Organic Food: Worth the Cost?

Multiple health trends have risen in popularity over the past decades, but few have persisted as long as the organic food movement.  According to the USDA and, “organic” produce must be grown without synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animal products must come from animals that have not taken antibiotics or growth hormones and have been fed 100 percent organic feed. In order for products to receive the “made with organic products” seal, they must contain at least 70 percent organic products, and the remaining 30 percent must not use certain prohibited practices, such as genetically modified organisms.

Although organic produce and animal products are frequently considered healthier alternatives to conventionally produced food, many people criticize its higher price. Why is organic food more expensive than conventional food? The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that for certified organic food, production costs are usually higher than conventionally produced foods. Larger units of labor inputs are required per unit of output for organic production, and the “greater diversity of enterprises means economies of scale cannot be achieved”. Organic production also results in smaller quantities of output than conventional production. Farmers must follow certain rules after harvest in order to retain the “organic” certification. As a result, their costs rise. The standards for animal conditions and soil quality also raise costs, and thus prices.

Whether or not the higher price is worth the health benefits remains the consumer’s opinion. Certified organic produce promises no artificial pesticides and certified organic animal products guarantee no growth hormones or antibiotics. Time states that consumers worried about pesticides should choose organic, but for overall nutrition organic and conventional production have similar results. In the end, the consumer must decide whether or not the higher costs are worth the certified organic label. This decision comes from the understanding that to be considered organic, food must satisfy certain conditions and processes that raise costs. If organic food is economically feasible, then a consumer might consider purchasing it, but if not, the consumer still should not worry too much about the label and instead buy conventionally farmed produce and animal products.

About Rachel Kadoshima

Rachel is a senior economics and French language student

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