Prices of organic foods

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Good news if you buy organic food — it’s getting cheaper

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. shoppers are still paying more for organic food, but the price premium is falling as organic options multiply.

Last year, organic food and beverages cost an average of 24 cents more per unit than conventional food, or about 7.5 percent more, according to Nielsen. That was down from a 27 cent, or 9 percent, premium in 2014.

There’s a lot of variation within those numbers. The average price for a gallon of organic milk — $4.76 — is 88 percent higher than the $2.53 shoppers pay for a gallon of regular milk. Organic eggs have an 86 percent premium. At $4.89 per loaf, organic bread is double the cost of regular bread.

Parents buying organic baby food, on the other hand, pay just 3 percent more than they would for conventional baby food. In mid-January, a bunch of organic kale was 5 percent more than organic kale, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some organic products — like artichokes, soy milk and Granny Smith apples — may even cost less than their conventional counterparts.

There are many shifting factors behind the prices for organic foods. Premiums for milk and eggs tend to be much higher, for example, because the government has very specific rules for what “organic” means. For example, cows producing organic milk must be allowed to graze for at least one-third of their food intake, says Jeremy Moghtader, the manager of the campus farm at the University of Michigan.

The rules “have real benefits to the animal, the consumer and environment, but they do increase the price of production,” Moghtader said.

Organic and conventional vegetables are grown in similar ways, so the price difference tends to be lower. Organic farmers can save money by not using pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, but they may have to pay more for workers to pull weeds or control bugs, Moghtader said.

One reason organic premiums are falling is the increase in products on the shelves. Organics used to be confined to health food stores and high-end groceries like Whole Foods, but mainstream stores are increasingly offering them. Kroger KR, -2.50% , one of the nation’s largest grocery chains, says it stocks 9,000 organic items in its stores and notched $1 billion in organic produce sales in 2017.

On a recent weekday, Kroger was selling Simple Truth organic orange juice — its in-house brand — for $3.49 for 52 fluid ounces. That was $1 more than the same size of conventional Kroger-brand orange juice, or 49 cents more than conventional Tropicana-brand orange juice.

Costco’s COST, -1.28% Kirkland Signature store brand introduced organic eggs in 2007 and organic beef in 2012. Walmart’s WMT, -1.79% Great Value store brand sells a 15-ounce can of organic pumpkin for $1.88; that’s just 10 cents more than conventional Libby’s brand canned pumpkin.

Consumer demand also impacts prices. Right now, demand for organics is outpacing supply in many categories. U.S. sales of fast-moving consumer goods — a category that includes food, beverages and toiletries — were flat last year, but sales of organic goods jumped 9 percent, Nielsen said.

Millennial households are leading that charge, as they stock up on organic milk and baby food for their children. But other generations are also buying more organic products. Overall, 88 percent of American households have bought organic food or beverages.

“Consumers are more focused on products that have some benefit to them,” Sarah Schmansky, a vice president of growth and strategy at Nielsen.

In some cases, organics are breathing life back into dusty grocery aisles. Sales of conventional lunchmeat and cheese at the deli counter had been weakening, since consumers didn’t want to wait for them to be sliced. But buyers seeking fresh, organic options are returning to the deli. Sale of organic deli lunchmeat have risen an average of 18 percent annually over the last four years, while organic deli cheese sales are up 26 percent.

Schmansky said food scares — like E. coli outbreaks traced to lettuce — are also leading some consumers to organic labels because they trust them.

While price premiums may continue to drop, it’s difficult to say if they’ll ever go away entirely, says Ryan Koory, a senior economist at Mercaris, a data firm that tracks organic agriculture.

Looser government policies and crop insurance programs better tailored to small organic farms could help lower those premiums, Koory said.

A recession could also lower consumer demand for organics, and therefore their price premiums. But if the last recession is any guide, those premiums could bounce back quickly.

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Why are organic food prices dropping?

Dive Brief:

  • Average prices for organic food are dropping as more certified items hit mainstream store shelves, but the price premium can still vary a lot depending on the product, according to Nielsen figures for 2018 reported by the Associated Press.
  • In 2018, consumers paid about 7.5% more for organic foods and beverages than conventional items, Nielsen said. In 2014, the premium was 9% more. But organic milk and eggs were priced much higher than their conventional counterparts — at 88% and 86% more, respectively — because government regulations dictate what “organic” means when it comes to those products, and those rules can hike production costs, according to AP.
  • When it comes to fresh produce, the price premium is often lower, and certain organic items — such as Granny Smith apples, artichokes and soy milk — may actually cost less than conventionally produced products.

Dive Insight:

There are a number of reasons why the price differential has been narrowing between organic foods and beverages and their conventionally produced counterparts. Besides organic production rules that increase costs, there are more organic products available to consumers today — and in a wider variety of retail venues.

Part of that is the natural result of an increasing consumer demand as well as more farmers transitioning to organic production. For farmers, that process takes three years, during which producers don’t see any rewards from switching to organic, yet still have to follow the protocols that come with growing the crops. Now those products are filling shelves.

Retailers are also carrying more organic products each year. According to the AP, Kroger has 9,000 organic products on store shelves and posted $1 billion in sales of organic produce in 2017. Kroger, Costco and Walmart all sell their own store brand organic items, and the price difference compared to conventional items may vary from $1 more for organic orange juice at Kroger to only 10 cents more for organic pumpkin at Walmart.

There are some retail price differences both between organic products compared to similar conventional ones. According to a 2018 price check by The Kitchn, Costco’s Earthbound Farm Organic Power Greens were 21 cents per ounce, but Walmart’s Earthbound Farm Organic Spinach was 29 cents per ounce. Also, Walmart’s Great Value Extra Virgin Olive Oil — which is not organic — rang up at 22 cents per ounce, while Costco’s Kirkland Signature Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from Italy costs 24 centers per ounce. Sourcing considerations is a big reason for the pricing decisions, along with contract terms with suppliers.

