If you ve shopped> for organic food recently, you probably know producers charge a premium for these products. Now we re hitting the time of year when holiday feasts mean eating and then eating some more.
So how much more does it cost to celebrate an organic Thanksgiving? SmartMoney.com went shopping to find out. And we found that consumers face a conundrum that s particularly tough this season: Skip the organics or spend upwards of $100 extra for the holiday meal in the midst of a down economy.
Going organic just to serve up a simple bowl of baked yams, for instance, costs $9.95 for eight people $6 more, or an extra 150%, for the starchy side dish alone. Organic canned pumpkin for the traditional pie? That ll be $1.81 extra for two 15-ounce cans. Add some organic heavy whipping cream to top off that pie and it will cost you $5.58 for two pints vs. $4 for nonorganic.
And hold onto your wallet for the main event. Conventional turkey remains a relative bargain in the protein department at $1.19 a pound. But an organic bird can fetch up to $4.99 a pound. Total cost for our organic 20-pound turkey for eight: $99.80 or a full $76 more than the nonorganic version. The news isn t all> bad, however. We did pick up bags of Whole Foods Market s store-brand organic stuffing for 20 cents cheaper than its conventional counterpart. Also, there was one item on our shopping list, evaporated milk, which we couldn t find in an organic version.
Overall, the organic version of our turkey-day menu for eight people including dinner rolls, a salad and three bottles of organic wine totaled $295.36. That puts the organic premium for the meal at $126.35, or 75%, compared with the same shopping list filled with nonorganic options. All figures reflect prices from a New York City location of Whole Foods Market, an Associated Supermarket and a Food Emporium.
Manhattan is, of course, not the cheapest place to shop for groceries. But the premiums we saw are by no means unusual. Nationwide, organic items can typically ring up 40% higher, according to GreenerChoices.org, a web site that tracks environmentally-friendly products.
Buying organic... is a decision made by shoppers based on their lifestyle choices, says Cathy Cochran-Lewis, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods. Whole Foods shoppers looking to save money could purchase its store-brand turkey for $2.29 a pound that has only been fed a vegetarian diet with no animal by-products and has not been administered antibiotics. The chain also says it prices its store-brand organic products competitively with conventional items.
Is the extra money worth it? The Organic Trade Association says the price premium supports an agricultural system that s healthier for the land and the farmers. To save money when shopping organic, the association recommends purchasing private-label products and trying to hit local farmer s markets that could offer cheaper prices.
Other voices in the healthy foods debate argue that foods officially labeled organic aren t the only way to eat an environmentally-sustainable meal. Buying local in-season products, which can often be cheaper than organic items, is an option that avoids foods being shipped cross-country to reach a family s dinner table, says Jonathan Kaplan, who directs the sustainable agriculture project at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council.
Here's a complete rundown on the cost of our organic Thanksgiving dinner:
|1. Turkey (20 pounds)||$99.80||$23.80|
|2. Wine* (3 bottles)||71.97||50.97|
|3. Vanilla Ice Cream (3 quarts)||21.87||15.98|
|4. Yams (5 lbs.)||9.95||3.95|
|5. Butter (8 sticks)||9.58||7.18|
|6. 12 Dinner Rolls||9.48||9.49|
|7. Chicken Broth (around 8 cups)||6.00||6.95|
|8. Broccoli (2 lbs.)||5.98||3.98|
|9. Heavy Whipping Cream (2 pints)||5.58||4.00|
|10. 2 Cans of Pumpkin Filling||5.00||3.19|
|12. 1 Bag of Cranberries||4.99||2.49|
|14. 3 Pears||4.49||2.99|
|17. Milk (1 gallon)||3.79||3.75|
|18. Salad Dressing (1 16 oz. bottle)||3.49||2.49|
|21. 1 Package of Pie Crust||2.99||3.99|
|22. 1 Orange||2.49||1.99|
|23. Croutons (1 bag)||2.19||2.29|
|24. 1 Can Evaporated Milk||1.99||1.99|