Why Is Organic Food So Expensive?

//Why Is Organic Food So Expensive?

Why Is Organic Food So Expensive?

A satirical look at the human connection behind the price tag.

I recently attended the wedding of a friend, and was seated across from a sumptuously dressed lawyer. When he learned that I was an organic farmer, the conversation immediately turned in the direction it always does: the price of organic food at the grocery store.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he began. “I totally support what you’re doing. I try to eat organic whenever I can. But geez, it’s so expensive, you know? Tomatoes for $3 a pound? It’s… it’s just outrageous!”

Yes, I nodded. Organic food is outrageously overpriced. I straightened the bow tie on my Vera Wang tuxedo, and tilted my head sympathetically. Someone really should do something.

Here—at last—an organic insider is blowing the whistle on $3 heirloom apples, $6 organic salad greens, and $12 bacon from heritage breed hogs. These are the secrets that the “Organic Food Industrial Complex” doesn’t want you to know.

Hippies in their natural element: farmers market. The white van is probably filled with insultingly-overpriced squash. Notice that they are shoeless: these might be uber-hippies.

1) Dirty Hippie Farmers are (Still) Trying to Take Over America

You witnessed them during the failed Occupy Movement—those shameless people who soiled our public parks while clamoring for ‘fairness’ and ‘accountability.’ Thank goodness Wall Street prevailed, and we regained our sanity. But the battle isn’t over yet. In fact, some of these hippies have come up with a new, diabolical plan: by tricking us into buying their organic corn, potatoes and green beans, they are literally forcing their sustainable agenda down our patriotic throats.

Their ultimate goal? To take their usurious profits, and hire lobbyists to go after the spray cheeze industry. Don’t believe me? Then answer the following question: did Hostess go out of business because Twinkies aren’t delicious, or because hippies infiltrated the bakery? Listen up, people. This threat is REAL.

2) Irresponsible Young People Who Want to Become Farmers

Young farmers. Who needs ’em?

By now, you’ve seen Food Inc. or read Omnivore’s Dilemma (or you at least have an annoying friend who brings it up every time you’re quietly enjoying a bucket of buffalo wild wings). You know in your heart how laughable the so-called ‘sustainable agriculture’ movement is, and how a world without chemical fertilizers or pesticides will lead to global starvation and beer shortages. You’ve done your homework, and can see the organic hocus-pocus for what it really is: a bunch of… well… organic hocus pocus.

Suddenly, here comes a tidal wave of young people willing to work hard for a living, growing food with an identity and provenance. What is it with these optimistic kids? It was bad enough that they had to join Peace Corps for a few years, but sheesh, shouldn’t they have it out of their systems by the time they’re 28? Here’s a tip for aspiring young farmers: there’s a device called scissors, and you can use them to trim your beard. Now go find yourself a real job, like a normal person. And by ‘normal person,’ I mean 6 more years of grad school, and 20 years of student loans.

Look at this sap… he went to college so he could dig ditches in July!

3) Naive College-Educated Farmers are Charging You for THEIR Screw Ups

Speaking of college and real jobs, what’s with the deluge of college-educated farmers these days? If these people really went to college to study agriculture, they’d have useful jobs like selling GMO soybeans or $100,000 tractors by now. Instead, these ‘educated’ farmers are the worst types of all: misguided dreamers who honestly believe they can change the world. More than likely, these wannabe farmers were English or Art History majors. Rather speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Related: The Rise Of The College Educated Farmer

Long story short, these head-in-the-cloud tinkerers are charging you for their greenhorn mistakes, passing along the cost of their organic shenanigans. Completely ignorant of how food should be grown, they learn by trial and error, relying on flint and stick tools. Many end up growing nothing but weeds. Weeds… and a little ‘wacky tobaccy’, if you take my meaning.

4) Dead-beat Senior Citizens Are Fleecing You Out of Your Paycheck

A farmer of 45 years unrolls a portable fence. He’s probably on his way to roll out some high prices.

You know the type. Those con-artist 70 year old farmers who complain that their Social Security check doesn’t cover their living expenses. They whine about how their kids (or grandkids) didn’t want to take over the farm, and moan about how they’ve barely scraped by on commodity-priced agriculture their entire lives. Now, they’ve got the nerve to show up at farmers markets, and charge people twice as much for homegrown tomatoes than the ones available right down the street at the local Wal-Mart.

Hey elderly farmers, instead of trying to price-gouge, how about charging us what your food is really worth? I mean, would it kill you to charge a little less? Outrageous!

Which leads me to my final point. We are entitled, as Americans, to a never-ending supply of cheap, abundant food.

On McDonalds’ $1 Value Menu, 10 different items are offered for a dollar. Ten! Do you think a hippie farmer could make a $1 hamburger from a grass-fed, sustainably raised cow, with organic lettuce and heirloom tomatoes on a non-GMO bun?

What’s that, hippie farmer? You can’t figure out how to make a $1 sandwich? Didn’t think so.

❂       ❂       ❂

These organic carrots will be washed twice: once for farmers market, and a second time when your money is laundered.

So now you know the truth: organic farmers aren’t just filthy… they’re getting filthy rich. Don’t be fooled by their thrift store clothes, their seven day a week work schedule, or the pick-up trucks with 250,000 miles. Sustainable farming is simply a get-rich-quick conspiracy, folks.

Instead of buying organic, just do what any reasonable person would do. Purchase your own farm, spend a lifetime raising your own food, and sell it for cheap. Ask the next farmer you meet, and he’ll tell you himself: the satisfaction really is priceless.

Check out my books, all about food, farming & living the good life!

Growing Tomorrow (with 50 recipes!) is NOW AVAILABLE, and Gaining Ground is a New York Times bestseller.


