Organic food production, sustainability, farmer’s markets, farm to table – these all are some of the biggest culinary trends in recent history. But not everyone is buying it. Nestlé S.A. Chairman of the Board Peter Brabeck-Letmathe recently made some bold statements expressing his major skepticism about the viability of organic food on a global scale.
"You have to be rational – there's no way you can support life on earth if you go straight from farm to table,” Brabeck-Letmathe reportedly commented at this month’s Salsburg Festival. “It sounds good. It is good. We have to help our farmers who make these products. It allows them to create added value for people who are willing to pay for it… [But] it's a privilege. We also have to think of the world food supply."
Brabeck-Letmathe goes on to argue that organically raised crops yield 30 percent less than produce grown through conventional agriculture, making it an unfeasible option for feeding the world outside of wealthier sectors who can afford the luxury. Furthermore, according to the Chairman, the manure used to fertilize organic crops is unsanitary and leads to the death of 30-40 people per year. To wrap it all up, Brabeck-Letmathe posits that the organic food market has hit its peak and probably won’t grow larger than it already is.
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That’s a pretty bold opinion, especially for the head of a company that has recently acquired healthier-living staples like S. Pellegrino and has adopted the motto of “good food, good life.” It’s also an opinion that many other experts dispute. Civil Eats debunks Brabeck-Letmathe’s claims with links to various agricultural organizations and public health experts with the information to back up claims that organic production and better farming tactics can work on a large scale. The USDA also published a survey just last week showing the opening of 1,000 new farmer’s markets in the U.S. alone over the past year – so much for peaking.
It all comes down to considering the source. Nestlé is a billion-dollar industry that, at the moment, sees more profits in maintaining the status quo that’s working for them now than exploring new solutions. But consumers drive those profits, and even Brabeck-Letmathe couldn’t deny that they’re starting to question more and more where their food is coming from. When more consumers start to demand something different, our guess is that Nestlé will take another look at what organic production can do for them – and for the world.