The Cost, and Value, of Organic Certification

I recently completed a renewal application for Canadian organic certification. It was the first time I've owned that process from beginning to end and coming on the heels of some significant renovations and changes to our procedures it was an eye opener. I won't say the completed application is as thick as War and Peace, but I've read some less weighty tomes. As the Director of Operations at an organization that imports, blends, packages, stores, and distributes organic products, I’m a huge supporter of the organic program in Canada, and this renewal really drove home the reason organic products on Canadian store shelves can sometimes be as much as twice the price of conventional.

Everything is subject to scrutiny for an organic organisation. How we organize our warehouse, how we clean every part of our production facility and what cleaning products we use, even how we use our water - it's all in our annual application. And every year, we're held accountable by an inspector, who comes to watch packaging in process, to inspect our warehouse, to make sure we can show exactly where every gram of organic product we received ended up.

And I'm not alone. Every step in the organic supply chain is subject to the same rigorous standards. Our organic certifier requires us to document the certifying body of each of our suppliers: if that body is not approved, the product can not be labeled as organic here in Canada. What that means is the jar of organic food on your shelf can be traced back through packaging, blending, harvesting, growing, and planting. You can be absolutely confident that, at every one of those steps, the transportation, storage, and cleaning of any part that has a chance to come into contact with your product has been  rigorously scrutinized and documented.

All of this comes at a cost. Organic, by virtue of these standards, embodies high quality: the inputs, processes, and aids, and therefore the final product, are vetted, inspected, and approved by outside parties. This, unlike the conventional food supply chain, is a system of continual verification, not recall by exception.

Do I wish I could have that same confidence in every product on the grocery store shelf? Of course I do, and as someone lucky enough to have lived in Canada my entire life I can expect a minimum standard of quality from any product I consume. But the effort and expense that we as a company devote, on a daily basis, to be certified organic has driven home that the “organic premium” we as consumers often pay is money well spent.


Matt O'Donnell
Matt O'Donnell

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1 Comment

Harvey Drdul
Harvey Drdul

October 13, 2014

Thanks for the enlightening article on the process of ‘true organic’.. Of course this is part of the ‘conspiracy’
by ‘them’, to ensure the food industry of huge profits. If all our food was rigorously inspected, in an attempt
to at least be wholesome, most of it would not make it to the grocery store shelf.
We are organic in our home, grow much in the way of veggies, and attend farmer’s markets and ‘seedy Sunday’
events. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving and much future success.

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