Although organic food production began as an alternative farming method outside the mainstream, it eventually became divided between two distinct paths: (1) small-scale farms that may not be formally certified organic and thus depend on informed consumers who seek out local, fresh, organically grown foods; and (2) large-scale certified organic food (fresh and processed) that is typically transported large distances and is distributed through typical grocery store chains. If consumers know their local farmer and trust the farmer’s production methods, they may not demand a certification label. On the other hand, organic food produced far away and shipped is more likely to require a certification label to promote consumer trust and to prevent fraud, which exemplifies how national certification regulations are most beneficial.
A regulatory framework is most important when consumers and farmers are geographically separated, and such a framework is likely to cater to larger-scale producers who participate in a more industrial system. This regulatory approach does not necessarily match consumers’ assumptions about organic food production, which typically include images of small family farms and the humane treatment of animals. In general, regulations surrounding organic food do not address more complex social concerns about family farms, farmworker wages, or farm size, and organic policy in some places does little to address animal welfare.