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Would You Pay More for Eco-Friendly Food?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When my mom sees the things I buy from the grocery store, she often shakes her head.  I’m definitely someone who loves a good deal (I get that from her), but I’m willing to pay more for organic produce, I’ll go out of my way to shop at a farmer’s market versus the store, and I really like knowing where my food is coming from.  
I hosted Thanksgiving at our house last year, so I needed to get a turkey.  For me, it was important to know that the turkey had a good life and wasn’t pumped full of preservatives before it reached my door.  So I was willing (and lucky that I was financially able) to get a free-range turkey from a farm in our area.  It probably cost me four times what I would have paid in the store, but made me feel a lot better about serving it in my home.  My mom thought that paying so much for a turkey was the craziest thing in the world.  Everyone is different, so obviously what is important to me isn’t necessarily important to everyone else- and that’s okay.  New research says that shoppers in their 20’s and 30’s are willing to pay more for products with a low carbon footprint, versus those in their 40’s and 50’s.  
A food’s carbon footprint is measured in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted along the food’s life cycle- from manufacturing (or growing) to your table.  The more steps involved (the further the food travels, the more it’s processed), the larger the footprint.  “Some 58 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds are prepared to pay more for food and beverages with a low carbon footprint, while 49 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds also said they would be happy to pay more. As age increases, a person’s willingness to pay extra to guarantee the eco credentials of their food drops – only 35 percent of 35-to-44-year-olds and 35 percent of 45-to-54-year-olds express willingness to pay a premium, while just 31 percent of over-55s said yes.”
“The research also revealed that almost 80 percent of shoppers want to see more supermarkets and food producers commit to tackling climate change, while nearly 70 percent of total respondents would like to see the entire food supply chain, including farmers and growers, manufacturers and supermarkets, put more effort as an industry into combating climate change and protecting the earth’s natural resources.”  But does this mean they are willing to pay more for it?  Not necessarily. 
I understand that I have the luxury (that not everyone has) to make choices when it comes to food for me and my family.  I’m willing to pay more for higher quality food and cut back on expenses in other areas of my life because I have that flexibility, and because it’s important to me.  Whether you’re willing/able to pay more or not, I think it’s important to be informed about where your food is coming from. 
Learn how you can Vote With Your Fork, and why Farmer’s Markets can be an easy way to make eco-friendly food choices.
What do you think?  Are you willing to pay more for eco-friendly food?

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The closest I come to buying eco-friendly or organic products is shopping at the local farmer's market when it's open. Even then, I'm not so sure how eco-friendly the products are (except that I know they weren't trucked in from across the country). Like so many others stated, it's really more about affordability than sustainability for me. Report
I'm sorry, but this kind of stuff MUST BE AFFORDABLE TO THE WORKING CLASS before I'll EVER consider it! Sheesh! Report
i don't buy organic it not worth the extra you pay for it why pay .89 cents for a pound of bananas when they are 54 cents a pound for just plain bananas! i agree with the mom it nuts to pay 4 x the price for a turkey. and other foods. maybe its because i grew up in the time before we got on the organic kick. do you buy organic ketchup and mustard ??? Report
My answer - no. Things are already too expensive. Besides I don't trust all the so called organic and eco-friendly hype. I agree with others that have said unless you grow it yourself you can't be sure.

"For me, it was important to know that the turkey had a good life and wasn’t pumped full of preservatives" LOL! ROTFL! Its good life ended when its head was cut off, cooked and served.
I'll pay a premium for some things. I'm in love with my CSA that goes for 16 weeks over the summer. I definitely pay higher prices for those vegetables than I would in the supermarket. But honestly, I'm not convinced that a lot of this eco-friendly food push isn't just a bunch of marketing hype. Report
I'd love to have the option of spending that much money on our food, but our family is struggling just to keep a roof over our heads. One day I'm sure that will be a priority - but right now our only priority is eating, period. Report
I live in the heart of "farm country" surrounded by a very large Mennonite community. The prices at their roadside stands during harvest time are enough to make your eyes bulge out of your head. While completely understanding the work involved in raising those crops, and the fact that it cost more to raise "organic", it prompted us to learn to raise crops ourselves.