Order Gaining Ground on Amazon


By | 2015-09-22T09:14:57-04:00 January 1st, 2013|Farm|92 Comments

About the Author:

Forrest Pritchard is a full-time sustainable farmer and New York Times bestselling author, holding a BA in English and a BS in Geology from William & Mary. Smith Meadows, his farm, was one of the first “grass finished” operations in the country, and has sold at leading farmers’ markets in the Washington DC area for two decades. Pritchard's books have received starred reviews from The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, NPR, and more.


  1. Lynsi Pasutti January 1, 2013 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Don’t you just love small talk at weddings? I particularly enjoy talking about ‘pottery’ in grade school and painting slip cast figurines, especially since you can also buy some really nice stuff at Target these days…. Thanks for the post, Forrest! Always a good read.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      I mean, telling someone that they get paid to much to do their job is just bad manners, right?

  2. Babs Hennelly Kothe January 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Not to mention how much the conventional and gmo big ag “food”, if you can call it that, is heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars..if organic farming was subsidized that way it would not be so expensive..if the conventional farmers had to actually pay out of their pockets for their “mistakes” their food would be expensive too..My husband and I grow what we can and buy at the local farmers markets or local co-ops as much as possible. It is hard to pay $4.00-$5.00 a pound for chicken when you can get it for $1.99 @ the grocery store..but..when you think about what goes into the organic chicken in terms of nutrients and time and the humane way they are raised..it’s an easy choice..Being aware of where our food comes from makes it inconvenient sometimes but we all have to do what we can to make the changes we want to see..

    • Forrest Pritchard January 1, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      Hi Babs,

      Thanks for the response! I can speak from first-hgand experience about that $1.99/lb confinement raised chicken… farmers I’ve met that raise birds this way literally wore gas masks before they could enter their barns :^( On behalf of $5/lb free-range farmers everywhere, thank you for supporting us!

      And you are spot on with the subsidy observation. What percentage of American adults know this fact?

    • Lori January 5, 2013 at 10:39 am

      I try not to tell people how much I spend on food because they would be shocked!!! Pastured chickens and grass fed beef are very expensive. But at least I know I’m eating quality food with more nutrients

  3. Deborah January 1, 2013 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Terrific repartee! Without even broaching the subject of subsidies which clearly guide us toward the cheap corn we are economically guided to eat, gee, thanks Uncle Sam!

    • Forrest Pritchard January 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      Thanks Deborah. As a doctor, I’m happy to see you cite cheap (subsidized) corn as a primary culprit. It’s so important that the public is educated from multiple directions, and doctors can make an enormous contribution to the way society views nutrition and food policy. One thing is for sure: food production is directly influenced by consumer spending, and food choice knowledge is very empowering.

    • Lyle January 5, 2013 at 6:21 am

      Hey, Forrest, it’s Lyle here. As a fifth-generation unconventional “conventional” farmer, I felt the need to weigh in on the subsidy issue. In 2012, the DCP (direct payment) program pays farmers a rate based on the crops they grow. On my farm, corn, soybeans, wheat and barley qualify. Cover crops, sorghum, and grass for hay or pasture do not. Many fruit and vegetable crops, like the ones you grow, also do not qualify for DCP. In 2012, DCP paid me an average of $20.00/acre, which I can’t identify as “heavily” subsidized, because that is less than 5% of my cost for growing corn. Even so, every little bit helps, and I sign up for it. 2012 is the LAST year for DCP, as it is being phased into the ACRE program, which is a disaster assistance program and bases payment rates on county and state yields in a given year. It is designed to NOT pay out unless there is a catastrophic event, which I think is a great plan. The only other subsidy that I use is the cost-share for crop insurance premium that is set up by FCIC(Federal Crop Insurance Commission) and administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in cooperation with private crop insurance brokers. This cost-share is a big reason that I am able to afford to pay for crop insurance, as it covers around 35% of the premium cost. Here’s the kicker…fruit and vegetable crops just like the ones you grow and your customers buy QUALIFY for subsidized crop insurance! So, in response to Babs’s comment, organic farmers have many of the same opportunities to use government subsidies as I, the conventional farmer, do. The 2012 Farm Bill, which was not passed by the House, cut subsidies and gave more opportunities to the organic farmer. We now have an extension of the old 2008 bill, which will still have to be revisited. Thanks for the opportunity to join this discussion, Forrest, and I love reading your blog. And Babs, anytime you wanna talk about facts, I’m here for you.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 9:46 am

      Hi Lyle,

      Thanks for the very thoughtful and informative response. I didn’t know that subsidized crop insurance can apply to organic farmers, as well.

      The reason I feel subsidies are so important to the ‘price of food’ discussion is precisely because how little is understood about these subisides by the American consumer. Obviously, subsidy payments are fronted entirely by the taxpayers, and while it should be everyone’s civic duty to educate ourselves about how they function, the conversation can become quickly muddled and confusing. For example, subsidies don’t just begin and end with actual payouts (check in the mail) to farmers. As you mentioned, crop insurance is also subsidized, as well as fuel, land taxation rates, many infrastructure improvements, etc. Also subsidized are research institutions, via the large agriculture schools (Iowa State, Penn State, etc.), which are primarily geared towards perpetuating subsidized agriculture.

      That being said, I feel like the real financial conversation deals with matters of scale. Most organic farms, due to higher requirements of manual labor, are significantly smaller than the typical subsidized grain farm. Whereas an organic farm might typically comprise 1 to 50 acres, most grain farms are in the hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of acres. At a certain point, an economy of scale kicks in for these large farms that leaves their organic peers in the dust. Banks are more likely to lend to these farms, because subsidies and scale create greater security and less risk. A $20 an acre subsidy, while modest by Jefferson County farm standards, can provide colossal economic firepower for a farm in the Mid West that’s running a 20,000 acre corn operation.

      Obviously, this is going to effect the way these operations can price their food (i.e., they can absorb lower commodity prices because of their subsidies), relative to a 2 acre organic farm on the outskirts of Des Moines. The small organic farm must set its own prices, start a CSA or farmers market stand, and cross their fingers that customers show up! This is a problem that a grain farmer rarely has… if they grow it, chances are close to 100% that there will be a market (commodity outlet) for it.

