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Cost of Organics: What's Your Limit?

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I try to buy organic for certain food, like peppers. Yesterday, at my local market, the going rate was $8 for two green peppers. Yowza! It's no breaking news that food prices are going up. What's your limit in terms of buying organic? Or do you not have any and will continue to buy organic in spite of the cost?

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  1. I won't pay extra simply because it's organic.

    DT

    1 Reply
    1. re: Davwud

      Same here. I'll pay extra if it tastes better. I find organic apples better, but bananas taste the same to me.

    2. A lot of the farms near me are not certified organic, but raise their foods in the same way. I will usually opt for these foods as they’re local, fresh, and are the same thing; they just haven’t paid for certification.

      I don’t typically buy organic for everything, but there are certain items I do prefer to buy organic. If one of these items were ridiculously priced like those green peppers, I would just go without. Sometimes I’ll sub in the cheaper stuff from the grocery store, but not all too often.

      One of my preferred organic/all natural foods is beef – I’ve found I really prefer the taste of all natural beef. At double to triple the price of beef in the supermarkets, I usually buy beef sparingly from a local butcher and will stretch it in recipes. More often than not, though, I just don’t buy it and eat more vegetarian fare.

      1. The packer "Bunnyluv" packs carrots grown on their Holtville, CA fields. They also grow and pack organic carrots on adjacent fields. They use the same foreman, the same migrant farm workers and the same equipment to harvest the fields.

        However, when they get to the market, the regular carrots go for 0.39/lb and the organic carrots for $1.39/lb. (The prices are from a couple of years ago. I am sure that both have increased somewhat.)

        Even talking with some of the producer's employees, I an unable to justify in my mind the large differences in price between the two.

        For the record, most of the carrots we eat are provided by by 78 yo father and his summer garden.

        1. I agree with yumcha. If it is a few cents difference (e.g. if organic milk is on sale), then I'll buy the organic, but most times, I get the rBST free, hormone-free eggs, milk, dairy, instead of the full-on organic. As for produce, I buy all of my produce at the farmer's market, and as long as they don't spray or use pesticices, I don't care.

          The only exception is with salad, since I don't like to take the time to wash it, I buy organic prewashed.

          Also, with strawberries, I will pay extra to not buy ones that use methyl bromide, since CA strawberry growers are the largest group of people who apply for exemptions to the Federal limit or something like that.

          But for $8 for two green peppers, I'll just either not buy or buy the conventional ones.

          I know that conventional bananas have very minimal traces of pesticides, so I usually buy conventional, even though the organic ones are only 10 cents more. Actually, with bananas, I just grab the first thing I see.

          4 Replies
          1. re: anzu

            DH eats bananas every day and finds that the organic ones taste a lot better. Not sure if it's true (as I'm not the banana connoisseur he is) or if it's marketing -- as he kept saying Fiji water was better than our filtered water until a blind taste test showed otherwise.

            For organic -- I've found that celery is always better organic and will purchase it no matter the cost (unless it's something ridiculous). And I probably wouldn't have purchased those bell peppers.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Funny, but I find alot of organic fruits don't taste as good as their conventional counterparts. This is esp. true with fuji apples, mandarin oranges, and, yes, bananas.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Or carrots:

                "Today, high-sugar carrot lines are specifically grown for their market and storage characteristics. High sugar content improves marketability by improving eating quality, and increasing storage life by maintaining moisture content in the stored vegetable."

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49223...

              2. re: Miss Needle

                The Fresh Market here sometimes sells a type of organic bananas that seem to be a slightly different subspecies of 'naner than the usual grocery store banana, whether the usual is organic or standard.

                We buy the FM organics when we see them because there does seem to be a subtle taste difference.

            2. I get an organic box of vegetables delivered every week, but mainly because I want to support British farmers and avoid the supermarkets. It costs me around ten pounds a week.

              I think fresh is better than organic, tbh. In relation to the organic vs non-organic carrots, presumably they're more expensive because the yield is less, and because they require more labour in terms of weeding etc.

              1. I will buy organic berries as I had read berries retain pesticides but that's about it. A year ago, I bought mostly organic fruits and veggies. No more. It just got too expensive. I still buy organic dairy products and organic chicken (Wise brand, absolutely delicious). I also buy hormone and antibiotic-free meats.

                I also buy organic grains like quinoa and buckwheat.

                Cooking from scratch has enabled me to keep buying organic basics. We used to buy organic frozen foodstuffs but stopped.

                1. I agree with Yumcha too - I'll pay more for local and responsibly grown/raised even if it's not certified organic. We also started buying pastured meats and for our last order it was $80 and we got 5 lbs of ground beef, 2 lbs of chicken breasts, 2 lb whole chicken and 2 lb pork loin roast. I frankly don't know how much less it would be if we just bought conventional versions but in this case it doesn't really matter to us - the product and quality is terrific so I don't mind paying whatever the cost is. And I like buying directly from the farm too and supporting them.

                  Most of the other groceries we buy in stores is organic wherever possible. But for whatever reason whenever I go to Whole Foods, I cringe at the price of lemons = 79 cents for one in my stores here in NYC. I have no idea why that makes me nuts but I refuse to pay it. So I'll either buy the conventional ones in another store or TJ's has a big bag for a few bucks.

