Quartz recently crunched the numbers on the benefits and drawbacks of organic food and came up with a pretty simple conclusion: it’s a rip-off. Taking prices, health effects, and farming practices into consideration, it turns out you’re getting swindled on all those trips to Whole Foods to buy your way into an organic lifestyle. Let’s break down the three major ways you’re getting hustled.
Anyone who’s been to a health-food or natural-food store can tell you that organic food is expensive. On average, organic food costs 47% more than the same product without the certified label. Logically, you’d assume it costs about that much more money to make the organic food. Not so fast. “As a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, the ‘premium’ markup on organic food is 29-32%, when only a 5-7% markup would be needed to break even—making organic farms more profitable than conventional ones,” according to Quartz.
Everyone is greedy, and you lose. But you’re still happy to pay, as long as you get the health benefits that come from your organic kale, right?
Wrong. “Any health benefits from organic produce are teeny tiny,” reports Quartz, “and any differences in nutrition are relatively insignificant.” Vegetables are good for you, no matter how they’re grown. In fact, within the study, it was found that the majority of the pesticide-grown produce that we’ve been taught to fear comes in at less than 2% of the allowable pesticide levels. But you already knew that; you buy organic because it’s better for the environment. Yeah, that’s it.
Wrong again. Large-scale organic famers don’t skip pesticides and fertilizers, “they just use natural options, which are hardly risk-free,” writes Quartz. Here’s some even more concerning news for all you organic diehards: A recent study found that because organic farming is now being done by gigantic corporations (think: “Walmart organic”), the heavy machinery combined with lower yields means that “organic farming can release even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than conventional farming.”
So what do you do, now that the $6 organic strawberries at Whole Foods are looking slightly less appealing? “Bottom line: If you want to know more about your fruits and vegetables, buy them at the local farmers market, organic or not,” advises Quartz. “The prices are often competitive with supermarkets, the in-season goods will be fresher than those shipped long distances, and any questions you have on production practices can be asked and answered on the spot. If you can’t make it to the farmers market, don’t waste your money on that little label.”
Words of wisdom, produce lovers. And here’s a handy beginner’s guide to navigating the farmers market for all you novices out there.