There’s no denying that organic food is more expensive than foods that have been sprayed with countless chemicals. But why is organic food more expensive? And can you justify that cost increase when doing your weekly shop?
At the time of publishing, a kilo of carrots in Tesco costs just £0.40. If you chose to opt for organic carrots, that price per kilo jumps to £1.43. That’s a 257% increase! And carrots aren’t alone in this.
Swapping conventional broccoli for organic broccoli will see a price increase of 154%. Choosing to buy organic grapes will cost you 190% more. Opting for organic chicken sees your costs increase by 230%. Before you know it, your £20 shopping bill has jumped to £40.
On Average, You’ll Pay an Organic Premium of Around 90%
Adding 90% to your shopping bill is quite a tough pill to swallow. That will see your food bill nearly DOUBLE!
Why is Organic Produce More Expensive?
On the face of it, it’s hard to work out just why organic food might be more expensive than conventional, pesticide-covered food items. However, there are several justifiable reasons, in fact:
Non-organic farmers use a cocktail of chemicals and pesticides to kill off pests and remove weeds. These potions do a lot of the hard work for the farmer. They remove kill weeds. They kill pests. They ensure crops thrive.
Organic farmers don’t have this luxury.
Instead, organic farmers must rely on additional labour to hand weed fields and monitor pests. It’s estimated that an organic farm is 35% more labour-intensive. This labour isn’t free and the cost is reflected in the price of organic produce.
High Demand and Low Supply
Although organic food is still only enjoyed by the minority, there is a huge demand for organic foods compared to the supply that is currently in place. Unfortunately, less than 3% of UK farms are organic but consumer demand for organic ingredients is on the up.
Because of this imbalance between demand and supply, prices are high and won’t be coming down any time soon unless huge swathes of farmland are converted.
Organic farmers still use fertilisers but they are natural (and therefore organic). These fertilisers are often made up of blood meal, manure, cottonseed meal and fish emulsion as opposed to manmade chemicals such as ammonium nitrate.
Although organic fertilisers tend to be cheaper than chemical fertilisers by weight, the nutrients are far less concentrated so far larger quantities are needed which then pushes the overall cost to fertilise crops up.
Not only is the cost to purchase the fertiliser higher but because more of it is needed, the shipping costs are also increased.
Organic Certification Costs
Even the cost of having goods certified as organic is a small fee that pushes up the overall cost of farming organically. Unfortunately, this cost has to be passed onto the consumer so that the farmer can attempt to make a profit.
The cost of organic certification in the UK starts at only £750 per year with the soil association. But these fees can spiral for farms of a larger scale where the fee is based on a percentage of sales turnover.
Yields can drop by up to 20% for organic farms compared to non-organic farms. Pests can wreak havoc across entire fields of vegetables. Crops can be smaller in size as they’ve not been pumped with nitrogen. Harvests can become unpredictable.
All these factors can reduce the yield which means the amount harvested from one field can often drop. Unfortunately, the drop in yield is not reflected in a drop in expenses so farmers need to mark up the price of organic produce to build in their profit margins.
Is Organic Food Worth the Higher Price?
Coming at it from a totally biased point of view, I would say yes, organic food is worth the higher price. As you can imagine, here at Ethical Foodie, we’re huge advocates of organic farming and organic produce.
What Do You Get for Going Organic?
Well, you get fewer chemicals, fewer pesticides and less damage to bugs, bees and the planet in general. Sure, non-organic foods are laden with chemicals deemed to be at safe concentrations, but on a personal level, I’d prefer no chemicals versus a few hopefully, potentially safe ones.
The debate over whether or not organic food is better for you will continue for years to come. Ultimately, whether the higher price is worth paying comes down to personal preference.
What Food Should You Buy Organic?
In an ideal world, everything you eat would be organic. But not only is buying everything organic near-impossible, most food budgets simply don’t make it feasible. If you’re constrained to buying just a few organic items each week, there are some you should stick to.
Below is a list of 10 fruit and vegetables that contain some of the highest concentrations of pesticides when not buying organically. If you can find them in the supermarket, try to buy these organic:
- Kale, Cavolo Nero and Other Greens
- Apples and Pears
- Nectarines and Peaches
Some of the fruit and vegetables listed above can contain residue from 2, 3, 4 or more pesticides.
Several factors go into determining the price of organic food. The reason it is often more expensive than non-organic food is that it takes more effort to grow, can sometimes fail as it is left to mother nature and demand is growing much faster than the supply chain is.