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Ask the Readers: Is Organic Food Worth it?

After watching The Meatrix (note the spelling), my wife has been on an organic food only tear.  For those of you unfamiliar with The Meatrix and not inclined to watch, it’s about how poorly factory farm animals are treated to mass feed humans.  Organic foods, on the other hand, have standards as to how animals/plants are treated and fed before reaching the human food supply.

While it’s great that organic meats come from animals that are treated (and fed) better, they are also heavier on my credit card!  How much more?  Reviewing our grocery bills over the past couple of trips, it seems that organic products range from 30%-100% more than the same un-organic product.  I would say that the price discrepancy may vary based on location, however since we are on an island, organic products sell at a premium.

For example, a carton of large eggs here will cost around $2.85.  A carton of large free range organic eggs will cost around $4.89.  While the price difference of $2 (and change) may not sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things, it represents a 72% price difference.

We typically drink skim milk which runs for around $3.77 for a 2L.  The same amount of organic milk costs $6.10 which equates to a 62% premium.

So here’s my question for you, is the benefit of eating organic food worth the price premium?  Where do you draw the line when choosing between organic food and its counterpart?

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FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 61 comments… add one }

  • EmilyCatherine April 11, 2009, 3:43 pm

    I think it’s worth it, but, as with everything, it’s important to be an informed consumer. It’s a time investment, and it’s worth doing for many reasons people have mentioned in comments.

    When we first went 100% organic, our bills were much higher than they are now. As time has gone by, we figured out the system. For example, it is much cheaper as well as better for the planet to buy free-range eggs (from organically fed chickens) locally (our sources are our farmer’s market and our independent butcher.) Eating seasonally, buying in bulk, eating less meat, growing some things (esp things that are pricey at the grocery- organic berries, shallots, things like that), getting the deep freeze, cutting back on anything in a box, joining our CSA have all been ways to mitigate the higher cost of that initial choice. It has taken years, but you know what? Our lives are improved, and it has been a meaningful process of discovery for our family.

  • KushMoney April 11, 2009, 5:30 pm

    I have to say organic food is worth it. How much do you care about your health and what you place in your body? I am starting to be a total health buff about food and my body so if I can get everything organic I would.

  • guinness416 April 11, 2009, 6:24 pm

    That’s a great comment, EmilyCatherine.

  • eazypz April 12, 2009, 3:13 am

    tetsuo69, if I’m interpreting your comment correctly, you assume that I “believe corporate marketing…”w/o even questioning it.” I’m not sure why you think that I don’t question it, but I sure do!

    I’m very aware of corporations’ tendency to misuse words like “organic,” “green,” “sustainable,” and so on. But resources to help stay educated are readily available; all it takes is the investment of time. For example, to understand the process of organic certification in Canada, people might want to start with the Canadian Organic Growers site.

    A distinction needs to be made: I’m unquestioningly in favour of organic farming, but I’m skeptical of all marketing. Government regulations are very specific about labeling requirements – and there are some worthwhile changes to them coming in June. I think it’s reasonable to be vigilant, but not cynical. It’s no good throwing the baby out with the bath water when one discovers that a system isn’t perfect.

  • Mechanonuke April 13, 2009, 12:00 am

    Anyone ever seen the Simpsons episode where Homer goes on a tour of the Duff beer factory? The factory production line has 1 pipe going to 3 vats of beer; Duff, Duff Light, and Duff Premium (don’t exactly remember the names)….

    Anyhow…thats exactly like Organic food. You will never really know if its the same stuff packaged in a different way, then being called ‘organic’.

