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By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.

Helen Hunt Jackson - September
The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

John Updike, September
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Is Organically Grown Food Really Worth the Price?

[Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
edited February 20 in Food and Drink
I heard an interesting radio report from Sweden yesterday. Organically grown food is very popular there....but not in one part of Sweden. In this one part, people buy normally grown vegetables and fruit in the supermarket, not ecologically grown. Research was done to find out why this is. The answer? The opinion in this one part of Sweden is: "Eco food doesn't taste any different than the normally grown food and it costs twice, or three times as much. It's simply not worth it." What do you think? Is organically grown food worth the price? Do you prefer to buy or eat it if you can? Does it taste any better than non-organically grown food?
Post edited by [Ex Member] on
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Comments

  • FrankFrank Moderator Posts: 5,953 mod
    Maybe it's true that Eco food doesn't taste any different than the normally grown food and it might costs twice, or three times as much @Larry_the_Zebra. However, it is said that it’s healthier and good for the environment. The reason for the health advantage is found in the fact that this food hasn’t been artificially processed. What you eat is pure nature without artificial additives like sweeteners, flavour enhancers ,monosodium, preservatives etc.

    Ecological food supports nature preservation and animal wellbeing. It protects against global warming. Being good for the environment will repay in the near future and in the long run. It protects our health and that of future generations. Doesn't that all sound worthwhile?
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    @Frank It does sound worthwhile. But most people can't afford a social conscious, even if they would like to have one. When you stand in the supermarket, will you buy a bunch of carrots for 3 euros simply because the label says 'Ecologically Grown' or will you buy the bunch of carrots which look and taste exactly the same, but costs 99 cents? Where is the incentive to pay two whole euros more, especially if you don't earn very much, or are on a tight budget or have a big family?
  • FrankFrank Moderator Posts: 5,953 mod
    edited January 26
    You are right @Larry_the_Zebra. It gets even worse when you stand in the supermarket with a sincere social conscience and you intent to buy the carrots for 3 euros. Then next to you at the same time, there's a person that buys the carrots fo 99 cents. That's the moment when you ask yourself: "What am I doing if nobody does the same thing". If the social norm doesn't compel you to buy the Eco food, why should you? In our country we have a comparable discussion about the plofkip: these are broiler chickens, that are given special food to let them grow huge in a short period of time only to offer the customers a lot of meat for a bargain.

    In the picture left you see the 'Ecologically Grown' chicken. The one on the right is the "plofkip".
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    I made a mistake. I think it should be 'organically grown' food. Not ecologically grown. I speak German so much I sometimes don't immediately find the right words in my own language anymore! I can't see the pic (my browser), but I'm sure it's a very crass difference!
  • Practical_SeverardPractical_Severard Posts: 489 ✭✭✭
    edited January 27
    I doubt that the organic food tastes just like the product of industrial argiculture. Here we have boutiques of organic food and their merchandise tastes and smells way differently than the "usual" food.

    Modern farming and food industy also uses antibiotics and hormones which naturally go down the food chain. These substances do influence one's health, such as there are far more allergic children that we here were used to have thirty years ago.

    Therefore, I opt for organic food, such as milk which shelf life is 5 days or less.

    Nevertheless, modern technologies are justified with the need to feed the hungry. So organic food is a luxury in the modern world. But getting rid of alcohol, tobacco, confections may save you the money for organic food.
  • mheredgemheredge Teacher Here and therePosts: 27,055 mod
    I'm not convinced that organically produced foods taste the same as mass produced products that use chemical fertilisers and pesticides @Larry_the_Zebra. I find that organic food tastes much better. I agree that not everyone can afford it, but having the choice is important as many can and as @Frank suggests, this sort of food is much better for you.

    Maybe if people are so concerned about feeding the hungry, we'd be better off looking at reducing the amount of meat that's consumed which is much less sustainable than vegetable crops.
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    @Practical_Severard I agree with you that the organic food from specialist boutiques tastes very different, but what about the stuff in the supermarket? I've tried a few of the 'Eco Brands' my supermarket carries and I honestly can't taste any difference. I like your idea of sacrificing chocolate and beer to afford organic turnips! :)

    @mheredge For me, it's the mass consumption of meat that is the worse evil, as you point out. If we reduced our meat consumption, it would make a visible impact not only on our health but also the environment. But the over-consumption of meat goes down to culture and also to gender a bit, doesn't it? Women eat far less meat than men do, and many men claim they find it very difficult to go without meat almost every day because they start to feel weak. Jamie Oliver, the famous TV chef, is one of them. (I'm not.)

