U.S. shoppers are still paying more for organic food, but the price premium is falling as organic options multiply.
Last year, organic food and beverages cost an average of 24 cents more per unit than conventional food, or about 7.5 percent more, according to Nielsen. That was down from a 27 cent, or 9 percent, premium in 2014.
There’s a lot of variation within those numbers. The average price for a gallon of organic milk — $4.76 — is 88 percent higher than the $2.53 shoppers pay for a gallon of regular milk. Organic eggs have an 86 percent premium. At $4.89 per loaf, organic bread is double the cost of regular bread.
Parents buying organic baby food, on the other hand, pay just 3 percent more than they would for conventional baby food. In mid-January, a bunch of organic kale was 5 percent more than organic kale, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some organic products — like artichokes, soy milk and Granny Smith apples — may even cost less than their conventional counterparts.
There are many shifting factors behind the prices for organic foods. Premiums for milk and eggs tend to be much higher, for example, because the government has very specific rules for what “organic” means. For example, cows producing organic milk must be allowed to graze for at least one-third of their food intake, says Jeremy Moghtader, the manager of the campus farm at the University of Michigan.
The rules “have real benefits to the animal, the consumer and environment, but they do increase the price of production,” Moghtader said.