Last week, someone replied to a Twitter post I shared, as social media manager at Riverford, about nature-friendly farming policies. It read: “Never been wallet-friendly though, have you Riverford?” While this reply wound me up a little, especially as it wasn’t relevant to the tweet, he isn’t alone in his views. We see comments about our prices regularly, and we recognise that organic food is generally more expensive.
So, I replied to explain that no, we’re not cheap. But cheap food causes many of our problems. Research by the Sustainable Food Trust shows that the price we pay for our food at the till is, by most measures, half of its true cost. We pay for it twice over (at least; many estimate more) through the cost of clearing up the mess that food production, processing, and distribution creates: removing pesticides and nitrates from our water supply, soil loss, biodiversity loss, plastic pollution, as well as health-related issues and more. Arguably, if farmers, manufacturers, and retailers had to clear up this mess and compensate for these losses, organic food would end up cheaper than non-organic.
The price we pay for our food at the till is, by most measures, half of its true cost.
One of the biggest costs for organic producers comes from investing in the long-term fertility of their soil and health of their farm environment; perhaps something that we should all be valuing more.
At Riverford, we go beyond organic. We also want to provide food that is packaged and delivered in a sustainable way. It is very important to us that everyone gets paid and treated fairly (from co-owners, to other UK farmers, to workers picking our bananas and avocados many miles away). And we want to invest in the future of sustainable farming, by allocating profits to regenerative farming projects, tree planting, and more. So no, we are not cheap – but we are proud to explain why. Our prices represent the true cost of producing sustainable, fair, nutritious, organic food. And I’d say there is a hell of a lot of value in that.
Note: We are very aware that organic food is not accessible for many – now more than ever, during the cost-of-living crisis. This is unacceptable; good, healthy, sustainable food should be available to all. There are many reasons why it isn’t. We must keep up the fight to try to change the system; if you’d like to get involved, visit foodfoundation.org.uk. Meanwhile, we continue to help where we can with weekly donations to food banks and our charity partners.