    I disagree with you though, that many people can afford the high price of organic food. In the UK, I've read that the average wage is around 10,000 pounds a year. In the US, it's not much higher. Trying to feed a family on that little is not easy, especially when the cost of energy and other necessities are constantly rising.

    There is some speculation that the high price of organic food products is not based on the cost of producing it, but in its target audience. The exclusive packaging, and the luxury look of it, appeals to a certain social classes. Organic food is not meant as a healthy alternative for your average shopper, it's meant as a luxury item for people of the privileged classes who believe they deserve only the best.
  • GemmaRowlandsGemmaRowlands Moderator Posts: 5,327 mod
    I am hoping that if more people chose to buy it, it would become cheaper. I know that it isn't as expensive as it used to be when it first became available on the market.
  • mpassalampassala Posts: 124 Inactive
    The cost of organic food is too high and we are not sure if it is really different from the one we buy in the supermarket. In my own small way i farm vegetables in my terrace, so that i'm sure that those are really organic, even if the outcome is not enough to sustain me. I believe that allowing some area to public farming could be a good idea to incentivate people to eat healthy food. it could also make farming more sustainable.
    About meat consuming i'm agreeing with you that it is really a bad thing, in terms of pollution, sustainability and animal exploitation. I think that meat cost should be put back to higher price to discourage people to make a massive consumption of it.
  • takafromtokyotakafromtokyo Posts: 2,057 ✭✭✭✭
    In Japan, most of the meat we eat are imported. We don't have big farms here, so Japanese beef gets really expensive. They need to sell at high prices, or they'll just go bankrupt.

    So, low priced meat in Japan are from overseas: pork are mainly from the USA, chickens are from the East Asian countries, and beef are from the USA and Australia, as I remember the aisles in the supermarket.
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    @takafromtokyo I've heard about that! I read a novel once called 'My Year of Meat'. It was about a Japanese-American film maker who was hired by a Japanese beef importing company to make one of these 'reality TV' series. The series was to be shown on TV in Japan. The point of the series was to encourage 'the Japanese housewife' to buy and serve beef at meals, by showing them how much beef 'the American housewife' actually eats and how she prepares it. I think the novel was very realistic about the attitudes both Japanese and Americans have about meat! The Americans eat too much and the Japanese are, correctly!, a little worried about that.
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    @mpassala That's great that you've turned your terrace into a small farm! Here in Germany, we have the idea of 'urban farming'. That is, the plants are grown in big boxes with wheels on them on big, empty urban spaces. Parking lots, for example. The boxes are wheeled out into the sun during the day, and wheeled back into a shed overnight. This turns unusable land in cities into organic farmland! My city football club allows local groups to 'farm' their parking lot when no matches are being played. What a wonderful idea!
  • mheredgemheredge Teacher Here and therePosts: 27,055 mod
    @Larry_the_Zebra movable garden boxes sound like a brilliant idea. Maybe this is something I can do in the communal garden I share with others. It's quite shady but I'd like to grow sun loving plants.

    My sister has an allotment in London and grows lots of fruit and vegetables. My grandfather used to grow a lot of salad and beans in his tiny back garden in Paris. When I was a kid, I used to be proud of my little vegetable patch in the corner of the back garden in suburbia. I guess we're all frustrated urban farmers.
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    @mheredge I think many of us are, yes! The local 'market gardening' which has such a strong tradition in the UK is almost unknown elsewhere. I've read a few articles on similar ideas to market gardening in Italy and Japan, where local groups grow veg and sell it directly to their customers. So, they don't even take it to market. You order a weekly 'basket' from them that they make up especially for you from their plots.
  • mpassalampassala Posts: 124 Inactive
    @Larry_the_Zebra It is really a terrific idea! The only problem seems to be that you have to move your plants everyday, it could require a big commitment.

