Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Is Organic Overpriced?

As I travel the country educating people about the short-comings of our modern food system and urging people to choose organically grown, sustainably produced foods, I am constantly questioned about what I believe to be the number one reason why many people choose not to eat organic ─ price.

In this short, three-minute video, Joel Salatin does a great job of outlining some of the big reasons why organically grown foods cost more than conventional products.  Check it out!

I agree with Joel on these, as well as other key reasons for the cost difference.  But for the sake of this blog, let’s focus on the ones pointed out in the video...

First, government food subsidies have made the price of conventional foods artificially low.

You see, the price that conventional farmers are able to sell their products at does not reflect the real cost of their production.  Some crops, like corn, soybeans, wheat and dairy are very heavily subsidized by the U.S. Government.  Interestingly, the heavily subsidized corn and soy often serve as a base for livestock feed, which perpetuates the cycle of keeping costs artificially low, because it allows conventional livestock farmers to raise their livestock for less money than it would require if those crop subsidies had not been in place.  In fact, here’s a great site that tracks the farm subsidies in the U.S.
Of course, it would be a huge step in the right direction if the government would allocate the lion’s share of these subsidies to helping farmers convert their operations into farms that actually provide foods that would improve the health of Americans and help preserve the environment. But the ultimate goal should be to phase out farm subsidies altogether, and bring food costs back in line with true production costs.  However, this is unlikely to happen in the near future.  There’s simply too much money at stake for Big Agriculture and too much campaign support at risk for politicians.  That’s not to say that we should give up on this, but real change will take time.  In the meantime, we all need to take our responsibility seriously to vote the right people into office, support the right food companies with our own purchases, and continue to let our voices be heard.

Next, Joel points out that re-discovering your own kitchen can go a long way in cutting your family’s food budget.

Preparing daily meals with fresh grass-fed meats, pastured poultry, organic vegetables, fruits and whole grains could actually help reduce your food costs if they are replacing the often expensive pre-prepared, processed, pseudo-foods that are so prevalent in our nation’s grocery chains and fast food restaurants. Yes, this takes extra time and significant effort, but the payoff can literally alter the health of your family and future generations.  And while you may not be able to revamp the eating habits of your entire family overnight, you can absolutely get started today by making a few small changes.