      I don’t pretend to know all the answers or solutions to this topic, but it’s certainly a subject that the consuming public knows precious little about. Thanks for helping educate us, Lyle!

  4. carmen coles January 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Gosh, when I first started reading this post I thought you were serious!! O used to love growing the colored cauliflower for market but the last time I bought the orange cauliflower seed it was about $26 for 250 seeds!! Usually the folks that challenge the prices for organic food at the market are those who are slurping down a $5 latte! Loved the post — once I caught on!!

    • Forrest Pritchard January 1, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Hi Carmen,

      Ha ha, yes, satire works best with a little misdirection! Are you still growing for markets?

      I often feel that the best remedy for people who complain about prices is simply to have them grow their own food. Does anyone, anywhere, feel like they are paid enough for the work that they do? Professional farmers should certainly be no different, but for various reasons, we have all been raised in a culture that feels entitled to cheap food.

  5. Steve January 3, 2013 at 7:13 am - Reply

    Forrest, you didn’t even mention how you hippies are threatening my right to eat tasteless tomatoes.

    I’ll bet the lawyer, as he got into his BMW after the wedding, never once thought to ask himself why his vehicle cost him so much more than a Chevrolet. Why are people so blind to quality in regards to food?

  6. Rob Aldrich January 4, 2013 at 6:31 am - Reply

    I totally get where that lawyer is coming from. I mean, food is only the basis of life. Who cares if there are a few extra hormones in the hamburger or steroids in the steaks. And there is absolutely no proof yet that pink slime has hurt anyone, even if we don’t know exactly what it is.

    What’s the matter with eating lots of processed food? After all, we need bigger Americans to fill the Mcmansions (built on farmland that we don’t need anymore) and so that they fit better in those nice new SUVs to drive to the big box store and – you guessed it – buy more food. Where do you think we’re going to get the 320-pound linemen to play football on Sundays (and Mondays, and Saturdays, and sometimes on Thursdays)?

    It’s imperative that we eat more food. Remember ‘economies of scale’ from Econ 101? The more you make and sell, the cheaper it is per unit. So if we all went out and just ate more, Wal-Mart could make us cheaper food! And it makes perfect sense to buy your food where you get your tires, underwear and TVs. It’s so simple even an organic farmer could understand it.

    • Eden's Organic Garden Center/CSA Farm January 5, 2013 at 10:53 am

      Rob, that’s a hilarious comment! Great blog entry. I was in stitches by #3.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 9:10 am


      Nice one… ha ha!

  7. Judy January 5, 2013 at 10:02 am - Reply

    I don’t know you Rob, but I think you’ve been eavesdropping on conversations at my house! 🙂 I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  8. Kipp Inglis Yost January 5, 2013 at 10:03 am - Reply

    WAIT! You own a Vera Wang Tux – must be those expensive tomatoes bringing in that kind of money!! LOL-if you are like me and LOVE to eat those expensive, organic, REALLY DELICIOUS tomatoes, you probably found that tux at the second hand store!! THANK YOU for growing organic – I’m an old hippie and a new convert to organic….

  9. Jeff Kingzett January 5, 2013 at 10:07 am - Reply

    While I appreciate your rapier wit, there is probably an economic reason organic foods are more expensive. Maybe your conversation partner was simply curious, like I am, what the answer is.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

      Hey Jeff,

      Yes, totally get that. What the story doesn’t mention is the 20 minute conversation I had with him, where we had a real back-and-forth dialogue precisely addressing this issue. But… recounting that conversation doesn’t make good satire, ha ha!

      Tell you what, I promise to do a follow-up blog soon that seriously addresses this issue. Deal?

  10. Judith McGeary January 5, 2013 at 10:08 am - Reply

    What a wonderful article, thank you! I run a nonprofit that advocates for local food producers, and I continue to be amazed by how bad the mainstream food system is and how little people really understand what is involved in raising good quality food. A humorous piece like this can be a great way to get people to think. And, on a personal note, I am an ex-lawyer turned organic farmer, together with my husband who served 20 years in the Coast Guard. I think I’ll print this out to have at our farmers’ market booth!

  11. Kathy January 5, 2013 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Not to mention the expensively-dressed… I’m continually in awe of people that spend $100 for a pair of jeans, $2000 for a pair of “torture-stiletto” shoes, and so on – but complain about the cost of raw ingredients for the food they eat. Or they’ll pay $40 (or more) for a salad in a swanky restaurant but not $20 for the same ingredients to make 3 times the same salad at home. The disconnect from our food is a disgrace. I grow much of my own, sustainably, and the rest is purchased from sustainable sources (I’m one of those almost-70 leftover hippies). I’ve discovered my life purpose, after years of accumulating knowledge-to pass on traditional skills to everyone that will listen and hope it’s enough…

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 9:06 am

      God bless those almost 70 leftover hippies!

  12. Kelli January 5, 2013 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Yep, I agree. Organic food is more expensive. It is also tastier, more nutritious and local. Good reasons to re-evaluate where you put your money. And this is someone’s livelihood. Always remember that this person is earning an income from this hard work.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 9:05 am

      Thanks Kelli, that was exactly my point… that consumers remember that there is a human connection behind the ‘high prices’.

  13. Pam January 5, 2013 at 10:29 am - Reply

    I am fortunate to have lived in Oregon and experience how wonderful it is to know where your produce and meat are coming from. I was able to do most of my shopping at farmer’s markets year round. Even when I had to shop at a grocery store, the locally owned grocery carried a pretty good selection of local goods. I did spend more money on groceries than if I shopped at Winco (which is at least employee owned), but it taught me to be more frugal with my goods. I learned that you did not waste the chard stems, you either cooked or pickled them. I didn’t just eat the broccoli florets, I ate the stems as well. I made stock from carcasses and produce scraps.
    I recently moved to New Mexico…and am realizing how spoiled I was in Oregon. It is a bit more difficult to live with the same principles here…so I have more to learn. Farmer’s markets are good during certain times of year, but other times they are not open. But I feel it is more important to support farmer’s doing the right thing here, where support is not so readily available. I will also learn to grow some of my own food. People here think nothing of buying another gun/quad/SUV that they don’t need. However they want a cheap cucumber, milk and meat.

