Why Is Organic Food More Expensive: Explained

You might think that organic food would cost less than non-organic food. After all, it doesn’t use any of the synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and hormones that are used for producing conventional food. Yet the price of organic food products can be twice (or even three times) as much as their non-organic counterparts. 

Well, it turns out that there are many good reasons for this difference. And in some cases, making the investment is worth it. Keep reading this guide from Sunwink to discover everything you need to know about what gives organic food a higher price tag.

What Is Organic Food?

Organic food is anything that’s produced without using synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones. Organic food includes anything from produce to grains to animal products. 

Just because some produce is organic doesn’t mean it’s free of pesticides. Some organic farmers use natural pesticides to protect their organic crops. But the key difference is that these pesticides are less harmful and are not made with toxic chemicals. 

What Is Non-Organic Food? 

As opposed to organic food, non-organic — A.K.A. “conventional” — products freely use synthetic and chemical ingredients, as well as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and antibiotics. 

Of course, the government sets limits for how much can be used and regularly conducts testing on some foods. But some amounts of these chemicals can still make their way into the ecosystem, causing all kinds of damage. 

Not only are chemical pesticides and fertilizers bad for the environment, but they can also harm human health. Consuming too much of these chemicals is linked to the following side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Skin rash
  • Neurological issues
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Infertility
  • Birth defects 
  • Damage to major organs

Keep in mind: These are only some of the side effects. In reality, pesticides and fertilizers can affect any part of the body, harming major systems like the respiratory, digestive, endocrine, reproductive, and dermatological systems. 

What’s more, the side effects of these chemicals aren’t immediate. They can show up months or years after exposure, which makes it hard to make a connection. 

Keeping this in mind, it’s definitely not a bad idea to make the switch over to organic food. But we can’t ignore the fact that eating organic comes at the organic price, which might make some people raise an eyebrow.

But there’s a very good reason why organic food comes with price premiums — ten of them, to be precise. In the following section, we’ll explain what they are. 

Why Is Organic Food More Expensive? 

1. It Has Higher Production Costs 

Why do non-organic farmers use all those nasty chemicals? Of course, it’s not because they’re beneficial for their crops. Rather, they use them to keep their crops from getting harmed, so they can produce more of them. 

But organic farmers don’t have the same luxury. Instead, they hire people to protect their crops the old-fashioned way, which includes pulling out weeds and killing harmful insects. 

Paying people to do this manual labor is much more expensive than spraying pesticides and fertilizers on crops. So, to make money, organic farmers have to raise their prices. 

2. It Uses More Expensive Fertilizers 

Fertilizer is any material that’s applied to the soil to increase its nutrients. If it’s synthetic, it may be harmful. But there are natural fertilizers that aren’t harmful. For instance, animal manure is a popular fertilizer for organic farmers. 

However, as you would expect, natural fertilizers are more expensive. So, organic farmers have yet another reason to sell their products at higher costs. 

3. It Uses Crop Rotation

Conventional farmers use chemical weed-killers to keep weeds from damaging their crops. But since organic farmers don’t use synthetic chemicals, they have to turn to another technique to prevent weed growth: crop rotation. 

Basically, after organic farmers harvest a crop, they let the soil take a break. This allows it to regenerate and build up its nutrient content. 

While this is great for soil fertility, a large portion of the land isn’t being used to produce more food. This means fewer profits for organic farmers.

4. It Costs More To Ship

Organic agriculture produces smaller quantities than conventional farming. While non-organic produce can ship huge quantities at once — reducing the average shipping cost — organic farmers don’t have the same luxury. 

Plus, organic farms are typically farther from major cities than their conventional counterparts, which is another reason for higher shipping costs. 

5. There’s More Loss

Conventional farmers use chemicals because it helps them to preserve more of their crops. For instance, synthetic pesticides kill insects, which means less of the crop dies.

But since organic farmers don’t use chemicals, they’re more likely to lose more of their crops. To make up for losses in profit, they have to raise prices on the produce that does make it to the supermarket. 

6. Organic Food Grows Slower 

Thanks to various chemicals, conventional fruits and vegetables grow much faster than organic ones. This means that organic farmers aren’t able to make a profit as quickly and have to pass the costs off to consumers. 

7. It Promotes Better Animal Welfare

When animals are raised the USDA organic way, they’re only fed organic products. Those who shop in grocery stores aren’t the only ones paying more for organic — farmers have high food costs, too. This is one reason organic animal products are more expensive than conventional ones. 

8. There’s More Demand Than Supply

Every year, sales of organic products grow, with an increasing number of people choosing to make the switch over to organic. Unfortunately, the quantities of organic farms aren’t growing in the same way. 

Organic farming is expensive and isn’t all that profitable. So, not surprisingly, only 1.5% of all farmland is organic — the rest is conventional. 

In general, the less there is of something — and the more people want it — the more expensive it becomes. 

9. It’s Expensive To Get an Organic Label

The last step in organic farming is to get an organic certification from the USDA so people know they’re buying the legit stuff. This is definitely not easy — nor is it cheap. 

Organic farmers must keep up with some standards, which could mean making costly facility changes. Plus, they have to pay to be inspected annually, which can cost farmers as much as $2,000 annually. 

10. It Gets Fewer Subsidies

Food production is a seriously important business. After all, it determines whether people eat or not. 

To ensure that farms can always produce food, the government gives them subsidies — to the tune of billions of dollars per year. But organic farms get much less in subsidies than conventional farms, which is another reason they have to raise their prices. 

Is Organic Food Worth It?

First and foremost, organic food is better for the planet. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers can harm the earth, water, air, and all the animals that come in contact with them. 

Plus, these chemicals can be incredibly damaging to those who work with them, which is why conventional farmers have much higher risks of serious health problems. 

But what about people who eat a few fruits and veggies per day? Are they at risk for health problems?

Well, it really depends. If someone is eating a lot of conventional produce, not washing it, and sticking to options that don’t have a skin (e.g., spinach), they may be worse off than those eating organic. 

If you can afford to eat everything organic, go for it! But if it’s too expensive for you, then try your best to spend money where it counts — by buying organic only for foods with high pesticide residue. 

Foods included in the Dirty Dozen are especially important to buy organic. These foods are those with the highest pesticide residues when grown conventionally. 

This group includes: 

  • Spinach
  • Kale, collard, and mustard greens
  • Celery 
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell & hot peppers
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Pears
  • Apples 

On the other hand, if a food has a thick skin — like avocados — you can generally safely buy it non-organic. 

Takeaways 

Synthetic chemicals, like pesticides and fertilizers, are seriously bad for the environment and can even harm human health. If you can switch to organic, you’ll be doing yourself — and the world — a huge favor.

At Sunwink, we believe in the benefits of organic food. This is why our products are made only with organic ingredients. Check out our sparkling Superfood tonics and Superfood powders to supercharge your wellness journey. 

 

Sources: 

Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept in Agriculture | PMC

Global organic area continues to grow – Over 72.3 million hectares of farmland are organic | FIBL

Difference in Accidents, Health Symptoms, and Ergonomic Problems between Conventional Farmers Using Pesticides and Organic Farmers | NCBI

EWG's 2022 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce | EWG

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