If Organic is so good for us, what’s stopping all chefs from supplying it at their restaurants?
Price and value continue to be the biggest obstacles in buying organic produce. It’s simple. Organic products typically cost 20 percent to 100 percent more than their conventionally produced equivalents.
As a chef or hospitality entrepreneur, food is so dear to your heart. Naturally, you’d be more knowledgeable of the difference between good and bad quality ingredients. You understand the significance of consuming quality food. Despite this, we understand that delivering organic food to your customers is at times easier said than done – it’s expensive. However, your efforts in persevering are guaranteed to reward your business in future. Why? Because the organic/whole foods industry is booming.
To begin, have you wondered why organic prices are high? Here are the top factors
- There’s no chemicals, but hey, something has to make up for it…
Conventional farmers use toxic chemicals and synthetic pesticides, so they finish the job faster,and can therefore afford to reduce production costs. As Organic Farming Research Foundation describes it, it’s substituting labour and intensive management for chemicals, health and the environmental. Whereas organic farmers hire more workers to handle the weeding and cleanup of polluted water etc. Real farming isn’t easy or quick!
- Demand overwhelms supply
Organic farmland only accounts for 0.9 percent of total worldwide farmland. Naturally you’d understand why they produce less than conventional farms. This means conventional farming can keep the cost down by producing a product in larger quantities.
- Higher cost of fertilizer for organic crops
Unlike conventional farmers who use inexpensive sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers (not sure if you’d like that in your food), organic farmers avoid these by using natural compost and animal manure. These are more expensive to ship.
- Crop rotation
With the use of weed-killers and chemicals, crop rotation is much easier for conventional farmers. They can continuously use every acre of land to grow produce. Whereas organic farmers use sophisticated crop rotations to keep their soil healthy. They grow “cover crops” after their original crop has been harvested, which adds nitrogen to the soil to benefit succeeding crops. This results in a slower turn-over cycle (more time = more money).
- Post-harvest handling cost
After organic produce is harvested, it must still be separated from conventional produce to avoid cross-contamination. This means it’s shipped in smaller quantities which result in higher shipping costs than conventional products which are shipped in massive numbers. Also, organic farms are usually located farther from major cities, increasing the shipping cost.
- Organic certification
Obtaining an organic certification means annual fees starting from $400 to $2,000 a year (depending on the agency and the size of the operation). Also, employees must be hired to maintain strict daily records that must be available for inspection at any time!
- Better living conditions for livestock
Higher standards for animal welfare also means more costs for organic farms - they can cost double that of conventional livestock feed.
What’s the good news for you as a chef?
The more you use organic products, the greater the demand, thus the lower the cost. And it’s already begun. According to Australian Organic, the demand for organics is outstripping supply by 40 per cent. It’s expected to continue on this growth path, which will create a greater affordability to drive this trajectory. Simultaneously, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of food and product labels/content. More than ever before, they’re now reading nutritional panels and seeking information about the ingredients in their food. Hence the significant increase in whole food and organic cafes and restaurants.
The call is out to you, consumers are looking for organics, can you help them?
The organic industry is now valued at over $1.72 billion, representing a 15.4 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) since 2009. Australian Organic said the growth demonstrated that consumption of certified organic food, cosmetics and household products was at a “record high” in Australia.
Even those who aren’t green are subconsciously turning green because they know it’s better. Organic purchases by those who are not categorized as green or sustainable consumers also increased from 24 per cent in 2012 to 40 per cent in 2014, more info here. Meanwhile, according to the USDA ‘Consumer demand for organically produced goods continues to show double-digit growth, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products.’
In few years when the boom is at it’s absolute peak, will your conventional method of food and kitchen choices still survive the green trend? The current price tag is worth it.