    • Teresa January 5, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Pam check out bountiful baskets, They have several locations in NM, I don’t know if any are close to you but they are well worth looking into. We don’t have it here where we live in Oregon but we got it during our short layover in Las Vegas (moved for a job and got laid off a year later) It’s the only thing I miss from that armpit of a town (sorry if anyone lives there, it’s just not my cup of tea) At the time we were getting the conventional basket for $15 which netted us about 60-70 dollars of fresh straight from the growers, produce, They also have an organic basket for $25, that guaranteed is well worth the cost. http://bountifulbaskets.org/

  14. liamarrazzo January 5, 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for the chuckle!!! What people who are not educated about what the GMO & altered foods are doing to our bodies don’t realize: you can pay more for the ‘real’ food now or pay a much higher price later with huge medical bills or worse death from the ‘benefits’ of cheap subsidized food.

    • Noway January 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      Agreed! I work for a company that supplies the meds to oncology facilities. When cancer hits home for you you’ll finally wake up and be on the other side of the fence about all the hormones, pesticides etc. “f..k cancer!” Cause that’s how people feel when you know someone that’s got it. Ignorance is bliss until……

  15. pwspage January 5, 2013 at 10:33 am - Reply

    My cousin has a farm that grows organic corn and beans. It took him seven years to get all the herbicides and pesticides out of the ground. Guess where his “clean” seeds go. Japan.

  16. lookingup247seth January 5, 2013 at 10:36 am - Reply

    What’s wrong with wacky tobacky? it’s just another seed grown from the ground! I to thought you were serious at first and I was starting to get upset but I thought no give it a read anyway and then come to find out Satire…lol maybe to much of that wacky stuff going over here.

  17. Tyler Durden January 5, 2013 at 10:39 am - Reply

    i jsut reallly hope this was a joke, i mean could someone really be that ignorant?

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 9:03 am

      A joke? If you read something funny, that was certainly NOT my intention.


  18. Theresa Weir January 5, 2013 at 10:47 am - Reply

    love this, forrest.

  19. Angela January 5, 2013 at 10:54 am - Reply

    This is fabulous, thank you. I will share this with my Food and Culture class.

  20. Joyce January 5, 2013 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Thank you Mr. Pritchard, that was outstanding! Everything we buy, regardless of profession, is about making a choice. Some are more informed than others. I am by no means monetarily well off, however I choose to spend my money by contributing to the livelihoods of local farmers not detached CEOs. I make sacrifices on other things, that I really don’t need, to ensure that my food choices are nutritious and not wasted.

    I grew up on a rural Illinois family farm. Seeing as it is no longer practical for me to grow a garden and raise animals, I will gladly assist a community farmer to do so through my purchasing power. I am very thankful for each and every “dirty hippie” that continues to persevere. You keep growing and I’ll keep buying. Personally, I prefer to spend my cash on high quality food rather than low quality “health” care.

  21. Cathy January 5, 2013 at 10:54 am - Reply

    I was hoping from the title of this post that you were going to shed some light on how the costs of producing conventional produce/meat/eggs/etc is vastly different from the organic way and how it’s possible for Big-Ag to get away with such low prices and still get rich. Some linked references at least would be great. I’m wondering if your response would have been different if you were speaking with, say, a middle-class mother who wants to feed her family the best but is not sure how to afford it. Many people know nothing about CSAs and buying clubs and the like. I’m not saying the lawyer is justified in his belief, but some people are truly ignorant on this issue, and in some cases I have experienced price gouging in the organic market, especially certain health food stores (*cough* Whole Foods *cough*) and I’m doubtful that the money is going to the source of the expensive organic products…so how do we know when we are really paying too much? I sympathize that people need to make a living but I would be very interested in knowing what goes into the costs of organic farming from a farmer’s perspective. Thanks!

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:58 am

      Hey Cathy,

      Great comment. When researching other articles that were out there on this subject, I found a bunch that were pretty much spot-on (here is an example that highlights what I feel is the main reason for higher prices, human labor: http://ecoscraps.com/why-is-organic-food-more-expensive/ ) so, I thought it would be fun to get people laughing while pointing out the human connection that exists between producer and consumer when it comes to organic production.

      As someone who attends farmers markets each weekend, year round, it’s my job to have precisely the types of conversations that you mention. I’ve found that the most effective way to convince consumers that our food is worth buying is for them to actually come visit our farm… fresh air, green grass, healthy animals in a genuine free-range environment. It’s an experience they can’t get from a package of chicken nuggets at the grocery store.

      Thanks again!

  22. elizabethhenderson13 January 5, 2013 at 11:05 am - Reply

    At a fundraiser for an organic farming organization, the stock broker sitting next to me remarked, “My wife always buys organic food because it is more expensive.”

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:51 am

      Ah, the old ‘if it costs more, then it must be better’ way of thinking. Interesting…

  23. Cynthia Swidler January 5, 2013 at 11:12 am - Reply

    You beetnik, you! Rooting for some more rants like this to squash the myths.

  24. Tauna Pierce January 5, 2013 at 11:32 am - Reply

    Fantastic read! 🙂

  25. Lisa M January 5, 2013 at 11:43 am - Reply

    I’m well-educated but fairly ignorant of where my food comes from, so I was actually interested in learning the details behind organic food production. However, I was very disappointed to read such a sarcastic and alienating article. The feedback you hear and the questions you get are because the organic farming industry has yet to satisfactorily tell its tale to the masses in a way that resonates with them.

