National markets: Tier 3

In Tier 3 of the food system, farmers and food businesses may be interested in efficiencies and lower prices than in maintaining direct relationships with customers. Brand identity, efficient transactions and large volumes of consistent-quality products characterize this tier. Farmers find they can maintain brand identity by becoming members of collective groups of producers, or cooperatives, selling differentiated products like organic milk or humanely raised livestock. Nationally recognized businesses may also be able to source large volumes of consistent-quality products on which they can base their market position.

Benefits and challenges of Tier 3

Described below are some potential benefits and challenges of Tier 3 of the food system. For more information, see the Tiers 3 and 4 resources on the Farmer and food business resources page.



  • Year-round access to a national supply of seasonal vegetables and fruit.
  • A more stable market less interrupted by weather events.
  • Access to lower-priced food products.
  • Convenience of shopping at large-scale stores for a variety of products.


  • Lack of face-to-face access to producer for product information.
  • Products must meet trade regulations, but consumers may not have complete knowledge of production practices.
  • Potential of large-scale recalls due to large-scale aggregation.



  • Smaller producers can work cooperatively to market and sell unique products, such as organic milk, to the marketplace.


  • Large, consistent volumes of products are necessary for distribution.
  • Lack of consumer access.



  • Efficient distribution of food products to a variety of stores and markets.


  • Economic impact of Tier 3 markets remains limited as profits usually move to distributors and farmers outside of the community.


Next: Global markets: Tier 4