Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 439-460

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Organic Food Philosophy: A Qualitative Exploration of the Practices, Values, and Beliefs of Dutch Organic Consumers Within a Cultural–Historical Frame

  • Hanna SchöslerAffiliated withInstitute for Environmental Studies, VU University Email author 
  • , Joop de BoerAffiliated withInstitute for Environmental Studies, VU University
  • , Jan J. BoersemaAffiliated withInstitute for Environmental Studies, VU University


Food consumption has been identified as a realm of key importance for progressing the world towards more sustainable consumption overall. Consumers have the option to choose organic food as a visible product of more ecologically integrated farming methods and, in general, more carefully produced food. This study aims to investigate the choice for organic from a cultural–historical perspective and aims to reveal the food philosophy of current organic consumers in The Netherlands. A concise history of the organic food movement is provided going back to the German Lebensreform and the American Natural Foods Movement. We discuss themes such as the wish to return to a more natural lifestyle, distancing from materialistic lifestyles, and reverting to a more meaningful moral life. Based on a number of in-depth interviews, the study illustrates that these themes are still of influence among current organic consumers who additionally raised the importance of connectedness to nature, awareness, and purity. We argue that their values are shared by a much larger part of Dutch society than those currently shopping for organic food. Strengthening these cultural values in the context of more sustainable food choices may help to expand the amount of organic consumers and hereby aid a transition towards more sustainable consumption.


Organic consumption Food culture Sustainable development Sustainable food choice Human values Worldview