    Money is tight for so many, so it’s harder to justify paying more for food labeled organic when you don’t understand why (especially if there is no taste or tangible performance difference). Even paying for non-organic food at Wal-Mart or your grocer can be difficult. I believe many people think that these organic products are more so the result of marketing campaigns that tailor to foodies and the economically elite than humane, sustainable and safer changes in food production for all people.

    These comments from organic farming supporters have a similar snotty-ass tone–why? Get the chip off your self-righteous shoulders and work on your messaging. You should welcome inquiries and opportunities to tell your story. You’re not going to gain ground by being judgmental about the people you want to buy your products and adopting a holier-than-thou attitude. It’s very off-putting and counter productive to your objectives.


    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Hi Lisa,

      I get where you’re coming from. I think the ‘snotty’ tone you’re perceiving is mostly a continuation of the satirical tone of the article (after all, I encouraged folks to do so!). Laughter, as they say, is the best medicine… and humor comes in many forms.

      That said, I appreciate your comment about getting the message out. I hope you understand, in a backhanded way that’s exactly what I was trying to do with this piece… to remind consumers that much of this food comes with a human story, and that we’re all connected (whether we identify with the college dreamers, the young people just starting out or the senior citizens trying to scrape by, etc.).

      My book Gaining Ground is all about these themes: why organic food matters, how it is different from ‘conventional’ food, and how customer’s choices can make a lasting improvement in our world. And best of all, there’s no satire… my editor wouldn’t allow it!

      Here’s a blog I wrote a few months back that addresses just what you’re asking for: http://new.smithmeadows.com/farm/what-is-free-range-chicken/

  26. Diane Behnke January 5, 2013 at 11:45 am - Reply

    Well, I totally agree with what you all are saying. Our problem is that we can not afford $20 chickens. We did buy a couple from our local farmer market this summer. They are truly the best in terms of health, the way they are raised, etc. The problem is we just can not afford them or the grass fed beef, organic fruit and veggies…and we have to eat. I know and agree with the long term effects of it all, but it does not change the fact that we can’t afford to eat what is good for us. We eat all fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, etc. BUT they are not from our local organic farmers. They are the “cheap” chickens. etc. that are not god for us in the long run. So what are we to do? We do have a summer veggie garden and buy fruits and veggies from our local farmers during growing season. So I think it is the government forcing us to eat GMO’s and all that because we can’t afford to eat the good food and you can’t afford to grow it so that we can.

    • Emily January 5, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Thank you for this post, Diane. I wrote a similar one. This is a hard one for people to get. Even when we are told that spending the money now saves on medical bills later, the fact still remains that we have to budget around other basic expenses. if there isn’t enough to buy $20 chickens and pay the electric bill, there just isn’t. Check out The Nourished Kitchen’s web site. Jenny has a list she calls, Best, Good, Better and Avoid. It provides some reassuring alternatives for those of us who can’t afford top of the line, so we know we are not poisoning ourselves or our families!

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 7:53 am

      Thanks for the comment, Emily. One of the points of the satire certainly wasn’t to criticize or condemn anyone who can’t afford to buy organic, but to point out the deeply human story that exists behind much of this food (especially the food at farmers markets). Obviously, we all have our stories and points of view.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

      Hi Diane,

      Thanks for the response. I understand where you’re coming from, and as a farmer who has been raising food for almost two decades, I honestly do everything I can to keep my prices in check. After all, it’s better for my business if more people can buy the food I raise, right? Moreover, the last thing I want to do as a businessman (although perhaps not as a satirist, ha ha) is to alienate my customer base. Not many businesses stick around long if their customers don’t believe in their products.

      Which is why, on our farm, customers have 24 hour, year round access to everything we do. We are exceedingly transparent– I owe this to the dedicated folks who choose to shop with me, and put their trust in the food our farm raises. Although I understand that not everyone can afford to buy the food I raise, it’s my job to show our customers why food like this really matters, and what a difference they are making (environmentally, supporting local, etc.) by spending their money with our family farm.

  27. Wacky Backy January 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Great article. I shared it with everyone. I hope all these types of sentiments eventually chisel away at the widespread misconception that grocery store junk is the same thing you get at the farmers market, just cheaper…

    I like a quote from the farmer in the movie you site (Food Inc.) when he said “If you think organic food is expensive, try checking the price of cancer.” Great read, eager for more!

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:27 am

      Thanks, Brian. As to the ‘price of cancer’ reference, indeed, it’s a thought-provoking quote.

  28. Ben Raschke January 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    I saw almost immediately where you were going with this post. After watching Farmageddon, it opened my eyes to even more nonsense that our government is forcing on honest, hard working, intelligent farmers who you can see care very much about putting out a healthy, quality product. I understand that higher prices for organic can also be attributed to fees and paperwork that these farmers have to go through with local and state government just to be able to sell what they grow. I’m interested in learning more about what can be done to help put laws in place or amend existing laws that make it easier for these farmers to do what they believe in.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:25 am

      Hi Ben,

      I would say that the #1 reason organic food carries a higher price tag is the cost of human labor. At the risk of oversimplifying, 99% of all food raised in this country is grown on enormous scale, with the aid of machinery, chemicals and massive infrastructure (transport, processing, storage, etc.). Chances are, the organic farmer uses either none or very few of these conventional inputs, and must rely on his or her labor to overcome production challenges. Human labor is almost always the highest cost for any business, and in organic farming, I would hazard that it makes up the vast majority of operating expenses.

      Long story short, if the organic farmer is to stay remain in business from one year to the next, they must be paid for their labor like anyone else. The problem of perception arises when all the ‘other’ food (raised with tractors, GMO seed, pesticides, anti-biotics, etc.) appears so much ‘cheaper’ in contrast. Thanks for the response!