Additional factors that could push down price premiums for organics include less-restrictive government policies and crop insurance programs designed for small organic farms. But, Mercaris senior economist Ryan Koory told the AP, a recession could also make prices lower.

While the average cost spread between organic and conventional foods and beverage has narrowed, buying organic still remains more expensive. The price premium remains an obstacle for some consumers, even though many say they’re buying more organic food than ever. According to a 2017 Mintel market report, 62% of Americans said they would purchase more organic foods if they were less expensive.

Growth figures show that organic food continues to appeal to consumers regardless of the higher price tag. According to a Organic Trade Association industry survey last year, sales of organic food grew 6.4% in 2017 to a record $45.2 billion. Organic products now comprise 5.5% of the total retail food market in the U.S., the OTA said. And while that growth rate was lower than the 9% posted in 2016, organics still outpaced growth in the total U.S. food market, which the OTA reported was up by just 1.1% during that period.

Study Says Organic Isn’t Healthier? Here’s Why It Still May Be Worth The Cost

Have you read the big news?

“Researchers Find That Organic Food Offers Few Extra Health Benefits Other Than Moral Superiority,” reads the blaring headline from Jezebel.

“Organic food hardly healthier, study suggests,” was CBS’s take.

More pointedly, according to The Washington Post, “Organic food adds no vitamins for extra cost, research finds.”

The reason for all the noise? A new study from Stanford, which seems to point out that organic foods aren’t more nutritious and don’t confer more health benefits than non-organic foods.

“When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food,” Dena Bravata, MD, MS, senior author of the paper at Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, told The New York Times. “I think we were definitely surprised.”

This is no small issue to modern moms who not only want to keep their kids healthy, but who also want the best value for their grocery dollars. Organic fruits and vegetables can cost anywhere from $.13 to $.36 more per pound than conventional produce, while organic milk retails for about $6 per gallon, compared to ordinary milk at around $3.50.

So what does this all mean? Can it really be true that buying organic food does nothing more than give us a green-colored platform from which to look down on other, non-organic mommies? We decided to dig a bit deeper.

Why Organic Costs More

For starters, “organic” food is not just fancy branding. Food is certified organic by the USDA only if it meets a long list of requirements, like being produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or–in the case of meat–without routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food–from broccoli to beef–costs more because it requires more work and isn’t industrialized (read: turned into something more akin to a factory than a farm) as intensively as conventional food. For example, beef cows that aren’t raised using growth hormones take longer to mature into an edible size. You need much more organic fertilizer for an acre of plants than you would synthetic fertilizer. All these differences add up to higher prices.

Despite the premium on pesticide-free produce, the organic market has continued to grow during the recession, up 12% in the last year to $12.4 billion compared to 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association. And 78% of families report buying organic foods.

Are there millions of people (including maybe you) being duped into higher prices? (Find out how this woman slashed $600 from her family’s monthly grocery bill, and the 14 ways you could save on your groceries.)

Should We Be Buying Organic?

There have been plenty of studies attempting to determine whether organic food is actually worth it–Dr. Bravata’s is just the latest one spawning all these depressing (if you’ve been toting home bags of organic food from Whole Foods) or vindicating (if you decided long ago that it was all hype) headlines.

The study essentially examined four decades of research on the topic, comprising 237 studies on fruits, vegetables and meats. As with any study, the reality is more nuanced than a pithy headline can capture. The argument boils down to why you buy organic in the first place. Is the answer better nutrition, fewer pesticides, less hormones, it’s safer for the environment, it tastes better? It could be for any or all these reasons, which Dr. Bravata acknowledged to The New York Times.

So, should you stop buying it? The answer: It depends. We took each of the main reasons families buy organic and figured out, based on the study’s findings, whether or not it’s worth the added cost:

1. If You Buy Organic for Better Nutrition

If you were hoping that organic produce would help your child run faster, jump higher or grow up stronger, this study will disappoint. Researchers found that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were not more nutritious, on average, than conventional produce, and didn’t have higher levels of vitamins. There were also no health benefits to organic meats.

We say: Go conventional. Organic junk food is still junk food. And conventional fresh, healthy food is still healthy food. But wait, there’s more …

2. If You Buy Organic to Avoid Pesticides

The Stanford researchers did find that 38% of conventional produce tested in the studies contained detectible pesticide residue, compared with just 7% of organic produce. (Organic produce can still be contaminated by nearby conventional fields.) A couple of studies the researchers analyzed showed that children who ate organic produce had fewer pesticide traces in their urine.

Having said that, all the produce tested–organic or not–was under the allowed safety limits for pesticide residue. This is great news if you put your faith in the USDA, who sets those limits. However, if you believe that no pesticides is better than “safe” levels of pesticides, you might not be assuaged. Finally, this study did not include any long-term studies of the effect of pesticides on humans.

Why should you care about pesticides? A 2010 study found a close correlation between the amount of a certain pesticide present in children’s urine and the severity of their ADHD. The effect was seen at low levels of exposure as well; kids with any detectable level of pesticides in their urine were twice as likely as kids with undetectable levels to have symptoms of a learning disorder, and prenatal exposure to pesticides can harm children’s brain formation and lead to lower I.Q.s. However, at least one study has suggested that insecticide use in children’s homes may be more to blame than their food.

We say: Pick and choose your produce carefully. Some produce contains higher levels of pesticide than others, making it more worthwhile to pay for organic. We have a list right here of the fruits and vegetables worth your money. Also, look at where your produce is from. Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and advocate for safer food, says that produce grown in the U.S. and Canada has lower level of pesticides than that from countries like Chile. Finally, make sure to wash your produce thoroughly before eating it.

