In my eternal scan of the Internet for MOM’s data and feedback, I came across this blogger’s post: Why is MOM’s Organic Market so expensive? I hear this question in one form or another all the time. If you read reviews of MOM’s on Yelp, Google, etc., there is always someone who gives us a low rating because we’re “too expensive.” For example, “The staff is very friendly and helpful, but the prices are a little high,” and “If you’re into paying high prices for their so-called organic food, then come here. It’s been proven that organic foods are not as healthy as regular food, cannot be proven to be organic, and they don’t taste better. So convince yourself in believing in the organic hype and shop here. My rating would be lower except they do have a lot of produce, even if it’s overpriced hype.”
MOM’s has a price guarantee, which states that on all same-branded packaged products, we will cost the same or less than Whole Foods and other natural foods stores. A couple of years ago, Consumer Checkbook did a 3rd party survey of our prices and found us to be 7% less than Whole Foods and 4% less than Wegman’s. Our own internal data now even shows us to be approximately 10% less than Whole Foods. So I believe that when people say that we are expensive, for the most part they’re saying that organic foods are expensive, not MOM’s in particular (or they’re misinformed, because sometimes they do claim we’re more expensive than Whole Foods or Wegman’s).
Rather than ask why is MOM’s expensive, I think we should ask why are Walmart, Safeway, etc. so expensive?
Take for example, a headline that came across my computer last week:
I realize that the 2 chemicals banned aren’t used specifically for food production (they’re being used to control mosquitoes), but it’s one example of the many hidden costs of what are assumed to be “solutions” to problems.
A friend of mine drove the Eastern Shore last weekend touring the local oyster farming industry. He ran into some poultry farmers while he was down there, and they are up in arms over the new proposed Poultry Fair Share Act, which will charge tax to large chicken suppliers of 5 cents per chicken. The tax will be paid to the Bay Restoration Fund and used to fund cover crop programs on lands where chicken manure was applied, i.e. to clean up the havoc that the poultry industry constantly wreaks on the Chesapeake’s ecosystem. Since the industry won’t spend the money to clean up after its own mess, the government is forced to step in and do it for them.
Using chemicals to grow non-organic food hastens climate change. The carbon footprint of fertilizer production and delivery is substantial, estimated at over 1,200 million metric tons per year in the US alone. As weather patterns become more severe and unexpected (hurricanes, droughts, flooding), there is a large cost in many categories, including crop losses and infrastructure damage.
Pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics are currently used on 99% of American farmland. These chemicals contaminate our waterways, often impacting other industries (like crabs and oysters here in the Chesapeake). Inevitably, environmental groups, other industries, and taxpayers are left holding the bill to clean up the mess.
Entire species can become threatened, as has recently happened with honeybee and Monarch Butterfly populations. Honeybee CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) is thought to be linked to the traces of pesticides in high-fructose corn syrup. Sharp decreases in Monarch Butterfly populations are being linked to GMOs. This has cost the honey industry and farmers billions of dollars in loss production due to pollination deficiencies.
Along with the decades of increases in carcinogenic chemical residues in our food, cancer rates have increased. Not only does this lead to human suffering, but the medical costs make insurance rates higher for us all.
Conventional foods often have high-calorie, nutrient-deficient ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and white flour. Obesity rates have risen dramatically from 13% to 35% since 1960, which leads to more cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The estimated costs to the healthcare system of these ailments are $190 billion annually.
The conventional industry receives massive amounts of government subsidies (corporate welfare) while the organic industry receives virtually nothing. The new Farm Bill allots taxpayers to pay out $956 billion over the next ten years to highly profitable agribusiness such as Tyson, Monsanto, and Cargill. We taxpayers are subsidizing them to do the wrong thing.
Corporate America will forever work its hardest to keep Big Government off their backs, but who’s going to keep Big Corporations off our backs? It would be nice if the free market would fix this- and if average consumers were informed enough to consider the hidden costs of products and shop accordingly. But this isn’t going to happen any time soon, if ever (especially considering the constant bombardment of misinformation put out by large corporations).
The burden to society caused by conventional farming is constantly deferred to other industries, citizens, taxpayers, and non-profits. The lower price of conventional foods reflects these deferred hidden costs. Those who buy conventional foods over organics because they’re cheaper, selfishly do so- happy to kick the can down the road to those of us who keep informed, continue to recognize hidden costs, and keep doing the next right thing.