How much does organic produce actually cost?
by David S. Hestrin
We have heard that organic produce is more expensive. That may be true, but the truth is that we can decrease the cost of goods by buying at scale and at that point organic can actually be less expensive than conventional.
If local, organic, and higher quality cost less than conventional… A WHOLE LOT MORE PEOPLE WOULD EAT IT!
Some items actually store for months in a root cellar. Other items can store for months while refrigerated. Most things can store for years if dried or canned and stored properly. So more and more people can either buy things in bulk as individuals and store them properly OR they can form buyer groups so that they can get bulk orders but divide things up so that each buyer does not need to handle more than they want to at a time.
Here are some examples from August 30th 2017 from an Organic Wholesaler in San Francisco. In general, these prices range from 20-75% lower than retail prices (mostly near 40-50% lower). Ideally, in a given year this could either mean doubling a person’s purchasing power or saving half their money spent on produce.
- Gala apples 1.07 per pound – 38# case $41 total
- Granny smith 1.15 per pound – 38# case $43.50 total
- Bananas 74 cents per pound – 40# case $29.50 total
- Strawberries $2.50 per box – 8 6 oz case $20 total
- Raspberries $2.50 per box – 12 6 oz case $30 total
- Blueberries $2.67 per box – 12 6 oz case $32 total
- Blackberries $2 per box – 12 6 oz case $24 total
- Grapefruit (called “juice” b/c of exterior) 71 cents per pound – 33# case $23.50 total
- Valencia oranges 79 cents per pound – 38# case $30 total
- Figs $3.50 per pint – 12 pint case $42 total
- Grapes $1.68 per pound – 19# case $32 total
- Kiwi $2.16 per pound 22# case $47.50 total
- Cantaloupe $0.56 per pound 35# case $19.50 total
- Honeydew $0.53 per pound 30# case $16 total
- Watermelon $0.41 per pound 650# bin $266.00 total
- Watermelon $0.63 per pound 35# case $22.00 total
- Bartlett Pear $0.92 per pound 36# case $33 total
- Asian Pear $2.07 per pound 22# case $45.50 total
- Plums $1.89 per pound 28# case $53 total
- Nectarines $2.03 per pound 20# case $40.50 total
- White peaches $2 per pound 20# case $40.00 total
- Pineapple $1.27 per pound 24# case $30.50 total (or $3.81 each for 3 pound pineapples)
- Keitt Mango from Mexico $0.75 each 10 count case $7.50
- Keitt mango from California $2.30 each 10 count case $23.00
- Formosa Papaya $1.25 per pound 32# case $40 total (or $2 per papaya)
- Thai Coconut $2.44 each 9 count case $22 total (22#s total)
- Medhjool Date $4.47 per pound 15 pound case $67.00 total
Below some of the prices are slightly rounded (to save calculation time):
- Avocados currently 25# for around $4 per pound or $1.40-3.00 each (usually it’s been much cheaper)
- Baby bok choy $1 per pound 20# case $20 total
- Green beans $2 per pound 15# case $30 total
- Beets around $2 per punch by dozen or half dozen bunch $12 or $24 total
- Loose beets around $0.80 per pound 25# pound bag $20 total
- Baby broccoli $2.19 each bunch 18 bunch case $39.50 total
- Green cabbage $0.50 per pound 45 pound case $22.00
- Carrot Bunches $1.46 per bunch by dozen or 1/2 dozen $9 or $18 total
- Cauliflower $2.55 each 12 count case $30.50 total
- Celery $0.65 each head 30 count case $19.50 total
- Corn $0.73 per ear 48 count case $35 total
- Cucumbers $0.75 per pound 40# case $30 total
- English Cucumbers $2 each 12 count case $24
- Persian Cucumbers $1.68 per pound 22# $37 total
- Eggplant $1.12 per pound 25# case $28.50 total
- Fennel $1.63 per head dozen or half dozen in case $10-$20
- Garlic around $7 per pound in 5# bags… (can get it for $3 per pound from Pinnacle though)
- Ginger $3 per pound 5# bags $15 total
- Kale $1.43 per POUND 20# case $28.50 total
- Kale bunches $1.00 each 1/2 dozen dozen $6-$12
- Chard $1.50 each 1/2 dozen dozen $9-18
- Collards $1.17 each 1/2 dozen dozen $7-14
- Cilantro $1.08 1/2 dozen dozen $6.50-$13
- Parsley $1 each 1/2 dozen dozen $6-$12
- Leeks $1 per pound 20# case $19.00 per case
- Romaine lettuce $0.85 per head 24 count case $20.50 total
- Green leaf $0.75 per head 24 count case $18 total
- Romaine hearts 3 packs (bagged) $1.55 each 12 count total $18.50
- Spring mix $4 per pound 3 pound box $12 total