3. If You Buy Organic Meat to Avoid Food-Borne Illness, Antibiotics and Hormones

The study found that organic meats weren’t any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. Coli. But when it was contaminated, organic meat was less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That means that if you pick up a food-borne illness from handling or ingesting undercooked organic meats and eggs, antibiotics will be more likely to take care of it. Public health advocates say overuse of antibiotics in farming has contributed to the spread of super-bugs in humans. There have been at least 24 outbreaks of multi-drug resistant germs in food between 2000 and 2010, though the government has just recently begun to curb the use of non-medical antibiotics on farms.

Eating meat and drinking milk raised without hormones might also be worth your while if you happen to have a daughter. A study released this August showed that girls as young as seven are hitting puberty at twice the rate of the late 1990s. The reason? It could be due to the obesity epidemic … or hormones in their environment and food.

We say: Look for both antibiotic- and hormone-free products. Many producers of conventional meat and milk offer antibiotic- and hormone-free options that cost somewhat less than full-on organic meat and milk. No matter what kind of meat you buy, always cook it thoroughly to kill bacteria and handle it carefully in the kitchen.

You might also consider buying less meat in general. Not only is it pricier than vegetarian options, Americans eat on average 1.5 times as much meat as the USDA recommends. Instead, you can get your and your child’s protein needs from soy, cheese, grains, nuts, legumes and leafy greens.

4. If You Buy Organic Food to Protect The Environment

Environmental advocates for buying organic point to the millions of tons of chemical fertilizer dumped on fields during the production of conventional foods every year, or the staggering amounts of waste and toxic gases produced by industrial animal farms that threaten the health of nearby residents.

We say: Go local. While not all farms represented at your local farmers’ market will be officially certified as organic (going through certification is an onerous and expensive process), everything there is almost guaranteed to be more environmentally friendly than the same foods would be at a supermarket, and you can even ask the farmer directly about his methods. Most farmers’ markets have strict standards for what they allow to be sold, including pesticide use, humane treatment of animals and how far away the food was raised.

On the other hand, foods trucked into your local grocery store from Mexico or flown in from another continent (for an average of 1,500 miles travelled) have a huge carbon footprint.

5. If You Buy Organic for the Taste

You would have a hard time denying the difference between a juicy, freshly picked berry and a larger strawberry with a flavorless, white core shipped in from Mexico. But all other things being equal, any strawberry is probably better than no strawberry at all in your child’s diet.

We say: This is up to you and your children’s preferences. You might find your kid is more inclined to eat a fresh-picked, organic heirloom tomatoes over another option, but, then again, he might not notice at all.

Tell us–do you buy organic foods for your family?

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The objectives of this study were: To determine if there are mean cost differences between all-organic foods and conventional (non-organic) foods; to determine if there are differences in the mean cost of all-organic foods among higher, moderate, and lower price grocery venues; and to determine if the mean cost difference between all-organic and conventional foods varies among higher, moderate, and lower price grocery venues. The sample included selected organic food items and their conventional counterparts at a lower price (Walmart Supercenter), moderate price (Food City) and higher price (The Fresh Market) grocery venues in Kingsport, TN. Product price and package size in ounces or fluid ounces were collected. Cost per ounce was calculated for analysis. A repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) with two within-subjects factors was used to determine statistically significant differences. A p value 0.05 was chosen as statistically significant. There was a significant main effect of organic status, F(1, 27) = 27.497, p < 0.001, for all foods e.g., food costs were significantly higher for organic foods compared with conventional foods. There was not a significant main effect of organic status in the Dairy group, F(1, 4) = 5.779, p = 0.074, though there was a trend towards significance since the p value was not much larger than 0.05. There was not a significant main effect of organic status in the Fruit group, F(1, 1) = 4.267, p = 0.287. There was a significant main effect of organic status in the Grain group, F(1, 8) = 10.318, p = 0.012; in the Protein group, F(1, 3) = 52.658, p = 0.005; and in the Vegetable group, F(1, 7) = 7.763, p = 0.027 e.g., food costs were significantly different for organic and conventional foods in the Grain group, Protein group, and Vegetable group. There was not a significant main effect of grocery venue, F(2, 54) = 0.664, p = 0.519, for all organic foods e.g., organic food costs were not significantly different among the lower price, moderate price, and higher price grocery venues. There was a significant interaction between the organic status and grocery venue, F(2, 54) = 8.633, p = 0.001 e.g., the difference in mean food costs between organic and conventional foods was significantly different among lower price, moderate price, and higher price grocery venues. It was found that organic foods were significantly more expensive than their conventional counterparts. Organic food costs were not influenced by grocery venue. Therefore an all-organic shopper may not significantly benefit by shopping for organic food at a lower price grocery venue. The differences in food costs between organic and conventional foods, however, were significantly different among grocery venues. Perceived cost increases between conventional and organic food items may depend on a chosen grocery venue. Further research is needed to analyze cost and availability of organic food items at various grocery venues including food cooperatives, superstores, health food stores, bargain grocers, and traditional national and local grocery stores.

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Cost of labor

Conventional farmers use all of those chemicals and synthetic pesticides for reducing the cost of production. Organic farmers have to hire more labor for tasks like hand-weeding, cleanup of polluted water, and the remediation of pesticide. The organic price the true cost of growing the food.
There are many reasons such as the cost of labor, natural pesticides are more costly according to synthetic and chemicals. And need more workers to do work like harvesting and spread un useful plants from the farm. For better and good food. And if we comper with conventional farming they use chemicals for a spread unuseful plant from the farm. And its cost is so cheap as labor work and his time period.

So organic farming is more expensive than conventional farming. As the same organic food is more expensive than non-organic food.

sources of study

supply and Demand

organic farmland only for 0.9 percent of total worldwide farmland. So Supply and demand is a huge issue. organic food is gaining popularity each year. farmers are able to reduce costs when producing a product in larger quantities. but the demand for organic food is gaining day by day. because at the time we know and read every day so many of the problems face by like cancer, skin problem, allergy, hair fall, and many more problems.
At the time everybody wants to live healthily and fit and also want his family also live healthily. But it is not easy to live a long healthy life because of an over-polluted environment and unhealthy food.

