Bookmark and Share March 9, 2010 - Dave Mulder

Are organic foods too expensive?

David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom wrote a well-argued editorial criticizing the organic food movement. In doing so, the author touches on a number of the popular anti-organic talking points.

A series of posts on Eating Real Food, starting with this one, will consider these common talking points.

Too expensive!

Organic foods are expensive and impractical for the average American family to purchase, especially in a weak economy when budgets are already stretched thin.

Organic foods are more expensive than conventional products, but they also have the advantage of being natural. As Michael Pollan argues, the industrial food production system shifts costs from the grocery store to the hospital. Conventional production gives us cheaper calories, but the consequences on our bodies (poor health) are negative in the long-term.

If we eat better food, as a society, we may pay more at the checkout counter. But our insurance premiums drop. Critics like Martosko always seem to miss this.

Unfortunately, health benefits tomorrow do not address organic being too expensive today. If you have limited money to spend on groceries for the week, you will probably skip the $4 organic milk in favor of the conventional gallon on sale for $2.

A legislative approach could subsidize organic farming operations. These farming operations could then reduce the direct cost passed onto consumers. T0 be fair, though, consumers would still be paying for the subsidy in their tax bill.

Alternatively, individuals could be better informed as to which organic products are more cost-effective than others, and then left to make decisions on their own. An all-organic diet is incredibly expensive; a selective-organic diet is much more practical. For example, there are some products I do not worry about simply because the organic nature of them means little. (In a later blog post, I will go into this with more depth).

So are organics too expensive? Yes. But only if you consider just the grocery store price tag.

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