  29. vicky January 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    I think the majority of our problem with farming in this nation is government subsidies. Maybe we would think twice if everything was no longer subsidized. Not only has it made food cheaper, but it’s worse for you. And in the long run it gives the government too much control

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:15 am

      Hi Vicky, thanks for the comment. I’m addressing subsidies beneath the response to Lyle.

  30. Emily January 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Great article, and it so true. However, please, please understand there are some of us who don’t have the luxury of spending $4-$5/lb. for chicken. I do the best I can to avoid CAFO meat, poultry, and anything with additives. I have to buy Draper Valley chickens at Trader Joe’s for $1.29/lb., but at least they are antibiotic and hormone free. I can’t pay $9 a gallon for unpasteurized raw milk or $5 for a lb. of pastured butter, but again, I buy the hormone-free brands at the store. I have to make the most of my budget and factor in mortgage, utilities, car insurance (car is required for my job). We co-own a home with a friend, buy most of our goods used and don’t do frivolous things. We take no trips. I haven’t had a vacation in my entire adult life. I passionately believe in the organic farmer. I buy what vegetables I can afford when the farmer’s market is open; the rest of the time it’s frozen organic at New Seasons. I do not eat, nor would I ever support fast food; I cook from scratch. I just want to be clear: as much I as care about organic food, much of it is out of my reach.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:14 am

      Thanks again, Emily… trust me, I totally get this. I would be very remiss if anyone took the piece as a criticism against people who are struggling financially; it wasn’t my point at all.

      Part of why I raise food the way I do is to provide people genuine, transparent options. People support our farm for myriad reasons: sustainability, nutrition, food allergies, environmental responsibility, animal welfare, etc. The cultural stigma of ‘high prices’ is certainly an obstacle that I’ve had to contend with for all of my 17 year career. But the factor that ties these elements together is the human connection. That was what I was trying to emphasize in the satire, by humorously reminding consumers about the people who are raising this food.

      Thanks again for your support, and I honestly hope that you’ll be able to enjoy a vacation soon… sounds like you owe it to yourself!

  31. sandy January 5, 2013 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Excellent article! I am a former owner of an Organic retail store, and I saw first hand people’s attitudes toward the prices of the products I carried. I felt that part of my job was to educate the less-than-knowledgable people that would come into the store, and would often give them free samples of fruit and vegetables to eat right then and there to get their reaction and opinion on the taste, and boy where people amazed!

    I have been growing organically for over 20 years and what I can’t grow, I purchase from our local college farm who also grows organic produce. We are also fortunate to be able to buy whole, half and quarter beef from a local organic farm for less than $4 per pound (which includes processing).

    As I used to tell my customers, eating organically is better for your health, and you will really see the savings years down the road when you aren’t shelling out money to a Doctor for medical problems caused by all the additives and god-knows-what else is in the “cheaper” food you buy.

  32. mikestasse January 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    This reminded me of something that happened to me well over ten years ago. On a sustainability internet forum I frequented, a call went out looking for people who would like to be paid $50 to participate in a face to face group interview by some PR company on what foods environmentalists ate. Needing fifty bucks, I put my hand up…….

    I rode the 10km/6 miles to the venue on my bicycle, and met up with another 6 or so co-greenies who had either walked or rode the bus. You get the picture.

    Our interviewer, a totally dolled out blonde bimbo turned up in her Mercedes Benz. I’m not making this up…..! It turned out, of course, that we all ate organics, free range eggs, etc etc……. we were asked how much we earned, and how much we spent on this food, and we were all poor, but we spent loads on good food. After all, I was healthy enough that even at 50 I didn’t think twice about riding 20km return for $50!

    At the end of it all, the bimbo said “how can you afford to spend so much money on food on such low incomes?” That’s when I reminded her that none of us came in a Merc…..!!

    Organic food may be expensive, but not compared to all the trappings of effluence….

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:04 am

      Effluence, or affluence? Freudian slip? :^)

  33. Whitedove January 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Unfortunately “organic” has become a label that conventional has found loop-holes in. I choose to buy organic at times because I do prefer less preservatives, hormones, pesticides and herbicides, but that label does not mean they do not have any. I visited a farmers market in my area that is considered one of the nations ‘top 5’, and was sorely disappointed at the amount of mass produced hot-house products! And yes, I have 4 years of raising meats ala Joel Salatin style. The problem is that I have yet to find a local farmer that raises meats who isn’t cutting corners to make that profit margin higher for themselves. I get its hard work, I did it long enough to know what it takes. I’m just not willing to pay their price to hear them give me a song-and-dance while their assuming I don’t know anything about it! One day I will do it again, and I will not label it organic, I will not gouge with my pricing, but will use the farm to educate and to somehow more affordably feed those who want the ‘real’ food. Until then, I will grow what I can in my little back yard and buy what I have to for my family of 7! Even still, it was a fun read!!

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:03 am

      Hi Whitedove,

      Excellent points, and thanks for the kind words. As a former (or someday again) producer, I think you strike right to the heart of the matter: know your farmer! To build upon your point a little, there are so few places in our society where we can genuinely connect with the human story behind the product as we can via farmers markets or CSAs. That is to say, where else can one actually speak with a producer of goods? Go down the list, cars, clothing, appliances, entertainment, grocery store food… my point is, none of these can even pretend to offer transparency or lasting connection to the consumer.

      That being said, I whole-heartedly agree: like anything else in the world, not all farmers are created equal. At a minimum, we should all be grateful that we have the opportunity via farmers markets and CSAs to do our due diligence. As I conclude at the end of the piece (and as you seem to agree with), despite how challenging it might sound, there truly is no substitute for growing your own food!