So organic food is the only option to give the best ingredient of a healthy life. So day by day the demand for organic food is increasing and supply is limited that why the prize of organic food is higher.

Organic food grows more slowly

Time is money. and organic farmer spends a lot more time on their crops than conventional farmers. Because organic farmer doesn’t use harmful pesticides and chemicals on their crops. Organic farmers using natural and instead use compost and animal manure, which is more expensive to ship.
at the same time, two farmers doing farming one is used organic method and the second used the conventional method. And he starts his crop as the same date, We will see the difference between organic crop and conventional crop, Organic crop growth slowly as a non-organic crop. At the harvesting time, we saw different how much take extra time Organic crops for harvesting stage.
Allover Organic farming takes more time according to conventional farming, That is a big effect to increase for Organic food cost. that’s why Organic food is more costly.

Organic certification

From farmer to processors, organically certified operations need special land and/or facilities before they can produce food. According to USDA organic certification is no easy or cheap task. Workers must be hired to maintain strict daily record-keeping that must be available for inspection at any time.

Organic land costs much more than conventional land. Because there’s a long-time period to convert his land from conventional to organic, Many organic companies are so small that they don’t warrant a full-scope manufacturing facility of their own, they can share space or purchasing special equipment for a conventional facility.

If an organic company shares space with a conventional company making sure that products aren’t mixed. And before processing machines are properly cleaned they’re used for organics products.
That all process is mention in the daily record book for inspection teem, And certification is necessary for Organic products to sell out. For certification of the organic farm and porpoising and company apply different certification and all off applications are chargeable annually.

you can go with Organic food

Organic food prices are usually higher than non-organically grown food. But why do organic foods cost more? And is it worth the extra expense?

By Ocean Robbins • Adapted from 31-Day Food Revolution: Heal Your Body, Feel Great, & Transform Your World. Get your copy here, now.

I love organically grown food. But I don’t love its price tag.

At my local natural foods store, I can buy organic onions for $1.29 a pound. But a conventional supermarket down the road carries commercially grown onions for $0.69 per pound.

While neither price is especially high for a pound of nourishing food, the cumulative impact of opting for a higher price can be overwhelming for many families struggling to make ends meet.

In 2012, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen went so far as to declare that the “organic ideology is an elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence.”

He’s not alone in thinking this way. But I think you’d have a hard time convincing migrant farmworkers that choosing organic food is elitist.

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It’s no big mystery that many of them have tough lives — often working brutally long hours with no insurance, substandard housing, and unreliable compensation. Add to the mix that many of them are being literally poisoned on the job.

Pesticide exposure causes farmworkers to suffer more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other part of the workforce. The pesticides used to grow nonorganic food are a primary reason the average lifespan of a migrant farmworker in the U.S. has been reported to be as low as 49 years.

You’d also have a tough time convincing Teri McCall of Cambria, California, that organic food is elitist. Teri lost her husband of 40 years, Anthony Jackson “Jack” McCall, to terminal cancer in 2015. For nearly 30 years on his 20-acre fruit and vegetable farm, Jack had used the herbicide Roundup.

In 2016, Teri cited a rapidly growing body of evidence linking Roundup to cancer and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Monsanto (now Bayer).

She alleged that the company had known for years that exposure to glyphosate — the main ingredient in the agribusiness giant’s flagship weed killer — could cause cancer and other serious illnesses or injuries. And she blamed the company for her husband’s death. (As of this writing, the lawsuit is ongoing — as are more than 11,000 others like it. And some of them are gaining significant traction.)

Roundup, like hundreds of other widely used synthetic herbicides and insecticides, is banned in organic agriculture.

But What About Yield?

Organic crops have historically had a per-acre yield found to be about 10 to 20% lower than large-scale industrialized monocultures.

But before we jump into hysterics about the need for pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers in order to feed humanity, let’s put this in perspective.

Nearly half of the world’s crop calories become feed for poultry, pork, cattle, and even farmed fish — not food for humans.

It can take between four and 12 pounds of feed to produce one pound of meat, eggs, or dairy products. The vast majority of the calories animals consume are turned into hoof, hide, bone, or manure and expended as energy that the animals use to live. The majority of animal feed is, in a caloric sense, wasted.

In “The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat,” Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt write that after factoring in all inputs, the world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of calories equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people — more than the entire human population on Earth.

If we’re serious about feeding humanity, shouldn’t we consider eating less meat, so we could turn less of our cropland into livestock feed, freeing up more of it to grow food sustainably for humans?

How Organic Can Work

When it’s practiced well, organic agriculture can lead to crops that are more resistant to droughts and floods (which climate change is making increasingly common).

It can also enable a more diverse agricultural output, which means that you might get less of one monocrop, but you’ll get more diversity and, in many cases, more net food value per acre.

If your metric is health per acre, small-scale organic farming often wins by a large margin.

In 2013, the UN Conference on Trade and Development issued a landmark report titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late.” The report concluded that small-scale organic farming is the only way to sustainably feed the world for future generations.

It called for “a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.”

But so far, many governments and research institutions are pushing in the opposite direction. Over the course of the last century, billions of dollars have been spent researching and promoting chemical-intensive, pesticide-laden forms of agriculture.

With only a tiny fraction of those resources, organic agricultural researchers are continually finding breakthroughs and developing methods that are increasing yield, sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere, and creating more nutritious and resilient crops.

Can You Trust Organic?

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Each country has its own form of organic certification.

The United States uses the USDA Organic label, which indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through methods that integrate practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Sewage sludge, irradiation, genetic engineering, and most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers may not be used.

Now that transnational corporations are out to make money off the organic brand, many of them push to drive down standards.

European products certified organic by Ecocert carry a very similar set of requirements. While enforcement could always be stronger, both the USDA Organic and the Ecocert labels provide a significant measure of confidence to the consumer.

Maintaining the integrity of organic certification takes vigilance. Organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association point out that large-scale corporate agribusiness has chosen to invest heavily in organic food production.