There are a variety of methods to preserve your crops too that will make them last through the winter. And while not "fresh" in January they are still better for us and cheaper to grow our own. We can, freeze and dry each Fall. You don't need a large plot of land, if you live in an urban area learn to "pot farm" as we call it. We have pots that contain cherry tomatoes and I tossed in marigold seeds for color! If you WANT to eat healthier you can...it takes commitment and it takes work.

Approach your city council. The City generally owns quite a bit of undeveloped/unused land within the city center. Start a "community" garden, teach children to grow their own food. It's great exercise, wonderful to form community spirit, strengthens communities/neighborhoods, gives the kids something to do during the Summer months etc.....You CAN eat better, eat healthy if you want to...AND by doing so you are decreasing your own "carbon footprint". Report
I buy all that I can from our local farmer's market and I am fortunate to have one that goes year round. Yes the stuff is more expensive - although buying into a CSA can help with the cost... Locally produced and direct from the field or greenhouse or barn, the food tastes better, supports the local economy, and helps provide some jobs in addition to reducing the carbon footprint. Report
It depends on the product. Some things I do buy organic only because I don't want to have to guess at what's in the product. It boggles the mind some of the artificial ingredients and chemicals that go into some products.

I do try to buy "free trade" foods. I do want to make sure farmers across the globe are being properly paid for their produce.

I suppose the question is what distinguishes eco-friendly from organic. Isn't organic eco friendly ? Of course, I did get into a lively discussion with a friend over industrial organic corporations like Earthbound Foods. He says that people should be buying more local produce instead of products like Earthbound. He says that the carbon footprint produced by the company cancels out the organic products they produce.

I've told him that the industrial organic farms have tens of thousands of acres of land that are not treated with chemicals or pesticides. Also, small local sustainable farms can't feed every single person out there. That's why we need large scale organic operations. The more farms that go organic will eventually cause the prices of organic produce to go down. It's a question of supply and demand. There is more demand so the industry will respond with the supply.

As one of the older (age 60) people, I can sympathize with how many of our generation find it difficult to come up with the money for higher quality, organic, free-range turkey or chicken or eggs from free-range chickens, etc. I think for many of us, certainly for me, it has been an economic decision. Some people in this age group are on fixed incomes that simply do not allow for these higher priced items. Some products are easily double in price, and in many cases triple or quadruple. I have recently given up meat (out of principle) and hope that this will make it easier to spread my food budget around to be able to afford more organic and cruelty-free items. It will take some doing, but I'm committing to a new vegetarian lifestyle. Better late than never, right? Report
we were just discussing this week how cheap food (fast food) can be so unhealthy in the end because of the fat, sugar, calories and preservatives; and how difficult it can be for some socioeconomic areas to have access to grocery stores or other better food sources. Report
I won't pay more for organic food. As for local, most of my fresh vegetables are from my garden. If the price is good in the store I will by local from a small local grocery store. I can be through every aisle in less than 20 minutes. Meat is bought locally or we raised it. It is raised in feedlot but we know and trust the traditional system. Farmers eat what they raise and live where they raise it. Report
We try to get organic as often as possible, but we're not neurotic about it. The nearest health store is about 30 miles away, so we don't always get there. But, yes, I am willing to spend more on healthy food. We buy fresh meat, fish and produce as often as possible. And guess what? I'm in my 50's. :-) Report
NORAS_PAT : I totaly agree with what you have written:

"We care greatly we see more mind polution than carbon footprint pollution and we see much more electronic waste and throw aways in our younger generations than we ever could have imagined."

So, So True. I am aware and in awe of the legacy of elders in my community who work so hard to explain the cycle of consumerism to younger generations. Report
I’m willing to pay more for organic produce, I’ll go out of my way to shop at a farmer’s market versus the store, and I really like knowing where my food is coming from. We grow 85% of the food on my dinner plate in summer. We also grow enough to swap produce with others. It is an abundant life.
I avoid super markets. I make my dollar vote for the world I want my child to grow up in; one aligned with a environmentally sustainable, socially just world. Report
I am SO NOT willing to pay more for anything. This is not a matter of choice - financially, I am FORTUNATE to have ANY food at all. I lived for months at a time on NOTHING but Ramen noodles, and maybe, one dollar burger a week, plus anything someone at the office would share: it was ALWAYS junk food. That's how and why I gained weight - that plus pure miserable financial hardship every day of my life since my husbands job disappeared eight years ago and I am the sole support of my household and my moms. When I see prices go up, or package sizes go down, those foods are gone from my diet. Would I EVER choose something that cost MORE than something else - no matter how it was made - I pray fervently that at SOME point in my life, just one time, on one shopping trip, I could actually do that. I go on manufacturers websites and e-mail them requests for coupons and samples. I watch every single sale. I look for damaged packages in the store. I try desperately to have enough food. I have never - not once - had the luxury of picking the more costly product. And as things go up, more people will be forced to eat poorly - just to eat. We desperately need the cheapest choices to remain. Report
I think food prices are crazy high. No way would I pay more. I have kids, a mortage etc. I hope we plant our garden. I love fresh veggies...I just come from the store and saw the price of tomatoes Please just too high. As for as buying store brought meats I try and buy poultry chemical free. I try. What else is there?? Report
I do and many of my friends do as well. When you hear about what the pesticides, antibiotics and other chemicals can do to your body and the environment how can you not?

