Local Grocery Stores Offer Organic but at Different Prices

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COLUMBIA - Organic food is commonly more expensive than non-organic due to a longer, more tedious production process.  But can organic quality and price vary from traditional grocery stores to all-natural stores?

Hyvee at West Broadway offers a hefty range of organic produce.  Customers can scan the baskets of organic apples, oranges and pears and find everything from organic lettuce to celery hearts on the shelves.  Produce manager Dan Elston said the store holds its organic items to a high standard, accepting only products that have been grown free of pesticides in natural fertilizer.  He said the higher price overall is because of this specific type of production.

"It costs more because it's grown in smaller crops, it's more susceptible to pest damage due to the lack of chemical pesticides," Elston said.

Across town is locally-owned Clover's Natural Market, a store that sells only organic products.  Patty Clover and her husband have owned the store for 20 years now.  She got into the organic produce business originally with a part-time job about 28 years ago.  Then when she had her children, she realized how important it is to consume naturally-grown food.  Shoppers may be under the assumption that all-organic stores have steeper prices, but that's actually not the case.  While both Clover's and other corporate stores, like Hyvee, both strive for high quality, customers will see a variation in price.  Here is a sampling of produce from each store with its respective price:

  • Honey crisp apples-  Hyvee: $3.99/lb         Clover's: $3.49/lb
  • Gala apples-              Hyvee: $2.68/lb         Clover's: $1.69/lb
  • Fuji apples-               Hyvee: $2.68/lb        Clover's: $2.25/lb
  • Green leaf lettuce    Hyvee: $2.69/lb        Clover's: $2.49/lb
  • Celery hearts            Hyvee: $2.99 ea        Clover's: $2.89 ea
  • Baby carrots             Hyvee: $3.99 32 oz    Clover's: $3.30 32 oz

Clover said her store tries to get all of its produce from local farmers. She said since it's a smaller store, she doesn't have the same buying power as a franchise like Hyvee.  If she wants to maintain customers, Clover said she must try to keep prices as low as possible.

"The things that we feel most strongly about, which is local food, can be an iffy supply.  That we can afford to price lower because it hasn't come over trucks and things like that," Clover said.

Nonetheless, both stores maintain high standards for their organic produce.  Even though market forces are bound to influence price, Clover said she believes everyone should be able to buy organic products and price shouldn't be a factor in deterring people from going the natural route.