Oh the terrible dilemma of eating healthy. With all the reported poison on the conventional foods, and the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) infestation of the food supply, so many of the health and nutrition experts are saying eat organic, but the cost oh dear the cost of it.
I have often moaned and wondered at the cost of organic foods as I wheel my shopping cart around the grocers. I must admit that I do not buy everything organic. Oh no, the hypocrite they decry, oh no what have I just exposed, what dirty secret have I let slip? The fact of the matter is that while I do espouse buying organic, and buying local as much as possible, it is because it is the best overall option as well as the safest option if you do not have the time to research food in great detail. If you are like most people, work, family and sleep get the most of your attention and unfortunately you do not spend an overly great amount of time researching food. This is why the quick and easy statement to make is to eat organic foods as much as possible. Not everyone knows that there are a number of foods that you can buy that do not have to be certified organic to be as good as organic only cost less.
In my articles and advise to buy organic, it is easiest and safest to just say buy everything organic than it is to list all the safe non-organic foods each time. I am planning an article that will address this very subject in the near future so that I will be able to just link to it. All will become clearer; all will be revealed in this coming article on “That’s not organic”.
My preference is to buy everything organic, but like all things there are always a multitude of extraneous circumstances that do not allow for this. The main one for me due to the area I live in is were the variety and abundance of organic is lacking in the grocers. I have to travel a fair distance to source out many of the organic products I buy. The other issue with buying organic that affects many people’s decisions, and at times mines as well, is the cost associated with buying organic.
Availability as a factor
Even with the abundant interest in organic foods, the local and chain grocers in many communities just haven’t seemed to get the message. Yes, yes, there are those grocers that carry an increasing number of organic products but in my case as well as a great number of others as well, these stores just have not set up shop close to us. Another personal pet peeve I have, is that many of the same companies that give us Frankenfood are now offering an organic line of products. I personally absolutely hate to reward these companies with my business and money. So with this moral dilemma, in the local retail grocers, my organic options decrease even more.
Unlike industrial conventional food production, non industrial organic food production is more seasonally controlled and at currently a more costly venture. It is hard to buy local organic celery (I mention celery because it is definitely one food that you should buy organic) locally in the winter here in my neck of the woods in Canada as an example.
Cost as a factor
Cost is a big factor, and there are both legitimate and opportunist costs that are being applied to organic foods. Does it cost more to produce organic food over the chemical laden industrialized food process, yes, unfortunately it does. The inevitable fact is that Organic food costs more to produce and will continue to cost more until there is even greater demand and supply. The question many people have is should it cost as much as it currently does?
That is a good question, as my research into this shows that there are factors that go into the answer of this question. Some of the major factors are; is the organic food industrial organic, is it produced on small/medium farms, where is it coming from, and what processes has it undergone. These are all factors that affect the price you see. What I am finding is that there is one cost that unlike the conventional foods, are more exorbitant, is the mark ups on organic foods. These markups run the gambit through the many handlers, retail and grocers, till it reaches you the shopper who gasps OMG (oh my Gosh). In many cases the mark up is much greater than the markup on conventional foods; this is called an opportunist markup. Opportunist markups are applied because it has become accepted that organic food should cost more and that the market will pay the extra to get it.
Wal-Mart to the rescue or not
Wal-Mart for those who don’t already know sells organic food and has made statements of increasing the amount of organic foods that they sell. In Canada Wal-Mart is aggressively growing and increasing the number of store locations that will sell food products. There are two Wal-Marts within very reasonable distance of my abode, isn’t this the case for most people? Wal-Marts certainly seem to be everywhere. With Wal-Mark weighing in on the organic market, you can be assured on at least one thing, the competition in the organic world has just become much greater. We will take a look at a few concerns as well as benefits that that might come out of this. In Wal-Mart statements they have said that they intend to source organic foods on a local basis as much as they can, of course with a lot of conditions attached to that in reality. Unfortunately outside of a few states in the U.S. there are not many “Local” organic farms and suppliers that can meet the conditions or demand for product set by Wal-Mart.
Already I have heard grumblings that organics will be negatively affected by Wal-Marts expansion into the organic market. Some people are even questioning if what Wal-Mart will sell is really organic. So first we need to take a look at what Wal-Mart is doing to bring greater amounts of organic foods to their stores.
Possible benefits to the consumer:
- Availability; with Wal-Marts buying power and practices, as well as the world wide suppliers it is reported that they will be sourcing their organics from, availability should be amongst the best in the market. From reports it would appear that Wal-Mart will be sourcing their organics from a multitude of sources world wide. So far in my area I have not seen any increase in organic products at the Wal-Marts in my area.
- Cost; as the market shows, Wal-Mart has both a history and reputation for lower costs due in part to a lower markup practice and their ability to beat down the supplier costs associated with the products that they source. With Wal-Marts buying power and strategies, organics should see greater price competition and this may reduce not only the cost across board but also much of the “opportunist” costs associated with organics.
Possible adverse effects:
- Other Organic retailers; Wal-Mart will come into competition with the existing Organic retailers. This may force some of the smaller retailers to go out of business as they will not be able to compete against the buying power and low profit margins that Wal-Mart can bring to the competitive market.
- The Organic Farmer; Local organic farmers for the most part will not see any benefits from Wal-Marts entry to the organic market. Only the big industrial farm production organics will be able to meet the requirements of Wal-Mart. With potential smaller retailers closing that would normally purchase the local organic products the small and medium sized farms may have to sell to middle men at lower prices than they now receive.
- Industrial Organic vs. small/medium farm organic; Industrial organic farming is an offshoot of the existing industrial farms. Industrial organic farming can and does grow a greater variety as well as quantity that local small and medium farms can. The Industrial organic farming industries are large and will be the benefactor as they will be the suppliers that can meet Wal-Marts requirements and scale. Small and medium farmers do not have the capacity and capability to grow in abundance and usually grow specific organic crops. Local small and medium organic farms can not compete with the Industrial organic farming corporations and so will find their markets become smaller, and their profit margins will decrease. Small and medium organic farms will continue to find a market in those who know that buying local (real local) is their best bet for getting true organic and fresher organic products.
Organics cost too much
Yes they do, and perhaps a Wal-Mart entering the market will help to adjust the prices on organics more to what they should be. Perhaps with more organic options on the market, more people will begin to focus on buying organics and therefore offset the lower profits with increase product purchases.