  34. Kellie January 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    OMG, this is pure rubbish…”Thank goodness Wall Street prevailed, and we regained our sanity.” Wall St. is raping our country and has robbed us BLIND since the 2008 financial collapse. Nothing has been done to remedy this problem and you should educate yourself on what is truly going on in our economy. Do you really believe the employment numbers and everything the dumbed gov’t controlled down main stream media tells you about about the economy? Are you really naive enough to believe the recession ended in 2009? ” Here’s a tip for aspiring young farmers: there’s a device called scissors, and you can use them to trim your beard. Now go find yourself a real job, like a normal person.” Don’t you think people want to work? I’m 42 yrs old with a college degree and worked 15yrs in financial investments and could only find a job working at a call center making $9. Clearly you have no clue about what is truly going on in the world. You should be ashamed of yourself for writing such garbage. Try educating those who you think need to know more about organic farming and do something positive for the world instead of making cutting remarks that are in fact totally incorrect.

    • Q January 5, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      Kellie. It’s a satire. Knowing that, please re-read the article. It should strike you differently.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 7:54 am


      Hmm… double secret reverse satire. I love it.

  35. Rebekah January 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    I have to admit that I sometimes feel guilty for buying some of the produce I do at those prices. I know that those farmers worked their butts off and here I am only paying a measly $1/lb for carrots. We have grown our own food and well it takes a lot of work! I think we should be paying farmers more since it is what keeps us healthy! I always think it is funny that people buy the best cars, electronics, houses, but what to spend as little as possible on what really matters! Great article!

  36. james January 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Did you ask the lawyer why legal fees are so expensive? Geez, maybe the government should socialize lawyers so that everyone could have one and the rich wouldn’t be able to out lawyer the poor.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:47 am

      Ha ha, James, I’d never suggest that lawyers take a pay cut, just that farmers get paid as well!

  37. deb January 5, 2013 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    If you want to make money, follow the hippies : )

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 7:50 am

      Who would have ever believed that those money-grubbing ‘Greed is Good’ hippies would finally have a stranglehold over global finance?

  38. JRGidaho January 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    In some cases, particularly with pasture-finished (grass fed) meats, it is basic supply and demand. The scale at which many producers operate limit the amount of meats they have available. I know many sheep producers whose entire lamb crop is already sold before the first lamb is born in the spring. Basic economics does play a role. Done properly on a large scale, pasture-finishing beef actually costs less per head or per lb than does conventional feedlot finishing, yet the price is still higher simply because of demand exceeding supply.

  39. Andrea DiMauro January 6, 2013 at 2:48 am - Reply

    Which is why the McRib is considered an affordable “seasonal” food … ugh.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 7:48 am

      Mmm… McRib… (Homer Simpson drool)… :^)

  40. ryan neher January 6, 2013 at 7:35 am - Reply

    Thanks for this Forrest. I appreciate a bit of humor with my breakfast. I read all the comments before responding and see that this has reached people with a wide variety of experience and opinion. I was hoping for your responses to those with economic difficulty or social difference. Any thoughts for whitedove or lisa m. I have worked on farms and at the market table. i have seen first hand the confusion over the price. I think one of the best responses to this is gentle honest conversation. and a small free sample. disarming someone with financial reservation can be difficult without patience. looking forward to the book.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 7:47 am

      Hi Ryan, just checking in after a busy weekend of farmers markets (yes, we do markets year-round, ha ha), and just noticing the wide breadth of comments. I’m really delighted to see all the responses, and will do my best to elevate the conversation. Thank you!

  41. gayecentorani@msn.com January 6, 2013 at 7:55 am - Reply

    In light of all the comments above.. everyone complains about the price of organic.. I get it… it is expensive… but big news coming your way… food is going up… Monsanto.. yes google it please…. is the seed company that is forcing all the farmers to purchase their seeds… have you looked at the cost of stock on it? Look at MON ….. pretty soon you too will be able to afford organic!

    By the way great read… too funny… trust me I think we have all had these similar thoughts! LOL!

  42. Sustainably raising Grassfed longhorn beef since 2003 on semi-arid, predator-infested, rugged terrain (only place we could afford). Branched out in 2010 into pastured lamb, free-range pork from feral hogs and eggs from pasture raised hens.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 6, 2013 at 8:43 am

      Awesome! Hope it’s going gangbusters for you!

  43. Sylvie in Rappahannock January 11, 2013 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    What an un-American attitude, Forrest! It is our birth right to be able to eat cheap food – and lots of it. It’s sad though that I can no longer say “dirt-cheap” food. I mean , have you looked at the price of good agricultural land recently? You organic farmers always talk about healthy soils, compost, the joy of living on the land blablabla – It’s got to be your doing, at least in part, that’s causing land prices to be so expensive! Hard enough to deal with it when building a housing development or a new shopping center — but at least, those land uses bring value. Growing non-GMO carrots and those chi-chi greens or raising designer pigs — what a waste!!!

    Where was I? Right! Cheap, cheap, cheap food. Our right. Who cares if it’s produced immorally using slave labor, torturing animals or in manner that wreck the environment or the long-tem health of those who eat it? Who cares what it taste like? Don’t you know about salt? MSG? cellulose? high-fructose corn syrup? irradiation? cotton seed oil?

    Come on!!!! What is wrong with you Forrest? Have you not heard of herbicides to control weeds? of better living through chemistry? of antibiotics indiscriminately administered to confined animals to control sickness caused by an improper diet and dreadfully unhygienic conditions?

    Yes, clearly you and all those college educated graduates working long, physically demanding jobs that also require people skills and brain power, are out to gouge the rest of us! It’s about time you acknowledge it. I knew it was a conspiracy.

    (If needs to say – In the manner of “A Modest Proposal”)

    • Forrest Pritchard January 11, 2013 at 8:42 pm

      Vraiment! J’espere que les mince, salles hippies ne gagnent pas!

  44. Rin Zi January 16, 2013 at 11:30 am - Reply

    If anyone knows of any of these old hippies with kids that won’t take over their farms, send them my way. I’d love to sell it out to Monsanto and grow their soybeans for them. I’ve been looking for a non-chemically polluted family farm to take over and destroy for years!

