Reasons organic food is so expensive
1. No chemicals = more labor
The Organic Farming Research Foundation explained it well: “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.”
2. Demand overwhelms supply
Retail sales of organic food rose from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $21.1 billion according to the USDA, and 58 percent of Americans claim they prefer to eat organic over non-organic food. However, organic farmland only accounts for 0.9 percent of total worldwide farmland, and organic farms tend to produce less than conventional farms.
3. Higher cost of fertilizer for organic crops
Sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers might not be something you want in your food, but conventional farmers use them because they don’t cost much and are cheap to transport. Organic farmers eschew these inexpensive solutions in order to keep their crops natural and instead use compost and animal manure, which is more expensive to ship.
4. Crop rotation
Instead of using chemical weed-killers, organic farmers conduct sophisticated crop rotations to keep their soil healthy and prevent weed growth. After harvesting a crop, an organic farmer may use that area to grow “cover crops,” which add nitrogen to the soil to benefit succeeding crops.
5. Organic certification
Acquiring USDA organic certification is no easy — or cheap — task. In addition to the usual farming operations, farm facilities and production methods must comply with certain standards, which may require the modification of facilities. Employees must be hired to maintain strict daily record-keeping that must be available for inspection at any time. And organic farms must pay an annual inspection/certification fee, which starts at $400 to $2,000 a year, depending on the agency and the size of the operation.
6. Cost of covering higher loss
Conventional farmers use certain chemicals to reduce their loss of crops. For example, synthetic pesticides repel insects and antibiotics maintain the health of the livestock. Since organic farmers don’t use these, their losses are higher, which costs the farmer more and increases the cost to the consumer. Additionally, without all the chemical preservatives added to conventional foods, organic foods face a shorter storage time and shelf life.
7. Organic food grows more slowly
Time is money. Not only are organic farms typically smaller than conventional ones, but they also, on average, take more time to produce crops because they refrain from using the chemicals and growth hormones used by conventional farmers.