How important is it, really, to buy organic at your steady grocer? Deena Shanker’s perspective on this is not a mystery; she wrote a piece titled “Buying Organic Veggies at the Supermarket Is a Waste of Money” for Quartz. She talked to Think host Krys Boyd this afternoon about what consumers should be paying attention to, instead of that certified organic sticker.
Know the nuances of large-scale farming.
A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the “premium” markup on organic food is 29-32 percent, when only a 5-7 percent markup would be required to cover the extra costs. Organic farms do have to operate for three years before the USDA will grant certification, so that bigger hike in price is legitimately needed sometimes to subsidize those first years, Shanker says.
And large-scale organic farming takes more equipment to produce less food, which is harmful to the environment.
“These very large factory farms that are growing organic food are emitting more greenhouse gases [than non-organic farms],” Shanker explains.
Relish the options afforded by farmer’s markets and CSAs.
“Even an organic CSA could cost you less than buying conventional produce on a more everyday basis,” Shanker says.
And a stand run by a local seller or a share box comes with a first pass on less-fresh veggies, anyway.
“Organic is not going to make your vegetables taste better,” Shanker says. “It depends more on freshness and seasonality.”
Focus on avoiding processed foods.
To Shanker, broccoli is broccoli, and you should eat it -- “fresh or frozen or organic or conventional.”
Don’t let option paralysis keep you from attending to a healthy diet, Shanker says. Remember the origins of the “green” movement were slow-food based.
“Organic started as a much smaller movement among farmers returning to the kinds of practices that were the main farming practices 100 years ago or so,” she says.
Listen to the full conversation on the podcast, or tune into KERA tonight at 9 to catch the encore broadcast.