  • Laketown April 13, 2009, 10:24 pm

    Is organic food worth it? Depends what your priorities are. I choose some organics, but not everything. One of my main reasons is not for the residues on the food, but to reduce all the fertilizers and pesticides that enter our water supplies. Which we in turn drink, or eat fish from. I only buy organic milk for my toddler based on the logic that most toxins are fat soluble and since he is still drinking 3.25% milk, more fat, means more toxins.
    Now there are still ways to save. Check with local farmers. If you live even close to a rural area you can buy a doz. eggs for $2 from their door. They might not be technically organic, but you can see for yourself how they are raised and make the choice. And of course take advantage of local produce and freeze or can it during peak season and enjoy all winter. Tasty and you can save $ at the same time, just need to put a little effort into it.
    I def think the thought organic is worth it, if for nothing else to stand up for animal standards and reduce pollution of our waters. If money were not an option I would buy more organic, so until that time I pick and choose what is most important.

  • Sandy April 16, 2009, 2:00 pm

    Some things like dairy and meat are high on my list because of all the hormones that are involves that have immediate effects on our bodies. Vegetables and fruit haven’t made it there yet. I do give them a good washing but I just can’t afford it.

    I hate to say it but I also avoid food originating in China. I am not sure that the food inspection standards are what I would like them to be.

  • Mark May 17, 2009, 12:31 pm

    This makes me think about brown eggs VS white eggs… great marketing can make the difference; they pushed the facts that brown eggs are much better for your health, etc, etc but hey guess what, same egg, just different “outside shell”…

    Until the “Organic” world is better managed, supervised and standardized, I believe that the prices we’re paying is just a big hoopla and nothing else.

    Are the organic veggies better for you? in the long run, I’m sure that they are; I come from a small village and we bought our veggies and milk from the local growers and yes, I believe that they were “less contaminated” with pesticides but that was back then… now everyone wants to have a better crop and better margin of profit and the only way you can do that is by making sure your crops are healthy; hence the pesticides…

    Probably your best bet will be to grow your own veggies in your back yard, keep a couple of hens for your eggs & by having a cow, not only will you have fresh milk but also great manure to make everything grow!! :)

  • Nathalie May 18, 2009, 3:38 pm

    My father and uncle are farmers. They run an anaerobic digester and create power for 300 homes using manure and grease trap organic waste. Of course they use the processed manure for fertilizer (all bacteria, pathogens, weed seeds and methane gases are broken down/killed so this is a much healthier fertalizer then straight unprocessed manure). Of course this is not considered ‘organic’.

    The milk cows also are not ‘organic’ but this farm has consistently won prizes for the milk being cleaner then the farms around. (Did you know cows lie down in their straw beds and dirty their teats and they are not wiped by most farmers before the milk unit is applied?) Well my dad of course does that.

    I don’t think organic means anything, farms are not regulated enough…

  • Nathalie May 18, 2009, 3:39 pm

    ROFL Mark.. white eggs come from white chickens, brown eggs from brown ones. The egg color has NOTHING to do with what the chickens are fed… I can’t believe how gullible people are.

  • Jim C November 17, 2009, 1:59 pm

    @ Victor
    I disagree with your analysis of global starvation being an issue of a few people using most of the resources, and an inability of being able to transport food. I’m pretty certain is more of a political issue of local corruption and oppression. Also, there is a huge amount of science going into the feeding of cows to improve the efficiency in producing both milk and meat. Not to mention a ton of research into using all the other products that cows produce so as to increasing improve the overall efficiency of cows.

    I also think the whole 100 mile diet thing is bunk. It’s simly not possible in calgary. I would be limiting my family to beef, chicken, spinach, arugula, eggplant, chard, red peppers and cukes. Tomatoes around here are all produced in energy intensive greenhouses. In winter, potatoes, beets, rutabagas, parsnips and carrots. No fruit or fruit products other than strawberries or saskatoon berries. Fish? I wish. Also, not to mention all the economic damage we’d be doing to all those peoples in places like Costa Rica where all your banana’s come from. Or all the fruit produced in BC in the summer? Think local, buy local is a very bad policy in the global economy, and I believe it does far more harm than good. All it will accomplish is local starvation in one place, and local waste in another.

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