There’s a perception in society that organic food is more expensive than non-organic food. On the face of it, yes, organic generally has a higher price point.
But there’s an extra cost for good reasons. There are many additional hoops that we as organic farmers have to jump through to be certified as organic, and there is a bigger cost to eating non-organic that goes beyond the price tag- namely that to our own health and the environment.
Stripping back to the basics, here’s where your money goes when you buy into organic and the methods we use here on our farm:
Unlike farmers who use ‘conventional’ methods, here at Farm2Fork we have to ensure our product is certified organic from beginning to end. This includes seeds, feed, and the sourcing of livestock, and this has a cost implication to us before we’ve even started.
As a general rule, organic farming is less productive than its non-organic counterpart. In organic arable farming, lower yields will be achieved as the plants can’t be bolstered by artificial fertilisers, nor protected by pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Therefore the price of the crop has to be higher for the farmer to cover the lower yield and the higher risks taken. It’s the same for us when we talk about pasture. In an organic system, like ours, the amount of animals that we can graze is lower than on a farm where the amount of grass can be increased artificially. We don’t use any nasty chemicals, and after all, would you want those in your food anyway?
Organic standards also require us to give our chickens more space, access to pasture, and to raise them for ten weeks; five weeks longer than your average barn-reared chicken. This additional time to rear poultry significantly reduces the number of chickens that can be raised in the same amount of time and space as a conventional farmer.
For anyone who is health conscious, food produced with chemicals and GMOs is something you’d probably want to avoid.
Organic produce, like that from our farm, is reared without all those artificial nasties. The knock-on effect is huge when people consume unhealthy foods. The cost to the NHS directly from food-related ill health is about £6 billion annually. It also accounts for around 10% of morbidity and mortality in the UK.
Eating organic foods as part of a healthy lifestyle can play a significant part in reducing the burden on health services, and keeping us fit and well.
Farming organically enhances and improves the natural environment, rather than stripping it of resources. We work with nature, not against it, and our ethos is to restore and regenerate. This is shown through the way we graze our cattle and sheep, and allow our livestock to fertilise the soils, leading to flourishing pastures. Our pastures are given time to rest and recover between grazing to allow them to naturally replenish. This interaction between our livestock and carefully managed grazing practices builds soil, feeds soil life and provides a diverse habitat to support an abundance of wildlife in our meadows.
Intensive farming methods; spraying chemicals, overworking the land, or overgrazing, all come at a huge cost to the planet. When chemicals are used, life and habitats are stripped away – from the killing of bugs and insects that feed our birds and wildlife, to the decimation of plant diversity.
Conventional farming is also carbon intensive; by using artificial fertilisers on soils it depletes the structures that keep it healthy. When soils fail, the ground becomes infertile and then we start to see, especially in times of drought, how fragile the earth is. These non-organic practices compromise biodiversity, destroying natural habitats and in turn displacing wildlife, whether through intensive livestock farming, or planting hectare upon hectare of monocultures in arable farming.
Global warming is a very real issue that we’re seeing first-hand more and more, and non-organic farming practices only serve to exacerbate this issue.
When you buy organic produce such as ours, you know that the welfare of the animals is absolutely paramount. The strict standards set by organic certification means that the animals have had a quality of life that you wouldn’t be required to reach with non-organic farming methods. Conventional farming allows farmers to house animals year-round, however, the stringent organic standards mean that our animals have to have outdoor access and be kept in an environment that allows them to express their natural behaviour in a way that mimics how they are meant to live, expressing their personalities, living in family groups, and exploring their surroundings. We exceed the organic standards, giving our animals 24/7 access to pasture and all the space to express themselves.
The organic standards ensure animals are recognised and treated as sentient beings, and not just raised as a commodity.
Prices are cheap when chickens have been reared in overcrowded sheds, or cows have been kept in packed barns.
Our animals have lived a life that reflects their true worth.
While the price point might be higher, if more of us spent a little more buying organic over intensively farmed produce, we’d actually be supporting a healthier system all round. In turn, the demand would bring prices down, and lessen the burden on the health service and the environment. There’s much more behind the price tag than monetary cost.