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Organics and natural foods

Caramie Schnell

Organic foods have increased in popularity over the years, according to Dan Sims, natural foods category manager for King Soopers and City Market stores.He says that it’s one of the fastest growing categories in the grocery department, and unlike the low-carb craze of last year, it’s a trend they expect will far outlast the usual fads.”I think people would be surprised: in many cases (natural food) is less expensive than non-natural foods,” Sims says. “A lot of these natural food companies do not advertise on TV or have huge marketing campaigns so they don’t have the huge media expenses. Therefore they save on their overhead and they’re able to offer their products at reasonable prices. Cereal is a good example for the most part, you can buy natural cereal for cheaper than you can most of the big brands.”Sims says that the natural foods selection at a given store is based on demographics, size and location of the store. The Vail City Market, for example, carries a much bigger selection than a lot of their other stores.Eating organic and natural foods may be an important part of staying healthy, says Dr. Wagner Schorr of Colorado Mountain Medical.”The biggest thing for organic meat and dairy is that there are no antibiotics used,” he says. “A lot of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria we run into, we can trace back to chronic low-level antibiotics in food production. To me that’s the main reason to eat organic. Where we’re going to end up with most of the ‘super-bugs’ is the use of those low-level antibiotics in the feed lots.”At the Village Market in Edwards, Produce Manager David Rentria has seen an 80 percent increase in the movement of organic produce over the past six years that he’s worked there.”We’re even thinking of extending our organic section again, so I can get more space so we can carry more. The prices are actually pretty competitive with the conventional produce. Produce always changes prices, but I would say it’s only a couple of bucks more for a case (of organic produce).”Rentria says that he has at least 15 customers who buy strictly organic products. He also has customers who come in and tell him that the Village Market is the only store in the valley who carry some organic products.”I have people driving from Vail and the other side, Eagle, just because of our organic selection.”An all-organic foods store in Edwards, Freshies, has maintained steady business for several years.The Organic Trade Association (OTA) estimates the organic food industry to be about $15 billion this year, with sales expected to reach more than $30 billion over the next five years. In 2003 the U.S. organic industry grew by 20 percent, according to the OTA, while the conventional food industry expanded two percent.Eagle-Vail resident Caroline Haines started eating organically back when she was a student at University of Colorado at Boulder. As she explains, it happened innocently enough. Alfalfa’s was located very close to the campus and that convenience, combined with a more appealing shopping environment in general, led Haines to start buying her groceries there. As she began purchasing organic products, her eyes and ears were opened to what the term really meant. Her sister lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., a town that is bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables grown at local organic farms. When Haines was exposed to one of the large-scale agricultural operations further outside of town, she was horrified.”At the conventional sites, there are large, (like the size of a bedroom) barrels of liquid placed around the fields,” Haines remembers. “When I asked what they were, the answer was pesticides and herbicides. It was pretty shocking to see. Also I remember one instance in which I saw an organic field being tilled next to a conventional field: the organic dirt was black, rich with organic matter and looked like the pictures of fields from childhood story books. In contrast, the conventional field was a dullish-gray color. It looked dead. Guess what? It was!”Haines has made the decision to feed her family, which includes her husband Danny and their two-year-old son Christopher, only organic foods. To her, her family’s health is more important than the added expense.”When I go to the market I see that organic bananas are 99 cents a pound and conventional are 49 cents a pound, but I view the extra cost in many ways: contribution to the environment, reduced short-term and long-term health care costs for me and my family, and the idea of supporting a practice and industry that I can feel proud about.” VT


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