More than ever we’re under pressure to eat well and shop responsibly. It’s been drilled into us that processed foods are a no-no – we must source our food locally, we need to know where our food has come from and exactly what’s in it. After all, you are what you eat. It’s difficult, right? Especially when buying organic food is so expensive...
Or is it? What is the true cost comparison of organic vs non-organic? Let’s take a closer look.
We have a very basic understanding of the word “organic”
There’s much more to “organic” than it being trendy or fashionable or ‘slightly better for you and the planet’. Few of us really know or understand what factors affect the price of organic food. We are committed to knowing all there is to know about our products and sharing everything we know with you, we call this Radical Honesty – so let’s be radically honest about the real reasons that organic costs more.
Firstly, there is the issue of supply and demand. While on the rise, there are still far too few farmers growing organic food to meet the demand. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, in the USA in 2016 there were 5 million certified organic acres of farmland, representing less than 1% of the 911 million acres of total farmland nationwide. What’s more, globally only 1.5% of the world’s agricultural land is farmed organically, while sales of organic products account for 4% of total U.S. food sales. We have a simple math problem here, to keep up with organic demand we need at least 4 times the current levels of organic food grown worldwide. Organic farmers we need you!
Organic farming methods require human care and attention to detail, which takes more time – and time is money. Organic farmers have to plan their crop rotations meticulously and use alternative methods to boost crop yields and keep pests at bay without the use of synthetic herbicides and pesticides. Cover crops, green manures, animal manures and crop rotations are used to fertilize the soil, maximizing biological activity and maintaining long-term soil health. Organic farms look to reduce external and off-farm inputs and eliminate the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and other materials, such as hormones and antibiotics while placing value on biodiversity of the whole agricultural system and the surrounding environment.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) governs organic certification in the US. In order to become certified and registered as “organic” under US Law, organic farms have to go through rigorous testing and inspections, which of course, comes at a cost.
The system is broken
So, here’s the thing, the idea that you save money by shopping for standard, non-organic food is false. From comparing receipts or scouring the grocery store at a glance, you may disagree but stay with us…
There are a number of hidden costs associated with standard intensively farmed foods. Sure, there are factors that push up the price of organic, (including certification, environmental protection and higher animal welfare standards) but do we really understand why non-organic food is “cheaper”?
Crops used to make processed (and mostly unhealthy) foods such as soy, wheat and corn are highly subsidised by the government. This harks back to World War 2, where the intention was to feed as many people as cheaply as possible: effective at the time, and essential for survival, but this system still exists today.
Unfortunately, U.S.’ subsidised crops do not support microbial health. Almost one-third of the 320 million acres of harvested cropland in the U.S. is used to produce corn, and another one-third is used to produce soybeans. Most of these corn and soybean crops are not grown for human consumption, instead they are used as feedstock for livestock production. Despite this, they constitute two of the most heavily subsidized crops in the US. Degenerative farm practices are supported by federal government subsidies. These degenerative practices destroy the soil health and with it the soil microbiome. The United Nations summary of its Global Assessment on Biodiversity states that chemicals and synthetic fertilizers promise short-term boosts in crop yields, but the overapplication and reliance on chemicals and synthetic fertilizers for commodity farms create inhospitable soil conditions for soil microbes.
Subsidies go disproportionately to larger farms, in 2014 only one-fifth of US subsidies payments went to small sized farms. The United States government is primarily supporting mono-crop operations that utilize intensive farming practices like chemical herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. These heavily subsidized crops also burn through a huge amount of fossil fuels, contributing to as much as a third of greenhouse gas emissions. As they are not fit for human consumption in their unprocessed state, they also promote the creation of ultra-processed food that are now implicated in the steep rise of health care costs. Meanwhile, fruits and vegetables, essential to a nutritious diet are largely left out of the subsidy system.
How much more expensive would organic products really be if processed food wasn’t so heavily subsidised or the externalities picked up in a healthcare bill? We call that: food for thought.
Pay more now, save more later
Unlike organic food producers, most non-organic farmers rely heavily on pesticides to protect their crops and deter pests. In fact, these farms have been so reliant on pesticides for such a long time that many pests have become tolerant to them, which means stronger, more dangerous and polluting pesticides need to be used for the same effect… And no surprise, this has a hugely detrimental effect on the environment, resulting in polluted rivers and waterways, which needs money to fix, right?
Atrazine, a widely used agricultural weedkiller that disrupts hormones, contaminates tap water supplies for about 7.6 million Americans at potentially harmful levels. Atrazine, manufactured by the agro-chemical giant Syngenta, is one of the most heavily sprayed pesticides in American agriculture. EWG's analysis of data from the U.S. Geological Survey and the EPA for 2014, the most recent year available, found that most of the 70 million to 80 million pounds of atrazine used each year are sprayed on corn during the spring. In 2012 Syngenta settled a class action lawsuit brought by water utilities with atrazine contamination for $105 million. The settlement money was distributed to communities with the most contamination, but for many systems even this was too little money to cover costs of long-term water treatment.
Atrazine has been banned in Europe since the 1980s under laws that prohibit the use of any pesticide that contaminates drinking water. But in U.S., the federal government places few restrictions on its use.
The clearing of land for livestock, dairy farms and crops to feed animals is also devastating for climate change and ecosystems. We’ve all seen the shocking images of the Amazon rainforest fire which provoked a stunned reaction all over the world – but the truth is, every year tens of thousands of small agricultural fires are lit around the edges of the rainforest to clear land for crops and livestock. According to recent research, if deforestation continues in the Amazon, as much as 40% of it could be gone by 2050. Carbon emissions are rising, ecosystems are falling apart and whole species are being wiped out, so governments are being forced to pay for the damage or are choosing not to, to the detriment of all, depending on where you live. In fact, the US spends shockingly little on environmental protection. ) http://saveepaalums.info/EPA+costs+to+taxpayers)
While antibiotic misuse in medicine is subject to serious public scrutiny, antibiotic abuse in agriculture is both more widespread and subject to far less oversight. According to the FDA, more than 20 million pounds of medically important antibiotic drugs were sold for use on livestock farms in 2014, about 80 percent of all antibiotics sold. Shocking, right?
Meanwhile, organic farmers invest a lot of time and money into caring for their animals: providing clean, humane living conditions and free-range farms (where animals can roam freely), safe transportation and a responsible use of antibiotics which means the animals are healthier and better quality meat. On the flip side, intensively-farmed animals are kept in poor conditions that encourage disease and discomfort, resulting in poor quality meat for the end-consumer. Consuming poor quality, processed meats that were bred on a reliance on antibiotics has been shown to contribute to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancers, heart disease and even antibiotic resistance. So, the more we consume these foods, the more we pay in insurance and medical bills for our already overpriced healthcare system.
Why you pay a little more for Mylk®
So, how do Myracle Kitchen fit into all of this? What’s it got to do with us? At Myracle Kitchen, we believe in healthy humans. We use minimally-processed, plant-based ingredients to make our healthy alternative ranges (that taste mind-blowingly good). That’s why we only use organic ingredients and NEVER use GMOs, synthetic additives or refined sugars. We pledge to work even closer with our suppliers to monitor the use of finite resources like water and energy, and we’re working towards supporting regenerative agriculture systems, whereby organic soil matter is rebuilt and degraded soil biodiversity is restored. Every time you buy certified organic, you’re contributing to a better food system. Now that really is a myracle!
So, next time you’re in the grocery store or ordering online, you may notice that Myracle Kitchen Mylk® costs a bit more than most alternative milks. Now you know why. Remember, you have a choice. There is always an alternative.