In 2014, sales of organic milk rose 9.5 percent, Bloomberg reports. Consumers paid 8.4 percent more for that milk than they did the year before. I've seen the price of a gallon of organic milk rise $1.10 in the past year at my local store. However, the store has had that gallon on sale for several months now at $.50 off. I’m actually paying only $.60 more a gallon for the milk.
While the price and sales of organic milk have been on the rise, the demand for conventional milk fell 3.8 percent while the price of it went up 14 percent.
As of Feb. 6, the retail price of a half gallon of organic milk was $3.89; a half gallon of conventional milk was $1.92. While the price of organic milk has risen more slowly, it is still more than twice the price of conventional milk.
People are buying so much organic milk now that some stores are seeing a shortage. Wisconsin, a state that produces a lot of milk, had a 10-day shortage last month. My grocery store in New Jersey sometimes has empty organic milk shelves. I’ve assumed it’s because of poor ordering, but now I wonder if it’s because the store hasn’t been able to get it delivered.
Why would someone pay twice as much for organic milk than conventional milk?
Studies have shown that organic milk is healthier than its conventional counterpart. A 2011 study found that because organic milk comes from cows that have been allowed to graze, the milk has “lower levels of harmful saturated fats and more beneficial fatty acids than conventional milk.”
The health benefits of organic milk, along with what the milk doesn’t have — artificial growth hormones and unnecessary antibiotics, have made organic milk desirable. People who understand that what goes into the food that we put into our bodies effects their health are willing to pay more for their food, assuming they can afford it.
If the demand for organic milk continues to rise, more dairy farms will switch to organic farming. It’s not an easy switch because the government regulations for organic make getting USDA certification expensive. Organic Valley, one of the country’s largest organic milk cooperatives, is compensating some small dairy farms to convert.
I see this as good news. We’ve been hearing for years that when it comes to getting changes in our food system, we need to vote with our dollars. Changes at the government level come very slowly; just look at the difficulties getting state and federal government to label GMOs. However, as consumers demand changes, sometimes through petitions, sometimes through their buying habits, food producers are beginning to make the changes we want without government regulations. If we spend money on better food, producers will produce better food.
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