The Great Debate: Organic Food vs Non-Organic Food

Organic Versus Non-Organic Food

There is a lot of conversation amongst baby boomers and other health-conscious Americans about whether the higher cost of organic food is justifiable. Considering the competing opinions being published by reputable sources, it is easy to understand why baby boomers are unsure about whether organic foods are worth the associated 7% to 82% price increase.

It is no secret that consumers are purchasing more organic food these days than in the recent past. GoodRx Health reports that organic food sales increased about 13% in 2020, reaching an impressive sales figure of $56.4 billion. While health food stores have been offering organic food for decades, it is hard to ignore the shift in major grocery store chains that are expanding the amount of organic food they sell.

Official Guidelines for Organic Food Designation

Organic foods must meet strict standards related to how they are grown and processed to be labeled with the official organic seal. There is one exception made. The Mayo Clinic reports that smaller farmers that sell less $5,000 of food annually aren’t required to endure the certification process in order to use the organic label.

It is noteworthy that these smaller growers aren’t authorized to use the same USDA Organic seal that the larger food producers use after meeting the strict requirements of the certification process.

The Case for Eating Organic Food

There are many environmental and personal benefits attributed to organic food production and consumption. Below is a list of the reasons many people are willing to pay more for organic food.

  • Reduced levels of pesticides and chemicals
  • Better food quality
  • Better taste
  • Increased nutrition
  • Human health benefits
  • Less antibiotics used in food
  • Less animal abuse
  • Lowers water and soil pollution during production
  • Lower prevalence of genetically modified foods (GMOs)
  • Environmentally responsible production and cleaner conscience
  • Less use of hormones

The Argument Made Against Paying Extra for Organic Food

While the benefits listed above encourage a large number of baby boomers to make organic food a priority as they grocery shop, some consumers and critics doubt the validity of the health benefit claims and refuse to pay extra for benefits that they view as unsubstantiated.

Below are a few of the reasons consumers and critics aren’t willing to pay higher prices for organic products.

  • Limited shelf life
  • Higher prices
  • Confusing labels and differences in organic labeling
  • Limited choices available
  • Unrealistic strategy for feeding billions of people
  • Promotes poverty
  • Inconsistent controls on organic food production
  • Organic food production is labor intensive
  • Food quality is inconsistent
  • Public acceptance varies widely

How to Save Money on Organic Food Purchases

Budget-minded baby boomers who believe in the health and environmental advantages of eating organic food can take certain steps to save money on organic food purchases. The “all or nothing” approach to buying organic food is not necessarily the best approach for all consumers.

Below are proven strategies that can be used to prioritize healthy eating options while honoring a strict budget.

1. Focus on a mix of organic and non-organic foods based on perceived risk.

The Washington Post suggests prioritizing what consumers buy organic, suggesting that produce is the highest risk food for pesticide contamination. Within this category, some produce can be eliminated from the organic food list if they have a protective outer peel that is not eaten, such as a banana or avocado, for example. By limiting organic food purchases to the worst offenders, costs can be controlled.

2. Follow EWG guidelines and buy organically grown foods on the published Dirty list.

Similar to the advice provided above, boomers can limit their organic food purchases to the Dirty Dozen list published by the EWG Shopper’s Guide. This allows consumers to purchase a majority of their food as non-organic choices while still protecting their families from the foods most likely to be contaminated by pesticides and other contaminants.

GoodRx Health reports that the following foods were listed on the 2021 Dirty Dozen list, meaning that the organic version should be purchased.

  • spinach
  • kale, collards, mustard greens
  • apples
  • strawberries
  • pears
  • bell peppers
  • hot peppers
  • grapes
  • cherries
  • peaches
  • tomatoes
  • celery
  • nectarines

3. Try comparison shopping to get better prices.

Organic food prices vary dramatically depending on where you shop. Washington Post recommends Trader Joe’s and Costco as cheaper options. Walmart and Target have also jumped into the organic food marketplace and are worth considering.

4. Consider shopping online for organic food.

Thrive and Brandless are two popular online shops that consistently offer competitive pricing.

5. Use coupons when possible.

Like all other types of food, organic food has become a commodity with grocers competing hard for business. Coupons are one sales strategy they use to attract new customers. Doing a simple Google search for coupons on the item you’re interested in can be time well spent for substantial savings.

6. Buy generic organic food.

Purchasing the generic food version is always an excellent opportunity for savings. Granted, it is important that you do your homework and taste test these products. As is true with most products, not all generic versions will be acceptable.

Takeaway

Baby boomers on a fixed budget have a lot to consider. As organic food becomes more popular, it’s no surprise that seniors are weighing out the pros and cons of their food choices. There are ways to budget organic food into the budget without breaking the bank.

Belinda Tucker
A Baby Boomer herself, Belinda has a passion for investigating topics that are important to aging adults and then making any confusing concepts clear. Belinda's professional career included serving as a Corporate Recruiter, Mortgage Executive and Real Estate Salesperson. She writes for BoomerBuyerGuides.com on a variety of financial topics.