"Change is never easy." This simple fact alone keeps decades—heck, even centuries—old traditions in place. Traditions such as this week's upcoming Thanksgiving feast. There's another adage that seemingly should be at odds with change: "progress must be made."
However, depending on which side you stand in the food industry, "change" and "progress" can mean vastly different things.
Take, for example, new research that found organic farming returns roughly $200 per acre more than conventional crops. The 13-year study was conducted by Iowa State University and is one of the longest running replicated comparisons in the country. Rodale Institute's Farming Systems Trial, which also found organic to be more profitable than conventional, has been conducted for 30-plus years.
Profiting through change
These two studies both started by remediating conventional farmland into organic—a tough transition, no doubt, for any farmer who intends to remain in business. Even so, Iowa reports that its Long-Term Agroecological Research Experiment shows that organic crops still remained competitive with conventional crops during the 3-year transition to organic.
"Organic crops fetch a premium price on the market and eliminate the need for expensive inputs like herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. As a result, they are far more profitable than conventional crops," reported Sustainable Food News.
Organic farmers calls this "progress."
Conventional farmers call this "change."
The modern turkey 'tradition'
But ideas about "change" and "progress" don't just stop with crops. Take this mind-blowing story that hit NPR's Marketplace last week. It turns out, 100 percent of the 40 million turkeys Americans will consume this month are the product of artificial insemination.
To feed Americans' appetite for white meat, traditional turkeys were selectively bred beginning in the 1950s to favor a breed with broader breasts. The problem: Now the modern turkey's breasts are so huge it gets in the way of… well, you know. That non-organic turkey on someone's table never got to do the deed. Instead, people do the deed for them, once a week, for five to six months before Thanksgiving to create enough turkeys to feed the population.
Organic farmers call this "change."
Conventional farmers call this "progress."
Is it all just a matter of perspective?
The conventional food industry is short-sighted. Because change is painful, and because progress must be made, it's easier to call pizza a vegetable and artificially inseminate turkeys because powerful interests are protecting the status quo.
But the status quo isn't the future. Organic crop studies show that. How we treat our animals and feed our kids show that. Sure, change is painful, but even during the transition profits can be had (thank you, Iowa State University). And heritage, organic turkeys? They go for $150-200 a pop.
Why, then, isn't our food industry changing?