Chances are good that you’re willing to pay more for a product that has a higher price but when it comes to organic produce and other ingredients, there are a lot of unanswered questions.
Some products aim to justify a higher price due to claims of higher quality or strong reviews. In the case of organic produce it’s particularly difficult to prove these claims since one head of broccoli or an individual tomato looks pretty much like any other.
Since you have to make a choice each time you shop, here are four factors to consider as you determine whether or not organics are worth the premium price they demand.
Organic Has a Strict Meaning
Certified organic produce must meet stringent standards. These standards were developed by organic farmers and include regulations regarding pest management, soil resources, manure, compost, crop rotation, and transitioning orchards.
Regulations vary by country. In the US, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) enforces these requirements by imposing sanctions that include financial penalties and the revocation of organic certification. In Europe there is a EU-wide organic legislation where certification is managed at the national level.
The bottom line is that organic certification serves as proof that the produce in question is the result of an approach that definitely differs from the traditional approach to all aspects of produce production.
Does Organic Produce Actually Cost More?
A May 2016 USDA report on the cost of organic produce versus conventional produce reveals that organic produce does sell at a premium. The extent of the premium for a sample of seventeen organic products ranged from 7% for fresh spinach to 82% for eggs.
Part of the premium is due to the cost of meeting the regulations in the farming process itself. Part is due to the perceived benefits of organics over conventional produce. Either way, organic produce definitely costs more.
Is Organic Produce Better For You?
Whether or not organics are better for you is a question without a definitive answer.
You would think by now that there would be a definitive answer to the question of the health benefits of organic produce over traditional produce. The truth is that there is still debate.
Partly this is due to the fact that any fertiliser, organic or otherwise, results in fewer nutrients in the food if that fertiliser is applied to the roots of the plant. Other differences have to do with the nature of the studies, precisely what is being measured, and – regrettably – who is performing the study.
More Nutrients, Fewer Chemicals
At the very least, organic foods are subject to fewer pesticides and consistently contain more nutrients. This is not a matter of debate.
The organic approach eschews the use of many types of pesticides. Only certain pesticides, those that meet the regulations, can be used while maintaining the organic designation.
The claim of consistently more nutrients in the food is also not subject to debate.
The nutrients in a food are a direct result of the health and quality of the soil. When an organic approach is taken, healthy, robust soil is the result. This type of soil supports the development of nutrients in the produce.
Fewer chemicals. A higher level of nutrients. For most of us that’s enough to justify a premium.
If you’re still unsure, pick up a copy of Dan Barber’s The Third Plate (which I reviewed in the latest issue of Future of Food Magazine) and have a read of the chapter on soil. It may be just the thing to help you reach an informed decision.