Good, environmentally friendly food does cost more. But which prices are tolerable, and which are inexcusable—or even harmful?
At 9:30 on a recent Sunday morning, the organic egg guy at my Brooklyn farmers' market was already sold out. "Come early next week," the attractively scruffy salesman said with a smile. "They're eight dollars a dozen."
I agree with the message trumpeted by food-reform advocates that good food does and should cost more. But eight dollars is more than five times the price of a dozen conventional eggs and more than double that of organic eggs at the supermarket. The sky-high prices threaten to exclude from the farmers' market anyone who isn't a hedge fund manager.
Let's be clear this isn't some rant about elitist farmers' markets. It's a warning that the "good-food-costs-more" argument is being taken to an extreme that puts at risk the goal of a mass food-reform movement, which is to make good food available to the greatest number of people possible.
My first instinct was that the egg guy was gouging people, like me, who have enthusiastically embraced efforts to build an alternative to our industrial food system. But it turns out that's what it costs him to produce his eggs. The farm, Grazin' Angus Acres, follows the gold standard of environmental practices: each morning, the chickens are fed organic grain, then moved to fresh pasture in a specially made chicken mobile. Owner Dan Gibson says the process is so labor-intensive that bringing down the price would be near impossible—and he's not interested in trying. "At eight dollars a dozen, you pay 67 cents an egg," he told me. "If your priorities are in the right place, that's a bargain."