Two words: price and availability.

By James Oliver Cury
Updated May 24, 2017
© Con Poulos

You want to buy organic food whenever possible. You skillfully navigate the supermarket cart to the organic Honeycrisps and Pink Ladies, and away from the lord-only-knows-what-they-spray-on-these apples. And you take pride in the fact that you're saving the environment as much as you're protecting your own insides when purchasing pesticide-free produce. Your friends and family do the same. Newsflash: There are fewer of you than you imagined.

A study published in the Journal of Food Products Marketing took a close look at who's really buying organic food and found that organic milk—which may seem ubiquitous—is actually sold in only 35 percent of Manhattan stores. And only five grocery staples were found in 10 percent or more of stores: eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk and packaged lettuce.

Sales, it turns out, depend on much more than just awareness of, and interest in, consuming organic products. Key factors include the neighborhood's "socioeconomic characteristics," the amount of organic food for sale, the size of the store, and, most critically, price. Organic food always costs more—anywhere from 20 percent more (for lettuce) to 173 percent more (for beef).

Some of these findings may be specific to Manhattan. Researchers in this case visited 1,256 stores in the borough, assessing whether each retail location sold organic, local, or conventional versions of 24 popular foods. They noted that hefty New York City real estate prices may put more pressure on grocers to sell whatever people will buy. Wal-Mart and other national chains do not require such rapid product turnover.

The challenge now is to find a way to make organic food less expensive and more accessible. As it stands, 60 percent of the borough's stores did not sell a single organic item. Yikes. That may not look like your neighborhood...and that's why they conducted this research.

[h/t to NPR]