    @mheredge Grow plants in the communal garden is a good start, mine has a lot of weed and is abandoned, i should try to convince other residents to start using it to farm something, but it won't be easy.
    My terrace is shady too in winter, i did not succeed in making sun loving plants survive, so i chose to grow seasonal plants for the winter and to farm new plants when spring will come.
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    @mpassala Yes, it does take commitment and normally the groups who do it are there every day and consist of at least 10 people. Many of them are volunteer, hobby gardeners. The more people who are interested, the bigger the project can be.
  • YellowtailYellowtail Posts: 721 ✭✭✭
    @Larry_the_Zebra
    >There is some speculation that the high price of organic food products is not based on the cost of producing it, but in its target audience.

    Interesting. I think that's possible. We are used to the idea that good things are expensive. And we tend to consider cheap things not good. If you found a vegetable whose label reads organic but whose price is the same as normal ones, you would doubt it is really organic. Even it might not really good for your health, considering placebo effect. I think paying extra money itself give you a kind of relief and satisfaction. And also these good feelings are actually good for your health.
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    > @Yellowtail said:
    I think paying extra money itself give you a kind of relief and satisfaction. And also these good feelings are actually good for your health.

    That's the first time I've ever heard someone say getting ripped off on a product is good for your health! (ripped off = cheated out of money) :) I agree with you, if we expect that organic food costs more, and then we find an affordable brand, we might not believe it is what it claims to be.

    Does the luxury packaging and the up-scale design of organic food products in comparison to 'normal food' make you feel better about buying it, too? Or is the packaging in Japan different?
  • mheredgemheredge Teacher Here and therePosts: 27,055 mod
    I hope not to be finding any packaging at all when I buy organic produce @Larry_the_Zebra. At least in France and Nepal it is usually sold loose and you have to provide your own bag.

    My only worry is how certain we can be that the produce that claims to be organic really is what it says it is. I know that in Europe there's some kind of certification process, but in Nepal the government hasn't yet managed to get its act together .
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    @mheredge So, what about coconut-rice milk? Or vegetable crisps (crisps made from organically grown carrots, aubergines etc and not potatoes)? Or strawberry-lime-chimchee smoothies? Or organic applesauce and apple rings? Things like that? There are many 'health' products and snacks that are made with organic produce.
  • mheredgemheredge Teacher Here and therePosts: 27,055 mod
    You're living in a rich developed country @Larry_the_Zebra! Certainly in Nepal you're not going to find so many processed foods claiming to be organic. Maybe in France, but I don't tend to go for these kinds of things much. I'm having problems finding something as basic as rice noodles right now here in Kathmandu. The foodstuffs imported to Nepal are very variable and unreliable. At the moment there also seems to be a dearth of pesto sauce. Everything imported has to come via India and comes in fits and starts.
  • YellowtailYellowtail Posts: 721 ✭✭✭
    @Larry_the_Zebra
    I don't really find organic foods that are so luxuriously packaged in Japan. Instead they are often attached with a label that the farmer's portrait, name, adress and a note that reads 'I made this' are on. Also some organic vegitables are sold remaining dirty, which makes them look more likely to be organic.
    I suspect they're also strategies to meet the consumers' demand. Because I think what consumers want is not being luxury but being genuinely natural.
  • takafromtokyotakafromtokyo Posts: 2,057 ✭✭✭✭
    @Yellowtail
    I think you're right. It sells at higher prices with dirt on in Japan. They're usually not even in packages.
  • Practical_SeverardPractical_Severard Posts: 489 ✭✭✭
    > @Larry_the_Zebra said:
    I agree with you that the organic food from specialist boutiques tastes very different, but what about the stuff in the supermarket?
    Well, lying salespeople are no news, maybe this was the case.

    > @mheredge For me, it's the mass consumption of meat that is the worse evil, as you point out. If we reduced our meat consumption, it would make a visible impact not only on our health but also the environment. But the over-consumption of meat goes down to culture and also to gender a bit, doesn't it? Women eat far less meat than men do, and many men claim they find it very difficult to go without meat almost every day because they start to feel weak. Jamie Oliver, the famous TV chef, is one of them. (I'm not.)

    The food for the humans must include several groups of nutrients, and the proteins are one of them. Meat, fish, poultry and the like are the main source of it. The proteins, in their turn, split into several aminoacids, and each of them are necessary.

    Certain species of plants may be sources of proteins, but none of them include all the aminoacids. Thefore a vegetarian needs to track his diet, cycling vegetarian protein sources, if he wants his diet to be balanced. Most people just won't do this. Small children whose body is being developed yet, especially need proteins. That's why imposing a vegetarian diet on children is a sort of child abuse in my book. On the other hands, seniors need less proteins, and the so-called 'red meat' isn't the single source of the proteins at all.

