Why Is Organic Food More Expensive?
This is not always true but is often the case. There are a number of factors that can lead to this situation for a specific product. For example, organic food is more labor intensive to produce. Where a chemical farmer can pay a plane to fly over his crop and drop poisons in it which kill the weeds and insects, the organic farmer must use tillage, crop rotations and in a garden, people’s hands, to control the pests. Years spent in green manure crops are lost as crop years. There is often a lower yield due to the higher numbers of insects and weeds in the field. Hand weeding by hired labor is expensive.
On the good side, expensive pesticides and fertilizers are not required, so some cost savings occur. Something never factored in by government planners is that for society as a whole, medical costs should be lower where there is a high density of organic farms.
With slightly lower yields, a year off here and there for the land (no crop that year), higher labor costs for some crops, it may be necessary that prices be higher for some organic foods than chemically raised foods. Another factor is that the most intensive nature of organic crops means that the farms can’t be as large, or need more hired help to manage. Thus, to make the same living as the chemical farmer, the organic farmer must make more per kilogram since they will have fewer kilograms to sell.
This explains one side of the price equation. Another side is that farmers are businessmen and the market is willing to pay more for organic foods and so the farmer charges more. Like other commodities, the market charges what consumer pocketbooks will bear, and people are willing to pay more for organics. With less supply than demand, prices for organics tend to be higher than those for chemically raised foods.
Where we are able to access locally produced products, cutting out the brokers, wholesalers, and transport companies, we are often able to provide organic products at prices similar to chemically raised foods in supermarkets. We also have decided to take a lower mark up than most grocery chains, allowing our products to be more competitive with chemically raised foods. While we can’t compete in terms of the volume discounts that large chains can secure for organic “brand name” products, we accept a much tighter profit margin, keeping us competitive on those things. Where local products are involved, we are MUCH cheaper than chains. In some cases, our local organic products are cheaper than the chemically raised alternative at the grocery chain stores. Wy people would pay more to eat poison is beyond me.
In time, it is expected that organic food will become more affordable. However, we as a society are used to paying far too little for our food. People in Europe pay and expect to pay a much higher portion of their disposable income on food than North Americans do. They tend to eat higher quality foods and support their farmers better. We should pay more for our food than we are used to doing. It is necessary to do so to maintain a strong and viable population of farmers in our nation.
This will become particularly important with the onset of Peak oil. Peak Oil describes the situation where global demand for oil exceeds and then greatly exceeds our ability to extract oil from Earth. As the price of fuel climbs, the present food system in North America with huge distances between production location and the consumer will become more and more expensive. The chemical fertilizers and pesticides are made from oil. They also will continue to become more and more expensive. These factors will combine to make locally produced organic food not only healthier and tastier than chemically farmed food, but it will eventually be more affordable as well. Not because organic prices fall, but because the price of the chemically produced foods will increase dramatically. And we will still be able to afford food.
As time goes on, more and more people will value their health and enjoyment enough to choose organic foods. Can you afford to be off work for years because of a medical condition caused by food-borne pesticides? Can your family afford to lose their breadwinner or their homemaker? You can reduce the chances of such a disappearance by eating a healthy diet with lots of fiber and nutrients and no pesticides. Insurance costs money, but illness costs more. And when the insurance tastes significantly better than the cheapest low-quality thing in town, there is a constant and pleasant reward for taking care of one’s future.