Now that transnational corporations are out to make money off the organic brand, many of them push to drive down standards. As consumers, we have to be attentive to make sure that the real meaning of organic foods doesn’t get diluted.

Why Are Organic Food Prices Higher Than Others?

Part of the answer is that organic certification is expensive.

It can cost farmers many thousands of dollars to certify their farm. And the cost and regulatory burden of certification can be especially hard on smaller farms.

In effect, organic farmers get penalized for growing food in a way that protects the fertility of the soil and spares farmworkers and the entire web of life, including us, from poisons.

If we had more sane food policies, organic food would cost less than it does now.

Imagine what would happen if this were reversed. What if all the farms that used pesticides and chemical fertilizers had to pay a fee for their environmental contamination and were subject to inspections?

What if the organic farmers had a lower, instead of a higher regulatory burden? The economics of organic food would change in an instant.

If we had more sane food policies, organic food would cost less than it does now. But until that time, the frustrating reality is that it can still be difficult to afford for a great many people.

The Health Harms of Pesticides

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Pesticides have been linked to a wide range of human health hazards, ranging from short-term problems, such as headaches and nausea, to chronic impacts, like reproductive harm and endocrine disruption.

Pesticides have also been linked to many types of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as brain, breast, ovarian, prostate, stomach, testicular, and liver cancers.

In 2010, scientists at the University of Montreal and Harvard University released a study that found that exposure to pesticide residues on food may double a child’s risk of ADHD.

Another study conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Health Services, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found a sixfold increase in risk factors for autism spectrum disorders for children of women who were exposed to organochlorine pesticides in their environment during pregnancy.

In response to worries about eating foods sprayed with neurotoxic poisons, as well as concerns about the social and environmental implications of pesticides, more and more consumers are buying organically grown foods.

Does consuming organic food really reduce your body’s burden of toxic chemicals?

Seeking to answer that question, Liza Oates, PhD, and a team at RMIT University in Australia randomly selected 13 adults. The research team fed some an organic diet and others a nonorganic diet.

The study found that a mostly organic diet for only one week led to a 90% reduction in pesticide levels detected in urine.

Which Foods Carry the Most Pesticides?

Fortunately, not all conventionally grown foods carry large amounts of pesticides.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to come up with rankings for 48 popular fresh produce items in the United States.

You can find them listed below, in order from most contaminated to least. Lower-number rankings indicate more pesticide contamination.

The first 12 are what EWG refers to as the “Dirty Dozen,” the most pesticide-contaminated foods, and the last 15 are what they refer to as the “Clean 15,” the least pesticide-contaminated foods.

The Dirty Dozen (highest pesticide contamination — buy organic if at all possible)

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

The Middle 21 (medium pesticide contamination — moderately important to buy organic)

  1. Sweet Bell Peppers
  2. Cherry Tomatoes
  3. Lettuce
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Blueberries
  6. Hot Peppers
  7. Plums
  8. Green Beans
  9. Tangerines
  10. Raspberries
  11. Grapefruit
  12. Winter squashes
  13. Snap peas
  14. Carrots
  15. Oranges
  16. Summer squashes*
  17. Green Onions
  18. Bananas
  19. Sweet potatoes
  20. Watermelons
  21. Collard Greens

The Clean 15 (lower pesticide contamination — least important to buy organic)

  1. Mushrooms
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cantaloupes
  4. Cauliflower
  5. Cabbages
  6. Kiwis
  7. Asparagus
  8. Eggplants
  9. Papayas*
  10. Onions
  11. Sweet peas frozen
  12. Pineapples
  13. Sweet corn*
  14. Avocados
  15. Honeydew Melons

*A small amount of sweet corn, papaya, and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce.

While these rankings are based on data taken in the United States, it’s probable, given the global nature of food distribution systems, that numbers are similar in many other countries. But we don’t know this with certainty.

I’m often asked whether people who can’t afford organic foods should steer clear of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. The answer is an unequivocal no.

Hundreds of medical studies have illustrated the huge health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. Most of the fruits and vegetables eaten in the studies that have found these tremendous benefits were grown conventionally — with pesticides.

If you can afford organic, I encourage it. And if you can’t, then I hope you won’t let that stop you from eating and enjoying a vast array of fruits and vegetables. Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Researchers have found that pesticide residues can persist on many fruits and vegetables. So especially if it’s not grown organically, you may want to wash produce.

Plain water appears to be just as effective as (and a lot less costly than) using commercial produce cleaners.

If you want to go a step further, you can create a baking soda solution, folding in one ounce of baking soda for every 100 ounces of water. Studies have demonstrated that soaking produce in this solution for 15 minutes will remove most pesticide residues.

If you like, you can spin your produce in a salad spinner to dry it out. (For more guidance on washing produce to remove pesticides, read this article.)

Editor’s note: Adapted from chapter 26 of 31-Day Food Revolution: Heal Your Body, Feel Great, and Transform Your World. Get the whole book here.

Tell us in the comments below:

  • Do you buy some or all organic produce?

  • Do organic food prices stop you from buying organic food?

Featured Image: iStock.com/valentinrussanov

Read Next:

  • How to wash veggies and fruits to remove pesticides
  • How to eat healthy on a budget: 10 secrets that make it possible

(iStock)

You might think organic food would cost less than conventional food since the production is spared the cost of the chemicals, synthetic pesticides, and antibiotics. Yet organic products typically cost 20 percent to 100 percent more than their conventionally produced equivalents.

In an economy that is sluggishly recovering from a recession, that’s a price tag many Americans can’t afford, even though the majority of them would prefer to buy organic. If you’re part of that majority, you’ve probably wondered what’s behind that cost. Here are the top 10 factors contributing to the high price of organic food:

1. No chemicals = more labor

Conventional farmers use all of those chemicals and synthetic pesticides because they end up reducing the cost of production by getting the job done faster and more efficiently. Without them, organic farmers have to hire more workers for tasks like hand-weeding, cleanup of polluted water, and the remediation of pesticide contamination.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation explained it well: “The organic price tag more closely reflects the true cost of growing the food: substituting labor and intensive management for chemicals, the health and environmental costs of which are borne by society.”

