Why is organic food expensive?

“Bio? I don’t buy that, it’s far too expensive,” you sometimes hear people say. It is true that organic products are often a bit more expensive than ‘normal’ food. Why is that?

Usually you pay more for organic products in the shop than for non organic products. Sometimes the price doesn’t make much difference (e.g. for milk or coffee), but the price of meat in particular does dare to go up a bit. On average, an organic product is a third more expensive than its usual variant, although there are big differences between products. Organic eggs are sometimes up to twice as expensive, while organic meat substitutes are only slightly more expensive. Why is that?

Its price is more than worth it
There are various reasons why the price tag of organic products is often higher than that of non-organic products.

Organic farming is often on a smaller scale. Mass production is less possible in organic farming because, for example, crop rotation and multiple crops per farm are used.
Yields are often lower because crops grow slower, less fertilizer is used and animals are less likely to reach their slaughter weight.
The way organic farming and animal husbandry is done requires more labour (e.g. to weed weeds) and more expensive raw materials. Everything the farmer uses is either of organic origin or should be allowed to produce organically, such as seeds and plants for planting or feeding the animals. And this usually comes at a more expensive price.
Raw materials are also more expensive in the processing of organic products (e.g. veggie burgers or cheese products) because everything has to be of organic origin.
In organic farming, more space is allocated to the cattle in the barn and in the pasture – this means that the organic farmer needs more whey and barn space for cattle, and that costs money.
The fact that the organic sector is still relatively small also plays a role. If the share of organic produce in consumption increases, farms will grow and certain processes will be more efficient. This will have a positive effect on the price.
Bio is striving for a production system that is also more economically and socially sustainable. Every link in the chain should earn a fair wage.
Finally, the bio-entrepreneur pays extra costs for the annual statutory inspections.
The price you pay as a consumer therefore goes to the quality of the raw materials, the work of the farmer, a lower impact on the environment and extra animal welfare.

We will elaborate on the reasons below.

Why is organic expensive?
1. Organic farmers are engaged in labour-intensive weed and pest control:

Because chemically synthesised herbicides or insecticides are not permitted in organic farming, weeds are mainly weeded, either by machine or manually. This requires extra work on the part of the farmer.
The farmer can also create a false seedbed: a few weeks before sowing, he makes the seedbed ready for sowing. When the fast-growing weeds start to shoot, the farmer either starts weeding underneath the weeds or he pulls them out. This also requires extra time and work.
The organic farmer tackles insect infestations by using natural enemies of those insects or hormone-confusing agents.
Disease-infested branches in orchards are cut manually.
2. More pasture and barn space is needed for cattle:

In (plume) cattle breeding, the farmer needs more farmland and barn space for the animals. After all, organic animals spend (obligatory) a lot of time outside. Inside the barn they are entitled to sufficient space as standard. This means that the organic farmer needs more square metres per animal, both indoors and outdoors. In other words: an organic farmer is allowed to keep fewer animals on the same area than a conventional farmer. As a result, the yield per hectare is lower and the cost price rises.
You can also read The organic broiler chicken shed: tok, tok, come in! and what does the life of the organic cow look like?
Organic cows in the meadow – (c) VLAM
3. Yields are often lower:

Yields from organic farming and animal husbandry are often lower than in conventional agriculture. Organic farming focuses mainly on robust, strong crops and animal breeds, but they often grow slower or yield less. In addition, the organic farmer uses less fertilizer: no artificial fertilizer of course, but only manure of natural origin (or compost). The crops and animals therefore receive sufficient nutrients via this manure, but relatively less than with other types of manure.
4. Bio strives for a fair price:

Bio strives for a system that is more economically and socially sustainable. A fair price for the producer is an important part of this. In fact, the price we pay for our food is too low: not only does the producer often not receive fair remuneration, but the impact of the agricultural system on soil and water quality and on biodiversity is not taken into account either. Low prices have been encouraged for years by the explosive expansion of the market.
5. Bioboer pays extra for control:

Last but not least, in Belgium, in addition to the standard checks to which all farmers are subject, the organic sector is subject to additional checks by three inspection bodies that specifically examine the organic aspects. Thanks to these checks and the European organic logo on products, consumers can be sure that they have an organic product in their hands. However, the biocertification of products and the extra checks are not free of charge, so that also means extra costs for producers.
Bio is really worth its price: you pay for quality, sustainability and a fair price for the farmer or the producer. Because of the way of working, the extra attention for the environment and nature and the focus on purity, the price tag of organic is often higher than what we are used to. And don’t forget the ‘invisible’ costs that come with it. You will get pure and honest food in return!

Tip: buying organic food of the season or buying it directly from an organic farmer can help you to eat organic food in a more budget-friendly way. And it’s good for your ecological footprint too!