    >
    > I disagree with you though, that many people can afford the high price of organic food. In the UK, I've read that the average wage is around 10,000 pounds a year. In the US, it's not much higher. Trying to feed a family on that little is not easy, especially when the cost of energy and other necessities are constantly rising.
    >
    Frankly, I have no idea of the cost of living in the UK or the US. But what you have said means that an average Brit (American) having paid his mortgage and utilities can afford only cheapest food. Are you sure? I think that your average Joe or Jane do afford overseas holidays, electronic gadgets, eating out, jewellery and so on. My point is about priorities: one's better off spending money on food and exercise than on anything mentioned above.


    > There is some speculation that the high price of organic food products is not based on the cost of producing it, but in its target audience.
    Growing organic food requires much manual labour, while the product's shelf life is very limited. The both add much to the cost, not the packaging.
    The widespead use of chemicals, hormones and so on has appeared because it cut the cost and increased the output. Actually, that's why the planet can support it's current population.
  • Practical_SeverardPractical_Severard Posts: 489 ✭✭✭
    > @takafromtokyo said:
    > In Japan, most of the meat we eat are imported. We don't have big farms here, so Japanese beef gets really expensive. They need to sell at high prices, or they'll just go bankrupt.

    You eat much fish and that's healthier than beef. BTW how often do the Japanese eat tonkatsu (豚カツ, made of pork)?
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    @Practical_Severard In the US about 50% of the population doesn't pay taxes because they are too poor. The minimum wage is lower than the cost of living in many states and, it is true, that many Americans can only afford the discount food, or that food which is on sale for the week, or they must buy it from a local farmer.

    Because the US is a rich country, many poor Americans have more than people in other countries, that is true, but no, international travel and all the latest tech is beyond many Americans. There are many American children who get nothing or hardly anything for Christmas because their parents can't afford extras, not even for a holiday. I can't say about the UK, but I know many Brits are struggling with massive unemployment, etc and can't afford very much. Still, they look richer because of the standard of living of the nation as a whole.

    No, I don't mean the packaging is expensive on organic food, I mean the target audience is of a wealthy class level. The packaging says to them "Luxury food for luxury people!!!" If they wanted organic food to reach a wide audience, they wouldn't sell it in this fashion. (At least here)
  • [Ex Member][Ex Member] Posts: 363 ✭✭✭
    @mheredge You are right, I live in a developed, industrialized country: Germany. There are many organic snacks and drinks that claim to be made with organic produce and are non-processed. How true that is, who knows? But what things are like here in the middle of Europe is no comparison to the rest of the world.

    I am happy that the EU keeps out GM food, too! Is that an issue in your area of Asia? Or is it simply a matter of finding something (anything) to eat for most people, who cares how it was grown or modified?
  • takafromtokyotakafromtokyo Posts: 2,057 ✭✭✭✭
    @Practical_Severard
    I don't know if my case can be generalized to many Japanese people, but in my case, I think I eat tonkatsu once in three or four months. The reason is because it takes time and effort to cook a pork into tonkatsu, and the cleaning up that follows can get tiresome. So, I'd go out to a restaurant to eat tonkatsu, but usually tonkatsu is rather expensive in those restaurants.

    There has been fast food restaurants popping up recently, and they serve tonkatsu or katsu-don, a bowl of rice topped with katsu, at lower prices. It's just that I don't usually go to such places for lunch. But those fast food restaurants are really popular among Japanese people nowadays, so I suppose people eat tonkatsu a lot more than I do.

    How about you, @Yellowtail ?
  • YellowtailYellowtail Posts: 721 ✭✭✭
    @takafromtokyo
    I also hardly ever eat tonkatsu. But I like and often eat katsu-curry!
  • mheredgemheredge Teacher Here and therePosts: 27,055 mod
    @Practical_Severard it is often a question of priorities, you're totally right there. However in a poor country like Nepal, many people have very little choice as they are so hard up that they manage the best they can on what is available.

    That said, in some areas everyone is eating organic food, though not by choice but because they can't afford the fertilisers and pesticides!

    @Larry_the_Zebra GM food is a problem in many countries (India for example) but agriculture in Nepal is much more small scale and despite USAID's encouragement to adopt GM, I think Nepal has managed to steer clear so far.
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