I’ll get right to the point: I’m a bit skeptical when it comes to the organic food industry.
I will admit, science proves that many organic foods have more flavor than non-organic foods, but it comes with a price. And I mean that in the most literal form of the word.
Organic food is expensive and isn’t a feasible option for many people around the world.
A common misconception is food labeled as organic food means it has a higher nutritional value, but this isn’t necessarily true. The term “organic” only applies to how the food was grown and produced. Sure, there are health benefits to eating some organic food such as the absence of pesticides and additives, but you’re going to have to pay more for that.
Most people who have gone food shopping have probably gone through an aisle for organic food. When holding up a regular tomato and an organic tomato, I can’t tell the difference. If I ate them, would I be able to tell the difference either?
Some might be able to. The only major difference I can tell is the organic one is more expensive than the other. But is the price difference justified?
According to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, organic foods on average only require a 5 to 7 percent price increase to break even. Yet, the study found most organic foods experienced price markups of 29 to 32 percent.
I understand the need for higher prices in some regards because labor for organic farming is more expensive, as well as other factors. I do question the need to mark up prices that high.
Basic economics explains this, though. When there’s a demand increase, both price and quantity increase with it. The number of organic farms has exploded in the past decade, allowing for this increase in both quantity and price.
As an economics minor, I am in favor of the marketplace determining prices naturally because it’s the most efficient way of doing so. So if the demand for organic foods is high and people are willing to pay these high prices, then it’s going to continue.
I do not, however, want people telling me I absolutely have to buy organic foods or support small local farmers by buying grass-fed beef, for example.
As a college student who lives off campus and cooks regularly, I can’t afford to buy organic foods on a regular basis. I honestly don’t really care if I’m eating non-organic foods because I’ve been doing it all my life and I’m fine. It’s just not worth it to me.
People who tell others they’re evil if they don’t regularly eat organic foods need to be understanding of people’s situations. Not everyone has the income to pay more than 25 percent more for their food.
Also, small local farmers are just never going to be able to compete with massive farming companies because of size. Even if the quality of food produced from the small farmer is a little better, economies of scale allow bigger companies to produce it at a lower price and make more money.
Food is a necessity to survive, so charging high prices for it is in some ways counterproductive. As I mentioned before, a small increase in price to offset the extra costs of production makes sense, but multiplying that price increase by five is not necessary.
Essentially, organic food is a luxury. The people who have extra income are going to buy it, but expecting that the average consumer is going to buy all organic food is wrong.
Think about it like water. You can drink tap water in your house for basically no cost, or you can buy generic bottled water for $5 per case or you can buy a brand like Fiji water, which can be about $30 per case. In the end, they’re all water and are all going to keep people alive — it just depends on how you value money.
So if you ever see me in a supermarket, don’t expect to see me in the organic food aisle. It’s not worth it for me.
Austin Vitelli, ’17, is a managing editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected].