Industrial agriculture is enabling farmers to successfully feed a rapidly growing global population. In the U.S., production efficiencies and an ability to grow food inexpensively have reduced the share of disposable personal income spent on food by over 40 percent during the past 55 years. Yet the characteristics that made industrial agriculture so successful—economies of scale (large-scale monoculture), fertilizers, pesticides, and innovation in seed genetics—have led to a backlash from today’s consumers.
In lockstep with the increased societal awareness of environmental issues tied to industrial agriculture is an increasingly vocal consumer base wanting foods with clean ingredient labels, grown locally and sustainably, and from farms that care for the environment and their employees. Today, many consumers associate the development of inexpensive and highly processed foods with higher fat, sugar, and sodium levels that lead to health issues, including obesity and diabetes, and also believe them to have lower nutritional value and less taste.