The Real Cost of Organic Food

November 30, 2010 at 1:11 PM

When discussions arise about how expensive it currently is for the U.S. consumer to purchase organic food, I would suggest viewing it with a more comprehensive perspective.

Let me explain…

Latest statistics reveal that organic produce typically costs the end-user/consumer between 10-40% more than its counterpart grown conventionally. Knowing that this is simply the “price” of the produce, I think it is crucial that all consumers understand there are two other major factors involved that should always be taken into consideration when buying organic plant-based foods. One factor is what I would call the actual calories used issue. This refers to the fact that the U.S. wastes approximately 30% of all food from the point of production through to the plate of those eating it. For me, this actual calories used issue also can refer to the fact that the typical individual in the U.S. consumes between 185 and 336 calories per day more than we did 40 years ago. On average, instead of consuming 2,000 to 2,800 kcal per day, to maintain a healthy weight to height ratio (obviously these numbers would be slightly higher or lower relative to other factors such as one’s age, gender, lifestyle/activity level, etc.), we are essentially taking in kilocalories at a rate whereby one to two pounds can easily be gained per person per week, hence our national obesity issue. So here we can see that per person in the U.S. there is on average 15% more calories eaten per day than is necessary as well as up to 30% food loss occurring as waste. This combination of food wasted and overeating,the actual calories used issue, should then be compared to the 10-40% increased price of organic food. Go ahead and purchase organic produce, but simply do not waste it or eat more than your body needs per day.

The other primary factor which must always be considered when viewing the price of organic produce is exactly what the real cost savings are to our environment and our own health. It is well-known now that organic produce, especially when compared to non organic or organic animal products/meat, is less costly to our planet–saving valuable resources such as our atmosphere, fossil fuels, water, land, biodiversity, rainforests, and others. When compared to any type of animal product, organic plant-based foods are much less costly to our own health as they substantially reduce our risk of the four leading causes of death (coronary heart disease, malignancies, cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes). Eating organic plant-based foods would cost our nation approximately $145 billion less per year in health care (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, CDC). The difficulty is that these real cost savings have not yet been accounted for in our agricultural systems. Proper government incentives and subsidies have not been established to help reduce production costs of organic plant-based foods. Less than 1% of the 2009 Farm Bill was paid to plant-based food producers while $6.6 billion or 75% of farm subsidies has been paid to support the meat and dairy industries. We need to keep in mind that an additional $750 million was also paid by our government in 2009 to support the fishing industry, which just furthers the incentives to overfish and exploit already depleted fishing stocks (of which, 70% of all fish species are already overexploited). These major factors must always be taken into consideration when paying a slightly higher price for organic plant-based foods. Very soon the prices will come down… there simply will be no other choice as we evolve.

More of this topic can be explored, along with my thoughts on mandating a food “Eco-Tax” and “Health-Risk Tax”, in my book “Comfortably Unaware: Global Depletion and Food Choice Responsibility” which can be previewed .

Tags: health nutrition food choice food politics government subsidies calorie count healthy weight organic food organic produce
Category: nutrition

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