- Okra $7.20 per pound 5# case $36 total
- Shiitake number 2s(they’re great) $7.20 per pound 5# case $36 total
- Crimini Mushrooms $3.40 total 5# $17.00 total
- Onions $0.75 per pound 40# case $30 total
- Red choice peppers (some may be ugly and a few may have a bad spot) $1.68 per pound 25# case total $42.00 total
- Extra large red bell peppers $2.90 per pound 15# case $43.50 total
- Gold Potatoes $0.80 per pound 50# case $40 total
- Loose spinach $4 per pound 4 pound case $16 total
- Medium size Sweet potatoes $1 per pound 40 pound case $40 total
- Bigger sweet potatoes tend to cost between $1.50-2 per pound in 40 pound cases)
- Early girl tomatoes $2.20 per pound 20 pound case $44.00 total
- Heirloom tomates $3.10 per pound 10 pound case $31.00 total
- Roma Tomatoes $1.37 per pound 22 pound case $25 total
- Red Grape tomatoes clam $1.71 each dozen pints $20.50
- Various squashes are $1-1.50 per pound in 35# cases for $35-$50 total
Furthermore, by setting up local pick-up spots, people can save the travel time to and from the market, possibly some of the time spent shopping, also save the gas or transport money, and part of the ecological footprint. For some people saving this time and effort can be a significant relief as well.
There are many ways for people to set up these groups. We’d like to set up or find platforms that help put the funding together for the cases so that there can be money sort of “in escrow” or that it can be “pledged” and then taken if enough funds are gathered to buy whatever is needed to buy a case worth. Also, we’d like to develop or find something with a little nuance that will help adjust people’s orders when perhaps they’ve put together enough money to buy a case, but they have pledged more money than needed to get the quantity they wanted. For example, perhaps 7 people are happy to spend $4 for 2 pounds of roma tomatoes. So they have pledged $28 and that’s enough to buy a case for $25. But that’s only 14 pounds desired and there’s 22 pounds in a case. SO this platform could inform them that each of them can get 3.15 pounds of tomatoes each for $3.57 each. There could be some added nuances if certain people say they want to spend the minimum possible for the exact quantity desired or they could place some bid and they’re happy to receive it so maybe each of the 7 people pay $4 and they get 2 pounds and then the rest are donated or up for grabs or it could be like an investment of the initial buyers and whatever they sell it for would be returned equally to the 7 people. Still thinking that part out… but those specific changes shouldn’t be too hard to make once the platform is functional. Or they could donate the rest. Or maybe the excess produce stays in a central place and the produce is canned or dried or something.
Alternatively, once the money is raised to get the whole case, the available lowest cost per unit can be broadcast as available in whatever limited quantity is left. Perhaps some people would still rather get 2 pounds for $2.25 than 3 pounds for $3.57. Or perhaps some people would even rather just get 2 pounds for $3.57 and they don’t care. They just couldn’t all get 2 pounds for $2.25 because that would total $15.75 and they need to at least pool $25 to get the case. Different groups could work different things out. Depending on size of groups, skills, and interests. Some groups would likely have someone who enjoys canning or drying vegetables and perhaps others wouldn’t. Over time though if things grow and are organized well, it’s likely that there could be employed individuals who take care all the excess so that things don’t go to waste.
I currently do not have all the skills to make this platform on my own, without likely paying programmers (unless I can find volunteers), so I could use help if people want to! I do have some people I can likely pay to build it. Alternatively, we can use google sheets and trusted reliable people to start it off.
The other element necessary is a place for people to pick up OR a system for delivery of goods. There could be a flat rate or adjustable rate for delivery or something else. Open to ideas!
Lastly, it’s very likely that the prices will go even lower as scale increases significantly. Provided things can run efficiently.