Organic foods are typically more expensive than non-organic options but that hasn’t stopped more Americans from buying. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food sales in the United States have grown consistently over the past decade, with total sales reaching $51.5 billion in 2019, an increase of 5.9% from the previous year. The organic food market is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, driven by increased consumer demand for organic products. But why does “organic” cost so much more?

The higher cost is primarily due to the increased cost of production. Organic farmers must adhere to strict standards and regulations, which can be costly. Additionally, organic foods tend to have shorter shelf lives, making them harder to transport and store. The trade off – healthier food that is better for the environment – is worth it for many consumers.

One of the main reasons for higher prices when compare to conventionally grown foods is that organic farming practices are more labor-intensive and require more management, as farmers do not use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Organic farmers also tend to have smaller farms which results in higher costs per unit of production.

The cost of certification

Because organic farms are regulated there are additional costs associated with certification and compliance with organic standards. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for regulating organic food in the United States. The USDA established the National Organic Program (NOP) in 2002 to develop and enforce national standards for organic agriculture. The NOP is responsible for ensuring that organic products are produced in accordance with a set of predefined standards, which include guidelines for crop and livestock production, wild crop harvesting, and handling and processing of organic products.

The NOP also oversees the certification of organic products and producers. In order to be labeled as organic, a product must be produced and processed in accordance with the NOP standards and be certified by an accredited certifying agent. These certifying agents are third-party organizations that have been accredited by the USDA to inspect and certify organic operations.

The NOP also enforces compliance with the organic standards through regular inspections and audits of certified organic operations. In the case of noncompliance, the NOP may revoke an operation’s certification, impose fines, or take other enforcement actions.

Good Old Supply and Demand

Another factor that contributes to the higher cost of organic foods is that the demand for organic products often exceeds the supply. As a result, organic farmers may have to charge more to make a profit. The organic market is still relatively small and relatively new. This means that the technology and infrastructure needed for organic farming is not as developed as that for conventional farming and organic products have to be transported to a smaller distribution chain, which increases the price for the consumer.