2. Demand overwhelms supply

Retail sales of organic food rose from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $21.1 billion in 2008, according to the USDA, and 58 percent of Americans claim they prefer to eat organic over non-organic food. However, organic farmland only accounts for 0.9 percent of total worldwide farmland, and organic farms tend to produce less than conventional farms. Conventional farms have the farmland and the supply to keep costs down since manufacturers are able to reduce costs when producing a product in larger quantities.

3. Higher cost of fertilizer for organic crops

Sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers might not be something you want in your food, but conventional farmers use them because they don’t cost much and are cheap to transport. Organic farmers eschew these inexpensive solutions in order to keep their crops natural and instead use compost and animal manure, which is more expensive to ship.

4. Crop rotation

Instead of using chemical weed-killers, organic farmers conduct sophisticated crop rotations to keep their soil healthy and prevent weed growth. After harvesting a crop, an organic farmer may use that area to grow “cover crops,” which add nitrogen to the soil to benefit succeeding crops.

Conventional farmers, on the other hand, can use every acre to grow the most profitable crops. Because crop rotation reduces the frequency in which organic farmers can grow profitable crops, they’re unable to produce the larger quantities that are most cost-effective for conventional farmers.

5. Post-harvest handling cost

In order to avoid cross-contamination, organic produce must be separated from conventional produce after being harvested. Conventional crops are shipped in larger quantities since conventional farms are able to produce more. Organic crops, however, are handled and shipped in smaller quantities since organic farms tend to produce less, and this results in higher costs. Additionally, organic farms are usually located farther from major cities, increasing the shipping cost.

6. Organic certification

Acquiring USDA organic certification is no easy — or cheap — task. In addition to the usual farming operations, farm facilities and production methods must comply with certain standards, which may require the modification of facilities. Employees must be hired to maintain strict daily record-keeping that must be available for inspection at any time. And organic farms must pay an annual inspection/certification fee, which starts at $400 to $2,000 a year, depending on the agency and the size of the operation.

7. Cost of covering higher loss

Conventional farmers use certain chemicals to reduce their loss of crops. For example, synthetic pesticides repel insects and antibiotics maintain the health of the livestock. Since organic farmers don’t use these, their losses are higher, which costs the farmer more and increases the cost to the consumer. Additionally, without all the chemical preservatives added to conventional foods, organic foods face a shorter storage time and shelf life.

8. Better living conditions for livestock

Higher standards for animal welfare also means more costs for organic farms. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, organic feed for cattle and other livestock can cost twice as much as conventional feed.

9. Organic food grows more slowly

Time is money. Not only are organic farms typically smaller than conventional ones, but they also, on average, take more time to produce crops because they refrain from using the chemicals and growth hormones used by conventional farmers.

10. Subsidies

Production-oriented government subsidies reduce the overall cost of crops. In 2008, mandatory spending on farm subsidies was $7.5 billion while programs for organic and local foods only received $15 million, according to the House Appropriations Committee.

Money-saving tips

Until then, try to get most of your organic food from farmers markets. You’ll be supporting local farmers and purchasing the food at a reduced price since you’re cutting out the middle-man retailer. Check out LocalHarvest.org. You can plug in your city or zip code and get a list of all of the farmers markets in your area.

It’s also important to note that you don’t need to buy all foods organic. The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides has a “Clean 15” list of the 15 types of produce lowest in pesticides. Save your money for the other organic produce and buy the conventional versions of these:

1.Onions
2.Sweet corn
3.Pineapples
4.Avocado
5.Asparagus
6.Sweet peas
7.Mangoes
8.Eggplant
9.Cantaloupe — domestic
10.Kiwi
11.Cabbage
12.Watermelon
13.Sweet potatoes
14.Grapefruit
15.Mushrooms

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Organic Foods: What You Need to Know

Is organic food really healthier? Is it worth the expense? Find out what the labels mean and which foods give you the most bang for your buck.

The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. While the regulations vary from country to country, in the U.S., organic crops must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.

Organic livestock raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products.

Organic vs. Non-Organic
Organic produce: Conventionally-grown produce:
Grown with natural fertilizers (manure, compost). Grown with synthetic or chemical fertilizers.
Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching, and tilling). Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.
Pests are controlled using natural methods (birds, insects, traps) and naturally-derived pesticides. Pests are controlled with synthetic pesticides
Organic meat, dairy, eggs: Conventionally-raised meat, dairy, eggs
Livestock are given all organic, hormone- and GMO-free feed. Livestock are given growth hormones for faster growth, as well as non-organic, GMO feed.
Disease is prevented with natural methods such as clean housing, rotational grazing, and healthy diet. Antibiotics and medications are used to prevent livestock disease.
Livestock must have access to the outdoors. Livestock may or may not have access to the outdoors.

The benefits of organic food

How your food is grown or raised can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health as well as the environment. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts and people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods.

Organic produce contains fewer pesticides. Chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the food we eat.

Organic food is often fresher because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic produce is often (but not always, so watch where it is from) produced on smaller farms near where it is sold.

Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals as well as people who live close to farms.

Organically raised animals are NOT given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts. Feeding livestock animal byproducts increases the risk of mad cow disease (BSE) and the use of antibiotics can create antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Organically-raised animals are given more space to move around and access to the outdoors, which help to keep them healthy.

Organic meat and milk are richer in certain nutrients. Results of a 2016 European study show that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions.

Organic food is GMO-free. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods are plants whose DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding, most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides or produce an insecticide.

Organic food vs. locally-grown food

Unlike organic standards, there is no specific definition for “local food”. It could be grown in your local community, your state, your region, or your country. During large portions of the year it is usually possible to find food grown close to home at places such as a farmer’s market.

