Going Organic: Is it Worth the Cost?

Organic foods have hit the mainstream with many American households getting onboard. U.S. organic sales reached an estimated $35.1 billion dollars in 2013 with 83% of American households purchasing organic products at least once 1. Whether you’re already shopping organic or are simply interested in learning more, it’s hard to deny the rapid growth in the demand of organic foods. Most of the time, organically produced foods cost more than conventionally produced foods. Which begs the question, are organic foods worth the cost?

What Does it Mean to be Organic?

When you see that a food item is certified organic, you know that the farmer and/or food processor meets a defined set of standards from farm to table that include2:

  • Preserving natural resources and biodiversity through reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality
  • Supporting animal health and welfare (including providing access to the outdoors for animals and not using antibiotics or growth hormones)
  • Only using approved farming materials (for example, natural fertilizers for the crops or the use of insect traps to control pests)The Expense of Organic Farming

    A hurdle many face when buying organic foods is the cost. Organic foods are often more expensive than their con- ventional counterparts for many reasons. In addition to the fees for certification, organic farmers require more labor to produce their food and face greater challenges in grow- ing and distributing large amounts of their crop/livestock. By purchasing organic foods, you are supporting farmers and food producers that follow organic practices, and over time, the increased demand for organic foods will lead to lower prices in the grocery store!

Tips to Trim the Cost of Buying Organic

1. Buy in season. Look for seasonal promotions or talk with your local produce manager about the seasonality of upcoming foods.

2. Buy in bulk. Stock up on organic items that go on sale, being mindful of “use by” dates. Generally speaking, price per pound of products is cheaper when purchased in large quantities.

3. Process your own foods. Purchase whole mushrooms instead of sliced or prepare your own simple granola bars with organic ingredients versus buying packaged granola bars. A little time at home can make a big im- pact on your budget over time.

4. Buy frozen or canned, especially on sale! Organic frozen and canned foods follow the same standards
as fresh, so stock up on these items that have a longer shelf life.

Resources:

  1. McNeil, M. Increased Knowledge of Organic Translates to Increased Buying. Organic Trade Association website. http://ota.com/news/press-releases/17939. Published March 5, 2015. Accessed March 24, 2015.
  2. Organic Agriculture. United States Department of Agriculture website.http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&con- tentid=organic-agriculture.html. Updated January 9, 2015. Accessed March 23, 2015.

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