However, I know a lot of people think I'm nuts, that I am wasting my money or getting conned. Maybe.

In general I think if more people MADE their meals as opposed to buying pre-made box meals or eating out they would go a long way to reaching their health goals. Report
Like the name of the eponymous undergarments, it depends...and on a host of factors too numerous to list here. Report
We focus more on buying locally-grown food than on buying organic. I don't gravitate to the organic section of the grocery store, but the "Locally Grown" signs in the produce department in the summer grab my attention every time! We are members of a vegetable CSA run by a farmer about 5 miles from our house and buy a side of beef from a local farmer and have it processed by the meat locker in town. These farms both use organic farming methods, but have elected not to pay to go through the USDA organic certification process, so that they can sell their food more affordably. Our beef and vegetables do require payment up front for several month's worth of food (and, in the case of the beef, a large freezer), but we actually pay less than we would to get similar food (conventionally-grown) from the grocery store. We also go to local you-pick berry farms in the early summer and you-pick apple orchards in the fall, and get enough to freeze (or make applesauce) to last us past the end of the season.

We don't frequent farmer's markets, in part because there isn't really one close. I was also somewhat disappointed when during one of our rare trips to the farmer's market a couple of years ago I saw a local farmer selling tomatoes in May. I asked where they came from (since in Illinois, tomatoes aren't ripe until July or August), and was told that they came from Texas, and were not, in fact, local at all. I will not pay more for organic products in the grocery store, but I will buy organic if the price is comparable or if the organic product is clearly healthier than the closest conventional counterpart (i.e. 100% fruit vs. fruit juice, HFCS, and gelatin in my son's fruit snacks). Report
The key phrases in the study are "prepared" and "would be happy to" in relation to the age demographic. Those that say they are prepared to pay more are most likely still not paying for their own food. Those that would be happy to pay more likely are not yet homeowners and parents. My guess is that the more financial obligations one has (usually, hitting around that age 40 milestone), the lower eco-friendly food moves on the priority list. I'd like to assume that most people are like me - if there is EXPENDABLE income in their bank account, they would LOVE to buy eco-friendly, but if not, it is not a necessity. While there are deals to be had in organic and local food, if I were to buy EXCLUSIVELY organic, my food budget (for 6) would easily double. Not possible. Report
I don't typically buy organic or anything because honestly I don't trust that it really is. My boyfriend worked at a "Farmers Market" and told me that the produce is NOT all local at all. He said most things come from out of the state or even the country anyway. There is also all kinds of reports coming out about "organic" foods having issues.