The benefits of locally grown food

Financial: Money stays within the local economy. More money goes directly to the farmer, instead of to things like marketing and distribution.

Transportation: In the U.S., for example, the average distance a meal travels from the farm to the dinner plate is over 1,500 miles. Produce must be picked while still unripe and then gassed to “ripen” it after transport. Or the food is highly processed in factories using preservatives, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport.

Freshness: Local food is harvested when ripe and thus fresher and full of flavor.

Small local farmers often use organic methods but sometimes cannot afford to become certified organic. Visit a farmer’s market and talk with the farmers to find out what methods they use.

Understanding GMOs

The ongoing debate about the effects of GMOs on health and the environment is a controversial one. In most cases, GMOs are engineered to make food crops resistant to herbicides and/or to produce an insecticide. For example, much of the sweet corn consumed in the U.S. is genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup and to produce its own insecticide, Bt Toxin.

GMOs are also commonly found in U.S. crops such as soybeans, alfalfa, squash, zucchini, papaya, and canola, and are present in many breakfast cereals and much of the processed food that we eat. If the ingredients on a package include corn syrup or soy lecithin, chances are it contains GMOs.

GMOs and pesticides

The use of toxic herbicides like Roundup (glyphosate) has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. While the World Health Organization announced that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” there is still some controversy over the level of health risks posed by the use of pesticides.

Are GMOs safe?

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the biotech companies that engineer GMOs insist they are safe, many food safety advocates point out that no long term studies have ever been conducted to confirm the safety of GMO use, while some animal studies have indicated that consuming GMOs may cause internal organ damage, slowed brain growth, and thickening of the digestive tract.

GMOs have been linked to increased food allergens and gastro-intestinal problems in humans. While many people think that altering the DNA of a plant or animal can increase the risk of cancer, the research has so far proven inconclusive.

Does organic mean pesticide-free?

As mentioned above, one of the primary benefits of eating organic is lower levels of pesticides. However, despite popular belief, organic farms do use pesticides. The difference is that they only use naturally-derived pesticides, rather than the synthetic pesticides used on conventional commercial farms. Natural pesticides are believed to be less toxic, however, some have been found to have health risks. That said, your exposure to harmful pesticides will be lower when eating organic.

What are the possible risks of pesticides?

Most of us have an accumulated build-up of pesticide exposure in our bodies due to numerous years of exposure. This chemical “body burden” as it is medically known could lead to health issues such as headaches, birth defects, and added strain on weakened immune systems.

Some studies have indicated that the use of pesticides even at low doses can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Children and fetuses are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure because their immune systems, bodies, and brains are still developing. Exposure at an early age may cause developmental delays, behavioral disorders, autism, immune system harm, and motor dysfunction.

Pregnant women are more vulnerable due to the added stress pesticides put on their already taxed organs. Plus, pesticides can be passed from mother to child in the womb, as well as through breast milk.

The widespread use of pesticides has also led to the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs,” which can only be killed with extremely toxic poisons like 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a major ingredient in Agent Orange).

Does washing and peeling produce get rid of pesticides?

Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling sometimes helps, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the skin. The best approach: eat a varied diet, wash and scrub all produce thoroughly, and buy organic when possible.

The best bang for your buck when shopping organic

Organic food is often more expensive than conventionally-grown food. But if you set some priorities, it may be possible to purchase organic food and stay within your food budget.

Know your produce pesticide levels

Some types of conventionally-grown produce are much higher in pesticides than others, and should be avoided. Others are low enough that buying non-organic is relatively safe. The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that analyzes the results of government pesticide testing in the U.S., offers an annually-updated list that can help guide your choices.

Fruits and vegetables where the organic label matters most

According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that analyzes the results of government pesticide testing in the U.S., the following fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide levels so are best to buy organic:

  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Hot Peppers

Fruits and vegetables you DON’T need to buy organic

Known as the “Clean 15”, these conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables are generally low in pesticides.

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Onion
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet Peas (frozen)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe

Buy organic meat, eggs, and dairy if you can afford to

While prominent organizations such as the American Heart Association maintain that eating saturated fat from any source increases the risk of heart disease, other nutrition experts maintain that eating organic grass-fed meat and organic dairy products doesn’t carry the same risks. It’s not the saturated fat that’s the problem, they say, but the unnatural diet of an industrially-raised animal that includes corn, hormones, and medication.

What’s in American meat?

According to Animal Feed, conventionally raised animals in U.S. can be given:

  • Dairy cows – antibiotics, pig and chicken byproducts, growth hormones, pesticides, sewage sludge
  • Beef cows – antibiotics, pig and chicken byproducts, steroids, hormones, pesticides, sewage sludge
  • Pigs – antibiotics, animal byproducts, pesticides, sewage sludge, arsenic-based drugs
  • Broiler chickens – antibiotics, animal byproducts, pesticides, sewage sludge, arsenic-based drugs
  • Egg laying hens – antibiotics, animal byproducts, pesticides, sewage sludge, arsenic-based drugs

Other ways to keep the cost of organic food within your budget

Shop at farmers’ markets. Many cities, as well as small towns, host a weekly farmers’ market, where local farmers sell their produce at an open-air street market, often at a discount to grocery stores.

Join a food co-op. A natural foods co-op, or cooperative grocery store typically offers lower prices to members, who pay an annual fee to belong

Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, in which individuals and families join up to purchase “shares” of produce in bulk, directly from a local farm. Local and organic!

Organic food buying tips

Buy in season – Fruits and vegetables are cheapest and freshest when they are in season. Find out when produce is delivered to your market so you’re buying the freshest food possible.

Shop around – Compare the price of organic items at the grocery store, the farmers’ market and other venues (even the freezer aisle).

Remember that organic doesn’t always equal healthy –Making junk food sound healthy is a common marketing ploy in the food industry but organic baked goods, desserts, and snacks are usually still very high in sugar, salt, fat, or calories. It pays to read food labels carefully.

