Many of our readers and customers are savvy when it comes to the environment and sustainable food but the vast majortiy of folks in the USA don't really know why organic, sustainably-raised, pasture-raised, grass-fed and humanely-raised foods cost more.
So why does this food cost more? There are many reasons, here are a few,
1. Small, sustainable farms cannot rely on government subsidies. When you factor in the subsidies (from your taxes) the price of conventional will be about the same as sustainably-raised. So essentially we can say that the price of conventional food is too low, not that organic is too high.
2. High demand drives prices up. When there are lower quantities of a product, such is the case with small sustainable farms, the farm can't offer low prices to customers to gain market share like a "big" farm with lots of product to sell.
3. Much of the work on sustainable farms is done by hand, not mechanized. Each set of hands costs money but luckily there aren't any fossil fuels being burned when we use humans and not tractors!
4. Production costs are often higher on an organic farm. Certified organic grains cost more as do seeds, fertilizers, and there is a lot of paperwork which takes time.
5. Conventional food is not cheap. When we factor in all of the hidden environmental and social costs of producing food so cheaply it becomes apparent that it is actually very expensive and we must move toward a locally based, sustainable food system.
I'm sure there are more reasons but these get the ideas flowing and the awareness up. Did you know that North Americans spend less per capita on their food than people of any other developed nation in the world? That is quite a statistic! Clearly many of us don't feel like we can afford to eat locally raised, sustainable and organic foods all the time but we can try to realize that a lot of the things that we do spend our money on are not things that we need and most don't support our communities. So the next time you are faced with conventional or organic, local or South American, try to remember the hidden costs behind those dollars and cents.
See you at the farmers' market!