    • Forrest Pritchard January 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      Keep the dream alive, Rin… you can do it!

  45. Alison January 17, 2013 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    We’re clearly all at different places in the Food Web, or rather in consuming information about our food. I think your post was particularly meaningful, Forest, because you wrote it while knee-deep in producing good food. Most farmers I know are like you, who rent the tux and have to work their tails off to make it work. Let’s acknowledge that the lawyer complaining about the price of quality food is not dealing with the real challenges of families that struggle to afford the same. For some people, their incomes and their locations may limit how well they can eat; in our case, we eat more legumes and less meat, and savor what we have. Thank goodness for small farmers, and especially for those who can make us laugh, then think.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm


      I couldn’t agree more. As a direct-to-consumer farmer, part of my job is to explain how I raise things, and why they are priced the way they are. While I always provide a serious response to questions I receive at farmers market, sometimes humor is a serviceable way of communicating as well :^)

      I’m planning to write a serious blog in the next few weeks titled “Why My Farm Can’t Raise A Hamburger For $1”, with lots of financial info for people to… umm… sink their teeth into!

  46. Graham January 21, 2013 at 3:42 am - Reply

    Thanks for the article. I look forward to reading the blog that outlines the costs that go into producing the food to arrive at the prices. We really want to eat healthy, organic meat, veg and fruit in our family but the costs here in Australia are so high! I don’t mind paying a bit of a premium but I really sometimes feel like we are being ripped off by over pricing due to organic food being an “in thing”.
    For the following keep in mind that $1 Aussie is pretty much equal to $1 US at the moment.
    For instance I recently went to one of our local organic food shops here in the Gold Coast in Queensland where we bought a few things. The tomatoes on sale were $10.95/kg ($4.98/lb). Tomatoes at the local Woolworths grocery store are $3.98/kg ($1.81/lb). What I want to understand is why these tomatoes, which also looked like they were about to expire (probably from sitting there for so long with no one willing to pay the price), cost about 2.75 times the cost of the mass produced ones.
    Or olive oil, which one producer sells for $21.25/litre ($80.54/gal) for their organic version. I can buy 4 litres of extra virgin olive oil in the shops for $8.06/litre ($30.55/gal) which is around 2.64 times cheaper. I recently watched a show on different organic farms in Australia and one organic olive grower said that he felt that the costs of organic and non-organic olive growing was about the same since olives in Australia generally don’t suffer from many pests and diseases so the organic control methods were about the same amount of time and cost as the non-organic. Therefore in my mind if the cost of producing the olives is around the same and the crushing and centrifuging can’t be that different, how do I end up paying 2.64 times as much. It wouldn’t bother me if it was maybe 1.5 times the cost as I understand that the organic farmer may have lower volumes and all that, but 2.64 times! That is being ripped off.
    My solution is to try to turn our garden into an edible garden and produce as much of the fruit and veg we need as possible. I’m just getting my aquaponics system going and hope that that helps me to produce some of that produce throughout the year.
    Then we can spend the extra money on meat since I can’t produce that myself (besides keeping some chickens for meat and eggs) and I feel that the better treatment that organically raised animals receive, as well as the lack of antibiotics and chemicals, is worth the higher prices.

    • Forrest Pritchard January 21, 2013 at 6:50 am

      Hey Graham,

      Thanks for this. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that some prices are artificially inflated, and you certainly might have experienced that (and it’s hard for me to say what Australia’s import policies are, especially for organics. Let’s assume you are making an apples-to-apples domestic food comparison).

      In a nutshell, I believe that organic food costs more because:

      1) tractors, sprays, fuel and fertilizer (much of it subsidized with taxpayer money either in direct payments or tax breaks) must largely be replaced with human labor in organics.

      2) most organic farmers must build their own distribution infrastructures from scratch (and subsequently maintain and expand them), all out-of-pocket. Huge food companies not only have their infrastructure in place, in most cases it has been (again) subsidized with government payouts—at least indirectly.

      Again, this is a broadly generalized response, and I am planning to write something much more specific (and entertaining, ha ha!) in the next few weeks and link it to this article. But the bottom line comes back to a human story: do we pay farmers to grow food with care and craft, or do we pay them to grow food in mass quantities with chemicals and pre-subsidized practices? The good news is, I suppose, that we have a choice!

  47. chelle webb January 24, 2013 at 10:11 am - Reply

    yes, we lived in a leaky moldy travel trailer for seven years to save up money for plot of farm land. working hours upon hours, weeding on the holidays, working jobs and full time farming……………….it really doesn’t take much effort, much care……you are right, sir. It should be cheaper.

  48. Kelly McGuire March 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    I’m a college student, working on a speech to promote organic farming. After hours of researching, I’ve come across this gem of an article which brightened my day. Spot on. This is hilarious.

  49. sam May 14, 2013 at 9:27 am - Reply

    The NPR: Planet Money podcast has a couple of episodes that are pretty interesting. You might want to listen to `Episode 224: The Cotton Wars’ and `Episode 454: The Lollipop War’.

    In a nut shell Brazil wanted to sell cotton but can’t because the US government subsides cotton farmers making it too cheap. Brazil starts to sound like a whiny hippy. The US government had signed agreements not to do such uncompetitive things. US tells Brazil too bad, so sad… deal with it. Brazil deals with it by sending a letter to various American industries that depend on exporting stuff to Brazil telling them to enjoy being taxed. Oh, noes! A few industries then gang up on the cotton industry. US and Brazil make agreement over cotton. The End.

  50. Peter November 11, 2015 at 7:30 pm - Reply


    People and Farmers say Heirloom Organic food is too expensive, but I have not been able to find a source of Heirloom Organic Food except in China. I should not be surprised, because everything comes from China.

    Farmers should get on the Heirloom Organic Band Wagon. Organic is double normal, and Heirloom is Double normal hybridized organic.

    How can a lawyer say anyone makes too much?



Leave a Reply