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News Flash: Organic food customers are selfish and rude!

I’m about to blow your mind.  We’re jerks.  All of us (as a group), not as individuals.  How can I make such a terrible, blanket statement like that?  Well, I’m merely the messenger so don’t shoot me.

A new study came out recently that our moral processing is related to our tastes and those also influence our actions.  In other words, sweet taste promotes more social, accepting moral actions and bad taste harshens our judgment.  Researchers conducted a study that compared exposure to different types of foods (conventional, comfort, and organic) and moral judgments.

Before I even read this study (or knew what it was about), I would have predicted that people who seek out organic foods:

  1. Feel good about themselves and their choices
  2. Are more likely to be altruistic because they’re seemingly predisposed to being conscious of their environment

However, I’d be (partially) wrong!  It turns out that exposure to ethical and environmentally friendly foods reduces prosocial behavior.  In other words, people who seek out organic foods are less willing to help a needy stranger and they judge other people more harshly.   It seems that instead of my prediction being true, organic foodies do feel good about themselves and their choices so they feel less of a need to be altruistic!  That’s terrible!

There are other studies like this one and their findings have been similar.  One research group found that after purchasing “green” (vs. conventional) products, people were more likely to cheat and steal.

So, let’s have an honest conversation about this, ok?  We all know that people who purchase organic food have a reputation for being elitist, snobby foodies, right?  That view needs to be changed.  Do I have some revolutionary suggestion of how to do that?  No.  However, just as there are no “bad” foods, I can think of many worse things than conventional farming – so let’s not make conventionally grown produce out to be the worst thing in the world.  Extremists, of any religion, including locavore-ism or organic-ism, should not be encouraged.  Besides, research clearly shows that we’re all jerks anyway, so let’s bump ourselves down a few notches on our morality scales and accept that we’re no better than anyone else.

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2 Comments to "News Flash: Organic food customers are selfish and rude!"

  1. JH says:

    I totally agree with this article, I see it everyday that I shop at our local Co-op. We do not buy exclusesively organic, its just not finacially possible for our family of four. I first heard of this story on “Wait Wait, Don’t tell Me” on NPR, the light bulb went off in my head and everything about the behavior of the patrons at the Co-op became clear. A moment of clarity I guess. I like organic food, but as the it becomes more popular and more accessible, does this mean the decline of civilization?

    • Kate Gardner says:

      Great point – I hope it doesn’t mean the decline of civilization and I think we all need to consider the implications of these findings!

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