Monday, October 4, 2010

So Why Does Organic Cost More?

There is no doubt an organic lifestyle costs more than the non-organic heavily processed western diet. It's apparent at any store with just about any organic product, but the disparity between organic meats and non-organic is probably the most eye-catching. But why is this?

You can say that it costs more to do things right, and that ultimately it's cheaper to produce the "garbage" American's have become accustom to calling food, but should this be? Or is it just the label itself "organic" that comes with such a price tag... the stigma that we as a society are conditioned to believe that you have to pay more for better quality.

If you've never read The Omnivore's Dilemma than you may simply accept this reasoning as fact, but no doubt this is a concept that should be questioned, and for me a recent visit to Polyface Farm (the organic sustainable farm in Michael Pollen's book) had done just that. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm will tell you just the opposite, that in reality it cost more to do things the wrong way rather than to go with flow (of nature).

He says what people fail to take into account, when making this assumption, is all that is behind the scenes; like the many thousands of farmers subsidized by the government yet heavily in debt from the hefty loans necessary to purchase the mega farming equipment used to harvest tons of corn, from genetically engineered seeds that must be purchased every year, and the millions of tons of chemical fertilizers necessary to farm the same infertile land every season, all to grow corn in mass quantities. Or the millions of dollars it costs to transport this crop to the feedlots where it will become the main menu item for our countries mass produced live stock, which will undoubtedly become sick from this poor unhealthy diet requiring antibiotics and constant monitoring by well paid veterinarians. Not to mention the millions spent on removal and disposal of the many casualties in the form of dead livestock, a common fate for a creature treated so inhumanely, which in some form or another will find its way back as food to those "lucky" animals who survive this nightmare. Add to that the millions dollars in crude oil burned in keeping this giant operation running and the stores' shelves packed, and you have a pretty hefty bill.

But why stop there? As you know an unhealthy diet equals an unhealthy person, and that means thousands per family spent in medical bills... every year!

On the other hand an organic sustainable farmer (or grass farmer as Joel says) has nothing below the surface; no men behind the scenes. Just many acres of land farmed by many healthy livestock, each having job a maintaining the property if you will. Nothing but healthy animals (cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, etc.) putting in an honest day's work grazing off of healthy naturally fertilized land. And when done properly, kept tightly herded and rotated religiously at just the right time, first the larger animals like cows sheep and goats filling their stomachs and leaving behind an acre or so of "disturbed" land that this is ready and primed for re-growth and all the natural fertilizer necessary for this to happen. Followed this up with chickens and turkeys ready to feast on the new shoots of grass and the many insects that are hard at work fertilizing the land, and what you have is a self sustained organic farm.

So it's true at the register an organic lifestyle is pricier, but when you look at the whole picture... Which one sounds more expensive to you?

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