Comparison shopping–organic and conventional

By Cynthia Wolfe, agriculturalist and mom

I think it’s important to be thankful for the tremendous blessing of food that we have, not just on holidays but all days. I’m also thankful that it’s affordable! Well mostly it is, as we shall see. I have a degree in Agriculture Science and a healthy respect for farmers and ranchers who provide safe, affordable and abundant food.

Not long ago, I launched a project when I noticed a mom in the store who had chosen to feed her family nothing but organic. Her cart would last my family a week, so I couldn’t resist doing some comparison. I wanted to compare my grocery haul to hers. I don’t recall seeing any meat in her cart. I purchased fresh veggies and fruits, plenty of meat, cereals, juice boxes, eggs, milk and cheese. My cart was completely full, similar to hers. My bill, including paper products, was $160. I was astounded when the cashier told organic mom her total was $336!

I have no issues with organic food or folks who eat it, as long as doing so is not an indictment of conventional foods that are just as safe and healthy.  Sustainability and affordability are closer cousins than some might think. I am not judging organic food lovers. It’s just not a way of life for me. Eating organic can be a pretty expensive choice.

My friends at Texas Farm Bureau asked me to do a comparison based on their quarterly Grocery Price Watch Survey.  Where organic items were not available, I improvised with an alternative item that I thought could be used. No organic frozen green beans but organic frozen broccoli was available. I also included some items that I purchase on a regular basis when an organic equivalent is available. I wrote down the package size and did the math to reflect price per pound or ounce.


As expected, all of the organic products are higher priced than the non-organic items. The organic produce display is much smaller, but clearly as fresh as the non-organic produce. There was, however, less quantity.  No doubt organic farmers could fill it up, but most consumers aren’t willing to pay the higher prices and stores don’t give them as much shelf space. This can make a consumer with high disposable income feel as though they are getting a specialty product, one that only they can afford.

My mission here, if I have one, is to let shoppers like me, who can’t afford or would rather not pay higher prices, understand the difference. I feel good about the choices we’ve made at our family dinner table.






One Response to “Comparison shopping–organic and conventional”

  1. There are other considerations than cost when choosing to buy organic produce. From the Mayo Clinic:

    Organic food: Is it more nutritious?
    Probably not, but the answer isn’t yet clear. A recent study examined the past 50 years’ worth of scientific articles about the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods. The researchers concluded that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are not significantly different in their nutrient content.
    Organic food: Other considerations
    Many factors influence the decision to choose organic food. Some people choose organic food because they prefer the taste. Yet others opt for organic because of concerns such as:
    Pesticides. Conventional growers use synthetic pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce. Organic farmers use insect traps, careful crop selection (disease-resistant varieties), predator insects or beneficial microorganisms instead to control crop-damaging pests. Some people buy organic food to limit their exposure to these residues. Organic produce typically carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than does conventional produce. However, residues on most products — both organic and nonorganic — don’t exceed government safety thresholds.
    Food additives. Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids (substances used during processing, but not added directly to food) and fortifying agents commonly used in nonorganic foods, including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings, and monosodium glutamate.
    Environment. Some people buy organic food for environmental reasons. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.
    Are there downsides to buying organic?
    One common concern with organic food is cost. Organic foods typically cost more than do their conventional counterparts. Higher prices are due, in part, to more-expensive farming practices.
    Because organic fruits and vegetables aren’t treated with waxes or preservatives, they may spoil faster. Also, some organic produce may look less than perfect — odd shapes, varying colors or smaller sizes. However, organic foods must meet the same quality and safety standards as those of conventional foods.

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