How I Justify Organic

Jun 24, 2014 by

organic food labelI’m a student of nutrition, and in a perfect world after I’d won the lottery I’d buy only organic food, regardless of how much more it cost than the non-organic version. But the world isn’t perfect and I don’t even play the lottery, so I make “strategic compromises” when buying food.

Oatmeal as an Example

Oatmeal is the best example of how I think about the organic / non-organic decision.

I eat a lot of oatmeal. I have it for breakfast three or four days per week, and I use oatmeal regularly in making healthful cookies and muffins, which I eat nearly every day.

On a per gram basis, where I live the price of organic rolled oats is about double the cost non-organic oats:

→ Organic oats: 39 cents / 100 grams

→ Non-organic oats: 19 cents / 100 grams

That’s a whopping 105% more for organic oats, yikes!

100 grams of dry oats make a good-sized cooked serving of oatmeal. So for every serving of organic instead of non-organic oatmeal I eat, I spend an extra 20 cents.

Let’s say that including oat-containing cookies and muffins I eat five servings of oatmeal per week.

That means eating organic oatmeal instead of non-organic costs me

→ $1 extra per week, or $52 per year

When I put the organic / non-organic decision in those terms instead of thinking ‘organic costs 105% more than non-organic,’ I can easily stomach (sorry) going organic when it comes to oatmeal.

Other Organic Foods I Eat

My top candidates for choosing organic are items of which I eat a lot. These include whole grain flours and meals, rice, beans & legumes, fruit, popcorn, cold cereal, and vegetables. Of these, I haven’t jumped 100% to organic beans, popcorn, fruit, or vegetables.

I’m too lazy usually and don’t think far enough ahead to cook dry beans, and the canned organic bean varieties are SO much more pricey than non-organic, I just can’t make myself buy only organic canned beans, though I regularly wonder whether I’m shooting myself in the foot, health-wise. I do watch for and buy organic canned beans on sale, but they’re still usually triple the cost of non-organic canned beans.

Because dry lentils don’t have to be soaked for hours to make them edible, I do routinely buy dried, organic lentils.

Like beans, organic popcorn is far more expensive than non-organic, as is fruit and some vegetables. Again, I always peruse the organic sections in the produce department for deals, and I buy organic during sales. I’d guess nearly half of the vegetables and maybe a quarter of the fruit I eat is organic. I’m thinking I should go 100% organic for the vegetables I eat the most—broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach, peppers—because I do eat quite a lot of these and I hate to think what the chemicals used in growing the non-organic varieties are doing to my body. Basically, I’m just in denial on this toxicity issue, and I shouldn’t be.

Organic Meat

Sorry organic meat growers, I respect what you do but the cost of organic meat is so much more than non-organic, I’d almost never choose organic. Fortunately for me I made the choice a couple of years ago to stop eating meat altogether, so I don’t have to live in denial about the potential nasty effects of eating non-organic meat grown using hormones, antibiotics, and steroids administered to animals maintained under largely torturous conditions.

Do You Eat Organic?

Do you eat any organic food? If so, how do you justify the extra cost? If not, is it because you simply cannot afford it, or maybe you don’t believe organic food is healthier?

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  • Aaron

    Hi Kurt. We eat organic. And justify the higher costs with the fact we are making an investment in our health long-term and we choose not to gamble with the toxicity issues, as you mention.

  • squirrelers

    I like the analysis, breaking it down to a common unit and then quantifying it into an annual cost. I too am a regular oatmeal eater, and never thought about organic.

    Having said that, I have tried to incorporate some organic food into my diet. My foray into this has involved switching to organic for fruits/veggies that I’ve read are good to eat organic and that there’s a real differential between organic and conventional. For example, I’ve read that apples are recommended to be bought organic.

    • I think that’s wise. Coincidentally I caught a bit of Dr. Oz today and a guest was recommending a similar approach.

  • I know organic is so much more expensive and I don’t buy much of it. I do try and eat healthy though. I find it is best to pick and choose certain things that i know are better organic like thin skinned fruits that have less pesticides than other non organic fruits.

    • I try to do that too. For the sake of the budget, we have to pick our battles when it comes to buying organic!

  • The cost of organic food can make it harder to purchase often. Similar to you, I make careful choices about what I go for organic and what I don’t. You need to factor in things like health costs as well as just comparative to non-organic food. I also consider the quantity of the item. Typically things eaten in a greater quantity are more likely to cause problems than things eaten once in a while. At least that is my understanding

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