We’ve been hearing the term ‘organic’ for around a decade now, ever since supermarkets and local independent stores started to encourage us to do our bit for the environment and ‘go green.’
While many of us have probably made some attempt to do this, either deliberately or as a result of the local council giving us so many bins we have no choice but to get involved in recycling. Whatever our reasons might be for going green, many of us still don’t really understand the various terminology used by those who work in the associated industries and organic is one of those phrases that refuses to go away and as such we all talk about. However, not many of us can actually define what the term means.
Put simply, organic is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “relating to or derived from living matter”, which – to you and me – would just mean that it grows in the ground, right? This is what confuses many people when they go to their local supermarket and look for, for example, a cucumber. They see two trays on the shelf, one a typical cucumber and one with a label saying that it is ‘organic’ and, in some cases, this one is actually more expensive. Two questions arise at this point: firstly, how are they different; and second, naturally, why is one more expensive than the other?
Let’s try and work this one out a question at a time. Firstly, and most importantly, being organic does mean that it has grown in the ground but in this instance it is related to the way in which it is grown and farmed. Some vegetables are grown with the use of chemicals to help them to grow to their full potential in order to be as large as possible and bring in as much money to the farmer as they can possibly get from their customers. Organic vegetables, on the other hand, are grown naturally without the use of any chemicals or pesticides and reach the shelves just how nature intended, although some say that a “minimal amount” of chemicals are used.
So to summarise, theoretically at least, the vegetables grown in organic conditions are just like the ones you would grow yourself, while those without the organic labels have been grown in the presence of pesticides and other chemicals. Organic vegetables, essentially, are the kind you would grow in a greenhouse from Garden Buildings Direct or outdoors in your own vegetable patch.
That leaves the second question about why organic vegetables cost us more. There are some opinions, one of which is that labour costs are higher for organic vegetables because they are farmed by hand and yields are normally lower which both mean that farmers are looking to recoup as much money for their crops as the time and effort invested in planting and picking them. When demand for organic vegetables is high, farmers know that they can increase their prices to meet that demand. They’re running a business after all and will be looking to make as much from the supermarket chains as possible. When the demand starts to fall they can drop their prices again – everything in business has its price and prices fluctuate. Simple as that.
The stores, therefore, know that if customers want to do their bit for the environment and steer clear of chemicals and pesticides used in the fields, they can charge more because the custom will still be there. With people wanting organic vegetables from a health perspective, that’s what they’ll buy and as soon as you mention the word ‘chemical’ people immediately start to look for alternatives so stores take the stance of giving those grown with the presence of chemicals the lower prices.