The Economics of Eating Healthy
We at Fab & Fru love to talk about why the long term health benefits of eating organic, whole foods are worth the extra dent in your wallet. But at 20 to 100 percent higher cost than their conventional counterparts, we wanted to know – what makes organic foods cost so MUCH more?!
Did you know that the government subsidizes farms in the United States? Unfortunately, large scale agriculture and factory farms benefit strikingly more from these production-oriented subsidies (and other national or regional support schemes) than smaller organic farms. According to the House Appropriations Committee,, compared with $15 million for programs for organic and local foods.
A major reason conventionally grown and raised produce, meat and dairy costs less is because this government support allows big farms to reduce their prices!
No Chemicals = More Employees
The use of chemicals and synthetic pesticides helps conventional farmers reduce the cost and time of production. Simply put, it’s more efficient. Instead of using chemicals to achieve success, organic farmers must hire more workers for tasks like hand-weeding, cleanup of polluted water, and the remediation of pesticide contamination.
The Organic Farming Research Foundation explains: “The organic price tag more closely reflects the true cost of growing the food: substituting labor and intensive management for chemicals, the health and environmental costs of which are borne by society.”
Supply & Demand
Retail sales of organic food rose from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $21.1 billion in 2008, according to the USDA, and 58 percent of Americans claim they prefer to eat organic over non-organic food. However, organic farming accounts for less than 10 percent of total worldwide farming, and organic farms tend to produce less than conventional farms. Conventional farmers have a better chance of keep prices lower because they have more supply to sell.
Fertilizer, Crop Rotation, & Animal Welfare
Not to gross you out, but the sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers used by conventional farmers costs much less – and are cheaper to transport – than the compost and animal manure used by organic farmers. Additionally, instead of using chemical weed-killers, organic farmers conduct sophisticated crop rotations to keep their soil healthy and prevent weed growth.
Higher standards for animal welfare also means higher costs for organic farms. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, organic feed for cattle and other livestock can cost twice as much as conventional feed.
The Cost of Loss
Synthetic pesticides repel insects and antibiotics maintain the health of the livestock, greatly reducing the loss for conventional farmers. Because organic farmers don’t use chemicals, their losses can be much higher, and these expenses are passed to the consumer.| Print
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