of conventional foods only growing approximately two percent each year, many new companies are entering the lucrative market of Natural and Organic Foods.
Although the practices of Organic Food and farming production are far from uniform, recent studies have shown that Organic Food farming does not release any measurable amount of artificial pesticide or similar chemicals into the ecosystem. These chemicals have been acknowledged to cause considerable damage to both the local flora and fauna. The reaction by consumers towards Organic Food has been very powerful and although in developing countries the lack of availability and higher prices have stunted its progress, that is not the case in developed nations.
Unprocessed Natural and Organic Foods, mostly fruits and vegetables, are generally bought directly from growers, from on-farm stands, through specialty food stores and community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects, as well as farmers' markets directly. Organic animal foods such as eggs, dairy, and meat are not as readily available as unprocessed or fresh. The Natural and Organic Food production chain is still not anywhere near as advanced or as all-encompassing as the conventional food channel.
Organic eggs in Australia, for instance, must not be from battery chickens, but rather free-range hens. Drugs, such as steroids and/or antibiotics as well as growth hormones must also be completely absent from the animals' system in order to be classified properly within the market of Natural and Organic Foods. It is interesting to note that Australia is acknowledged to have the strictest Natural and Organic Food standards in the world.
Both conventional and Natural and Organic Food versions of products are often available inside a supermarket, although conventional products are often considerably less expensive. Products such as canned goods, prepared dishes, frozen vegetables, as well as other foods of convenience, are generally produced by large conglomerate corporations which hold semi-monopolies over the shelf space of major national chain supermarkets. Unfortunately much of that shelf space is dedicated to conventional foods and not to Natural and Organic Foods.
At the beginning of Natural and Organic Food marketing, the products available were primarily fresh vegetables. The first consumers to take notice of these Natural and Organic Foods would look for products that were minimally processed, fresh, and free from chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. At the time it was important to know where to find such products as the mainstream markets would not carry them. Most of this trade was carried out directly with the growers either at the farm door or through their presence at farmers' markets and fresh produce stands.