Why is organic food often more expensive?

Organic food is more labor intensive since the farmers do not use pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or drugs. Organic certification is expensive and organic feed for animals can cost twice as much. Organic farms tend to be smaller than conventional farms, which means fixed costs and overhead must be distributed across smaller produce volumes without government subsidies.

Where to shop for organic food

To find farmers’ markets, organic farms, and grocery co-ops in your area, visit:

  • In the U.S.: Eat Well Guide or Local Harvest
  • In the UK: FARMA
  • In Australia: Australian Farmers’ Markets Directory
  • In Canada: Farmers’ Markets in Canada

How Organic Food Works

Prices tend to be higher for organic than conventional products. As stated on the of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), certified organic products are generally more expensive than their conventional counterparts because:

  • The organic food supply is limited as compared to demand.
  • Production costs for organic foods are typically higher because of greater labor input and because farmers don’t produce enough of a single product to lower the overall cost.
  • Post-harvest handling of relatively small quantities of organic foods results in higher costs because organic and conventional produce must be separated for processing and transportation.
  • Marketing and the distribution chain for organic products are relatively inefficient, and costs are higher because of relatively small volumes.

The FAO also notes that prices of organic food include not only the cost of the food production itself, but also a range of other factors that are not captured in the price of conventional food, such as:

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  • Environmental enhancement and protection (and avoidance of future expenses to mitigate pollution)
  • Higher standards for animal welfare
  • Avoidance of health risks to farmers due to inappropriate handling of pesticides (and avoidance of future medical expenses)
  • Rural development by generating additional farm employment and assuring a fair and sufficient income to producers

The FAO believes that as the demand for organic food and products increases, technological innovations and economies of scale should reduce costs of production, processing, distribution and marketing for organic produce.

The True Cost of Conventional vs. Organic Food

I ran my own small farm for a few years, growing vegetables on half an acre. I enjoyed the work and I did it (with my husband and parents regularly pitching in) as a personal challenge, to see where it might lead. I started seeding my first crops in January, then spent months preparing beds, planning rotations, planting starts, building trellises, barely staying ahead of the weeds constantly threatening to overtake the whole plot, all without earning a cent.

It wasn’t until June that I made my first sale. I harvested lettuces, herbs, mustard greens and kale that we proudly displayed at the market, taking home about $200. The next week I brought root crops, too; ‘French breakfast’ radishes with their charming white tips, and ‘scarlet Nantes’ carrots, deeply orange and uniformly slender. I was proud of these because I had fought for them, thinning and weeding each row multiple times over the previous two months. I marked the bunches $3 each and thought, “What a steal!,” knowing the actual cost was nearly incalculable.

My second customer that day picked up a bunch of radishes and said, “Three dollars! That’s way too much for radishes!” I understood what she meant (a visually similar bunch at the store goes for $0.69), but I wanted to tell her that these radishes were different, that $3 was actually a deep discount, that even selling them for $3 I was making no profit. Instead, I smiled and said, “You haven’t tasted them yet!” She looked at me skeptically, but bought them anyway.

Although my radish buyer’s words stung a little, I could relate to her reaction because I have it myself every time I shop at a farmers market. Even now, after years of growing food (and seeing the labor and amendment costs that go into it), after managing a farmers market for seven years, my first reaction is still to the price, not the food’s true cost or value. Even though I choose to shop there, I still have to reason my way to a place where I believe enough in what I am buying to pay what I perceive as a larger price tag.

What is the True Cost of Food?

Beyond the basic math of labor, materials, and overhead one would expect a price to include, production costs that impact the environment, human health, and social welfare quickly reach algorithmic complexity. Non-profit groups like Food Tank and Sustainable Food Trust are looking for ways to quantify these costs, partly to expose the incomplete accounting that goes into setting conventional food prices, partly to illustrate the value sustainable food systems offer to the consumer – a price tag that is, they argue, significantly less overall.

In short, the pricing you see at the grocery store does not tell the whole story. The equation food producers use to arrive at a retail price is often offset by subsidies (direct or indirect) and ignores broader costs that are ultimately not picked up by the consumer or the producer individually, but by all of us collectively.

In their 2015 report, The Real Cost of Food, Food Tank shares some sobering facts about hidden food costs, including that low wages paid to employees at companies like McDonald’s cost taxpayers $135 billion each year in federal assistance programs, that complications with obesity add up to $2 trillion in global health care costs, and that erosion caused by agriculture creates a $500 billion global price tag each year.

Bad Business

In his 2010 TED Talk, Chef Dan Barber of New York’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns (recently named Eater’s Best Restaurant in America) said of modern industrial agriculture, We should call it what it is: a business in liquidation. The conventional agriculture model operates without a savings account, spending beyond its resources to create a product it sells at a discounted price. It’s a system that has grown out of perceived abundance of limited resources, that’s been fueled by federal subsidies, and that now tries to compete within a set of market constraints it helped create, not the least among them being consumer expectation for artificially low prices.

The good news is, sustainable agricultural models can and do produce food with significantly fewer hidden costs. So, if a bunch of radishes made by a system that promises to continue producing & improving radishes indefinitely costs $3, and a bunch of radishes made by a system in which growing them will become less and less feasible costs $0.69, it’s clear that the latter is more expensive in the long term (especially if you’re a radish lover).

Where Do We Go From Here?

You can help make a difference. Consider these costs when you find yourself with the choice between pricier food from a sustainable system and cheaper food from the industrial system. Better yet, buy directly from producers whenever possible: through a vegetable CSA, at a farmers market, or even at a grocery store.

And when it comes down to two products side-by-side on the shelf with organic food costing a couple dollars more than the conventional option, I ask myself this: Am I willing to donate $2 today to an organization that promotes land & water conservation, pollinator and wildlife habitat, and species diversity? If the answer that day is yes (and it almost always is), then I gladly pay a little more.

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