I think it's all just hype to make more money. If it was really locally grown and/or has a low carbon footprint, it should be CHEAPER. I'm a business major and very passionate about how businesses run & make money (which probably adds to my cynicism). All that is to say is that common business sense would say these foods should cost less, not more. I can't help but wonder. Report
I'm a law student living on loans at the moment so I can't always buy organic food. I usually buy what's on sale and try to find deals at my local grocery store or fruit and vegetable stand. It's definitely expensive to buy eco-friendly stuff and I think most of the price hike is just marketing nowadays. For example, brown rice is now super expensive for no reason other than producers know the socio-economics of the people willing to buy it. I shop at ethnic groceries sometimes since their prices tend to be lower and you can get things like spices, fruits and veggies for much cheaper than at a place like whole foods. Report
*Some* of us 30 yr olds have mortgages, bills and other expenses that make it harder to spend that extra on groceries, but I try anyway because when I buy and eat a diet of mainly (not 100%, but as much as possible) organic and home-grown foods, I get sick less which means less missed work, less chunks out of my paycheck, less trips to the doctor, and in the end I feel not only have I saved a bit of money, I've saved my health as well. It's not just about having extra money to blow at the grocery story, it's investing in an aspect of my life that I feel is worth the extra investment. Cancel the cable (is TV even worth watching anymore these days?!) spend the time in front of the TV on a garden instead and spend that 60 bucks a month on a bit healthier foods for the dinner table. Your body will thank you twice! Report
No, we don't buy organic or eco-friendly food because we only have one income at the moment.
It's unfair and inaccurate to assume that everything at the farmer's market is organic and eco-friendly. If the lemons and pineapple I can get at my farmer's market aren't indigenous to southwest Ohio, it could be a good assumption that other produce is coming to the market by way of SYSCO too. Report
First, you might want to stop telling your mom what you spend in groceries. ;)
Currently out of work 2 years, on food stamps, but still I shop at farmers market in season (they give seniors free 'bucks' & they double the tokens we can buy with SNAP card) & look to buy organic when I can. Nothin' better than pure water & food grown in the healthiest way possible. Report
Not only willing, I do pay more when I need to, but I buy locally and thus often save quite a bit for much better food.

I'm interested in the article's stats on the age break-down, because, based on what I see my college students consuming, 'eco-friendly' are not words in their nutritional vocab (and we live in one of the most ag. and eco-ag. friendly parts of the country). Report
Obviously, these 20 and 30yos aren't feeding a houseful of teenagers!!!!! lol Nor are they saving up for their retirements or paying medical bills on a several children/teens, nor paying for expensive prescriptions yet. That'll all change as they age. Then we'll see how they spend their money. lol Report
I recently watched the documentary Food Inc. Now I think about where everything comes from and I will no longer buy meat at the grocery store. Report
It would be very nice to be able to know for sure they did not put anything on those crops. When we could grow our own and some blight occured near the end of the growing season we would try to salvage our crops in order to save them.Do not imagine that does not happen out there. We are unable to do that now and we need to use our limited resouces as best we can. I cook everything from scratch avoiding as many chemicals as possible. I doubt that many who can just hand out the cash are as "GREEN" as we are. We have to do what we can, with effort we are able to recycle or return as much as possible. However where the other green is concerned our need for Medical help and prescriptions are our first priority. Do not judge till you walk in their paths, make sure you will always be the stewards of the earth it only gets harder as you get older. After reading this age related article I frankly feel offended. At my age well in to my 60's I wonder where we are on the "do not care about the environment chart". We care greatly we see more mind polution than carbon footprint polution and we see much more electronic waste and throw aways in our younger generations than we ever could have imagined. Report
Absolutely. Ever look at statistics about what % of income is spent on food and what % on health care in America? If we could just stop thinking that cheap is good where food is concerned, we'd be a lot healthier, and so would our planet and our local economies. I do my best to support local farmers and rarely shop at national chain stores - yes, I spend more on food, but then I don't feel that driving a particular car, wearing particular clothes, having a particular cell phone and calling plan, etc. are important, so it's not really a sacrifice to spend more on food.... My family is healthier than we've ever been, and to me, it's better that my $ go to local farmers than to the healthcare system. Report
Calling something eco-friendly immediately makes me want to go burn some tires. I do support my local community based farm for produce/eggs/chicken and realize that the same goal is being met. The fact that this farm operates organically is just an added bonus. I'm getting fresh, tasty food that hasn't been sitting on the shelf forever. More importantly, I'm keeping a few local family farms going so more people in my community have jobs to feed their own family. Report
I'm absolutely willing. My entire family started putting on weight at exactly the same time the USDA started focusing subsidies on corn, wheat, and meat production. I think that choosing to eat the way my Mennonite neighbors and my farming extended family do is an important way to opt out. By that I mean lots of beans and veggies, grown as close to home as possible with meat as an occasional, "Sunday Brunch" treat.

By the way, Linda Watson's ::Wildly Affordable Organic:: demonstrates that it is possible to eat a whole foods diet on ~$3/day/person and an entirely organic diet for ~$5 -- and that's without skimping on calories. Report
I buy ego-friendly food as much as I can. Also I buy organic when ever I can. Im very low income that prevents me from buying all I want. So I buy my food being thankful for what I have. The prices on food is out of sight. Just like gas is going up again. Buy the best food that you can afford. Farmers Markets are a good place to buy from. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Report
If enough people did buy eco friendly products that would drive the price down because it would be cheaper to produce.................or that is the theory! Report
Would I spend more for eco-friendly food? In general, no.

