Why Is Organic Food So Expensive?


tomatosOver the last 20 years organic food has grown from the wilty, bug-eaten pile of vegetables you could only get at the health food store to the fastest-growing sector of the food industry. Organic food isn't just for political radicals and hippies anymore -- it's for everyone! Except that it's so expensive.

What keeps organic food still out of reach for most folks?

Conversion: It takes three years for a conventional farm to convert to organic. During those three years the farm can't use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, but it also can't sell its food as certified organic.

Distribution: Because conventional farms dominate the food distribution system, it's harder and more expensive for smaller and organic farms to get their food from the farm onto store shelves. Plus, organic meat and dairy farmers have to find special Certified Organic plants to process their meat and milk. These plants are often farther away or more expensive to use.

Subsidies: Large, conventional farms receive government subsidies that smaller, organic farms don't get. In other words, your tax dollars help pay for fertilizers, pesticides, and corn for HFCS and cows.

Externalized costs: Large conventional farms do not pay for the damage they cause to the environment and to farm workers' health. Taxpayer dollars do.

Labor: It's more expensive to pay for people to pull out weeds than to kill weeds with pesticides.

What you can do: If you can afford it, vote with your dollar. As the organic market grows, organic products should become more affordable. Find alternative ways to shop, like CSAs and farmers' markets.

Beyond that, look out for the 2012 Farm Bill. This is an opportunity to level the playing field for organics, and a lot of people and organizations will be talking about it. Be ready to write your elected representatives about how YOU feel about making organic food more affordable. They're not going to do anything unless they hear from the people, so make your voice heard.


Image via epSos.de/Flickr

eco-friendly, food, grocery shopping, organics, trends


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RanaA... RanaAurora

For anyone on WIC, use your governement dollars to buy organic - you're allowed!

Adria... AdrianaCooks

I'd love to see double-value WIC dollars for organic. Here in NYC I believe you can get twice the value for food stamps when you shop at the farmer's market. But I would love it if all farmer's markets accepted food stamps at all.

nonmember avatar Nancy

Hi Adriana,  I just wanted to let your readers know that organic AND conventional milk is processed at the same plant...it is not seperate.....same with beef.  It's all about how food is grown.  With dairy for instance, an organic dairy farmer must feed his herd organic food, use no antibiotics ever on a cow.  Same with beef.  All are processed at the same plants (there are many different plants) as conventional dairy and beef.  The main reason organic milk is more expensive is due to consumer demand on the organic label.  Thanks for your post.

WifeO... WifeOfADairyman

Hi again Adriana,  I just want you and your readers to know that I belive I am  mistaken with my last comment!  Beef does go to a different processing plant or room and so does dairy!  They may go to the same processing plant but the same equipment is NOT shared by organic and conventional (unless they completely clean it)  So sorry for the confusion!!!  Thanks again for your post!  Nancy

Adria... AdrianaCooks

Right--USDA plants that are certified organic usually also handle conventional meat/dairy, but it's a big hassle to switch between the two, which is why not many plants take on organics. There isn't enough demand for organics to have many organic-only plants. (Maybe there are some for Organic Valley & Horizon? I wonder.) I've talked with organic-in-practice-but-not-certified farmers in New York State who choose not to sell under the organic label because plants that handle organics are too far away from them.

nonmember avatar hartsmart

Hallo, you gllible ones-- enjoy having you pockets and shopping carts picked? Is your growers munure certified?

Kimra Kimra

here in california WIC gives you  vouchers to use ONLY the farmers market...we are a vegan family so we don't worry about organic dairy or meat because we don't eat dairy or meat...we eat organic as much as possible because it's way better than eating veggies with pesticides on them...organic is becoming less expensive here in california, which i think is because there is a lot more demand for organic here...even the grocery stores i go to that used to not carry anything that was organic is now carrying organic items here and there...i'm very happy about it because we want to eventually become 100% organic food eaters and the more demand there is for organic food, the less expensive the prices will be!

nonmember avatar SKL

Organic isn't much more expensive where I live (Midwest), except on certain items.  Since the food is more satisfying, I don't feel the need to buy a lot of extras that many people buy, so my food bill is actually lower than most, even though I buy probably 80% organic and another 10-15% "all-natural."

tazdvl tazdvl

I'll be looking for that bill

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