                  1. Until organics are the within a few cents of a non-organic I will not buy them unless the store has run out of a non-organic item within reason. I would never pay $8 for two green peppers, the recipie would change, or I would go to another store for that item.

                    With the above said I will never buy organic avocados again, flavorless(to me), and 3x as expensive.

                    1. Should add that I ended up not buying those peppers. Just couldn't bring myself to do it.

                      1. I don't trouble to obtain organic foods, nor would I pay a penny extra for them, unless they produced a much better finished dish.

                        1. The actual dollar cost of organics vs the actual dollar cost of conventionally grown foods is only half the story. Conventionally grown foods often consume more fossil fuels and create unwanted environmental consequences that are subsidized by your tax dollars. They also pollute the water you drink, the air you breathe and the dirt they grow in. And if they do contribute to poorer health, well, you're paying for that healthcare too. So you're paying for it in one way or another.

                          It's a complicated equation, and the economics are twisted up with government policy and big corporate subsidies, but the true cost of organics is often LESS than the true cost of conventionally grown foods.

                          I personally don't have an upper limit that I've reached yet. As long as I can afford to buy organic food for my family, I will, even if it means eating less meat and sacrificing an occasional trip to the movies. And I agree that fresh and local is best.

                          1. One should add that recent studies show that organic produce is considerably higher in nutritional value that conventional produce. I always thought that was an unsubstantiated claim of the organic movement but it turns out to be true.

                            Good points, oolah, regarding the environmental impact of industrial/conventional agriculture.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: lescaret

                              could you cite that study? thanks!

                              1. re: smarsh

                                Just wanted to mention that you're going to find studies that support both points of view. I've seen studies that say the nutritional value is higher, and I've also seen studies that say there's no difference.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  Who's telling the truth?
                                  Easy: just ask where the money for the study came from.

                                  1. re: RicRios

                                    Bingo!!

                                    DT

                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      I've added the link to the guide that the Environmental Working Group offers regarding pesticide levels in 45 vegetables and fruits - I use that (loosely) in choosing what to buy that's organically grown. When ever locally grown pesticide free is available, I'll go for that.i try to stick with organic dairy products and meats.

                                      http://www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php

                                    2. re: RicRios

                                      exactly IF the results are published, it is going to be in favor of the group who funded the study, and supports their agenda.

                                      i trust studies, and medical journals about as much as I trust the national media.

                                    3. re: Miss Needle

                                      Thats why I was interested in finding the source of the study mentioned above. The majority of the studies I've seen say no difference (though I have a slight bias against organics so maybe I subconsciously read/remember more "negative" studies).

                                    4. re: smarsh

                                      Check out this article for more specific references to the studies I mentioned:

                                      http://www.alternet.org/healthwellnes...

                                      1. re: lescaret

                                        "Ironically, less nutrient dense foods may be partly why we're eating more and more. Phytochemicals contribute to the satisfaction we derive from foods. Some contribute to foods' flavor profiles, while others, like resveratrol, help trigger satiety. It could even be that that second helping is an instinctive attempt to secure sufficient micronutrients.
                                        In cattle and animals, this is known as hay belly," says Hepperly at the Rodale Institute. "If your hay gets rained on, you wind up with very low quality hay because the water leaches out all the nutrients. You'll see animals eating more of this hay than they normally would. They get these big bellies, and they're unhealthy, but they're just trying to get their nutrients. Ranchers know that if they have animals with hay belly, they have poor quality food. What we've done with the erosion of nutrient content in our foods -- what we've done with additives, processing, and artificial production methods -- is that we have basically produced a hay belly nation."

                                        Brilliant!

                                        1. re: RicRios

                                          And the Rodale Institute makes its money ... selling health, nutrition and diet books.

                                          Any serious medical research to back this up?

                                    5. re: lescaret

                                      I think the jury's still out. While i don't doubt that non-industrially grown produce is--in some cases--significantly more nutritious than industrially-grown, sometimes, it isn't. And it's not clear that industrial organic produce is better than sustainably-managed conventional produce. The cultivar matters, and do growing conditions, time since harvest, and storage conditions.

                                      1. re: xanadude

                                        I bought organic Driscoll strawberries at Whole Foods. They were not as good as the regular Driscoll strawberries tastewise. The bananas tasted the same to me. I buy Honest Tea Green Iced Tea there and Fage when it isn't in our supermarket.

                                        1. re: Linda VH

                                          I went to whole foods this weekend to try it out. Bought organic oranges, the driscoll strawberries and bananas. The oranges were incredible, and I am not a big orange eater. I thought the strawberries were really good- though- but maybe that is because they were the first iI have bought in a long time. Have not tried the bananas yet. I did not buy any asparagus- just could not pay the price.
                                          Though I do admit I bought two cupcakes at their bakery for my young neice and nephew- and they were 4 bucks each! Crazy

                                          1. re: Linda VH

                                            I really think a lot of this what tastes better -- organic vs conventional -- depends on batch. A few years ago, I purchased organic Driscoll strawberries and conventional Driscoll strawberries at Whole Food and tried them side-by-side. The organic one, by far, was much tastier.

                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              We just did a taste test of strawberries in the office. I had organic Driscoll from Whole Foods, and a co worker had strawberries from Market Basket- not sure if they were Driscoll, but they were not organic. The WF were much better! I will have to try this with the nbananas tomorrow!