We come across this one all the time. In fact, we asked ourselves this very same question before we learned all about Organic food and farming. Why are we paying so much more for organic?
The price is probably the single most important reason why people don't buy organic. If 2 apples, side by side, look the same, smell the same, and are the same size, most people will choose the cheaper one. I mean, why not save some cash when you can? Others will claim that they don't believe in organic, but if you offer them organic at the same price as conventional, I'm almost certain they'll grab the organic one.
And we get it. Choosing organic doesn't provide some instant gratification. There's no physical change like you get from drinking a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. Organic foods usually won't taste too much better than conventional. Though there's a ton of science behind the benefits of organic foods, but as a consumer, it really comes down to your beliefs. Do you think it's worth it, or not?
Before you can make that decision, you need to know what you're buying. Organic isn't a magical cure all for disease or pain, but studies do show that organic foods can be slightly more nutritious and usually higher in antioxidants. Organic focuses on the lack of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers or modified growth. This is a big deal. These chemicals that kill and unnaturally grow our foods sets off a chain reaction in our environment, which then impacts our food, which we all then consume and end up affecting our behavior and function. These chemicals have been scientifically linked to horrible chronic diseases like cancer and decreased cognitive ability.
There are essentially 3 major steps that make organic different from conventional foods, and these 3 major steps contribute to the overall price increase. The steps are:
Growing is a no brainer. Without the use of major synthetics, potent chemicals, and growth modifications, growers need more natural fertilizers, more time to replenish the soils nutrients, and more labor to tend their crops. The amount per harvest are usually less too. Growing organic makes the job harder but it produces a more bio-diverse environment. Birds chirp, bees buzz, and the orchard or field is full of life. This means the foods that are being grown aren't absorbing all those toxins that kill life or soaking up any chemicals to grow faster and bigger. This means we don't end up eating all of those unnatural substances. Performance Enhancing drugs can help athletes get really strong and big, but that doesn't mean it's good for them!
Second is the processing. Organic foods need to be set aside from conventional foods. To be organic certified, organic foods cannot come in contact with conventional foods while in the supply chain. All surfaces that touch the foods need to wiped down and disinfected between products. This helps avoid contamination and cross-contamination. This goes for processing organic almonds and then processing organic walnuts too. All machines and surfaces need to be decontaminated before switching from the almonds to the walnuts. All of this takes time and it takes people.
The third reason for higher costs is demand. More people want organic foods and recognize its health and environmental benefits, but there's not that much of it to go around. There are less farmers growing it and less supply, so there's less competition in pricing. Thankfully, this is changing! As more people buy organic, more farmers and growers are converting. Farmers and growers will produce what sells. They will produce more organic if they see more people buying it. They love to grow food and they love their land, but they're also running a business too.
And speaking of organic certifications...Organic certifications are not cheap. There are annual audits and renewal fees based on sales/production that go on top of the higher costs associated with growing organic crops. It also takes a minimum of 3 years of organic farming before conventional crops can become certified organic. This is because it takes at least 3 years before the chemical residues start to leave the land and nature comes back. 3 years! This whole time, the farmers need to absorb the increased costs of organic farming without being able to sell their harvests at organic prices. (It gets even uglier if we start talking about the business side of things like revenue margins and payment terms!)
So now that you have a better idea of why organic prices are higher, is it still worth it? And yes, we know you can't always choose organic, especially if you're dining out. That's a whole other topic we can talk about another time. For now, let's focus on the choices you can make like the grocery store. You know where we stand. Where do you?
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