The growth rate for sales of organic meat, poultry and fish in the United States is leading the category, helping push organic foods to a record $56 billion in sales.

Organic meat, poultry and fish sales grew almost 25% in 2020, weighing in at nearly $1.8 billion, according to Ryan Koory, vice president of economics at Mercaris. That compares to 13% growth for the overall organic foods category in 2020 (the most recent figures available).

Silver Springs, Md.-based Mercaris provides market analytics and strategic pricing forecasts to agricultural supply chain stakeholders.

Koory was a panelist during the Feb. 25 Organic Outlook session at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 98th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, which took place virtually Feb. 22-25.

Organic food sales benefited from a shift in consumer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the growth in grocery purchases playing to organics’ stronger footprint at retail, Koory said. From 2009-2019, food sales in the overall organic category posted an annual growth rate of 9%, compared with 3% for the conventional foods category. Organic foods’ share of the U.S. food market rose from 2.9% to 3.5% during that 10-year period.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Organic Trade Association, U.S. organic farmers are required to raise animals free of antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones and must use organic feed and provide cage-free living conditions with access to the outdoors and pasture. Cows must graze on grass for at least one-third of their lives.