Why? In a supermarket, if I saw an item of food labeled "eco-friendly", I would see it as a marketing ploy with only a bare minimum of effort made to qualify for the label.

The way I am most likely to have eco-friendly food is living in a place where I can raise my own food - which is less expensive rather than more. Report
This is a very interesting question. I am a restauranteur that is about to open a breakfast/lunch concept that focuses on my environment and community. I feel people appreciate the fact the you are doing the right thing but the general public does not want to spend the money. However as a restauranteur I feel I am obligated to do the right thing and use local producers that have the same beliefs. That being said we as restauranteur should be prepared to make less and be less greedy so that our guests only have to pay a little more for quality food that has a smaller carbon footprint. Report
I am 42 and I do pay more to buy local food. I order from a service that delivers local produce, meat, dairy and other groceries to my door. By delivering food this company saves the equivalent of 10,000 cars on the road a year driving to the grocery store. Report
When we were both employed we willingly paid more for our food, were selective, purchased organic, free range etc.. having been reitred for 3 years and on a fixed income that luxury of being selective in food purchases, is no longer available to us. I think this will be the case for many families worldwide Report
We already pay enough for food. Report
I buy some local and organic when I feel I can afford it. But the prices of so many food items are going up so it will probably be less and less. Report
I feel better about myself when I'm a good steward of the environment - and buy healthy food as opposed to "not-healthy" food. Also, we eat less because the food costs more - but that's good, right? Report
I buy eco-friendly whenever possible. There's a farmers market just a few blocks from me that always has great produce. I go every chance I get. it may cost a little more than the store, but it's fresher and tastes so much better. I hope to someday have my own place where I can have a garden and chickens, maybe even a beehive. Report
I have lived overseas for three years, and it is pretty hard to find organic produce. I have tried to buy things from local merchants, rather than chain superstores, but my limited language ability has made it hard to ascertain whether the produce is organic or not. One of the things I look forward to most in moving back home is getting to have more choice in what I buy.

One thing I think is problematic for many people about choosing food that is carbon-footprint-friendly, is convenience. The "organic" produce at the chain grocery stores tastes awful compared to farmer's market produce, but who wants to run (or drive!) all around town to pick up all your groceries?

I feel very grateful for coming from a community that cares about reducing environmental damage. I doubt it would be as high of a priority for me, if I hadn't seen my family and neighbors ride their bikes to work, recycle, buy less and reuse more, etc. Report
I'm over 50 and would love to be able to buy more "ecofriendly" foods. But it's not my age that stops me, it's the price and my cheapskate husband. ;-) Report
I buy local as much as possible - for those things that I don't raise myself. Most of my meat, eggs, and dairy come from my farm along with vegetables in season. I buy fruits at the local farmers market from my friends and neighbors. But, I cannot afford to buy all organic at the prices - and buying a free-range chicken from the local farm - no way. Luckily, I can raise my own at a quarter the cost. Report
My sister used to work for a company that produced pesticides and fertilizers for farms. They used to have "organic" farms call them and ask if there was a way to use their products anyway and yet still call their food organic. And guess what? There IS. So-called "organic" food that you purchase in the grocery store at jacked-up prices is a crock and shouldn't be trusted.

If you really want organic food and can't grow it yourself, your best bet will be the local farmer's market. But even they can say they're organic and still use just as many chemicals as those who don't call themselves that. Especially since they can tell you pretty much whatever they want without regulation.

The only 100% sure way to know your food is organic, free-range, etc. is to grow/raise it yourself, shoot it yourself, and prepare it yourself. I live in an apartment and can't do that, and since I can't be guaranteed otherwise, I'm NOT willing to pay more for something that can't actually be proven hasn't been in some sort of contact with chemicals. Report
I buy mostly local, when it's available. (I live in Canada.) I buy organic eggs. I can't afford to be 100% organic, but I do make an effort. I'm 61 years old. Report
Though we are struggling financially my husband and I still are willing to pay more for organic food. We have had to stop buying organic meat but we strive to buy high quality meat that has no antiobiotics, steroids or other nasty factors. I think it is worth it to pay more for produce and see less movies or eat out less. We truly are what we eat! Report
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