Guest Post: A Question Concerning the High Price of Bread

August 27, 2008

Sagan and I sometimes go grocery shopping together and she often takes a very critical eye of the ingredients in bread. Being the one in the family who is the ‘bread winner’, I take a critical eye of the price of bread nowadays.

Where we live a large loaf of multigrain bread – not necessarily organic and still loaded with preservatives can cost almost $5 Canadian – about $4.50 U.S. I’ve noticed the price rise significantly over the past year. I suppose some of the cost is due to the high price of fuel now but I do not understand why a loaf of ‘organic bread’ costs so much more than bread that is heavily refined.

If this healthy bread is truly organic, then I assume the wheat crops and manufacturing process would eliminate chemical sprays, preservatives and the like. Wouldn’t this result in a lower cost to produce a loaf of bread? Perhaps I’m missing something here and if I am maybe one of you can tell me why this is so?

In any case, Sagan and I are going to get around this by making more of our bread and baked goods ourselves with our bread maker. Next week we will be visiting my mom who in her late seventies still bakes all of her bread and buns etc. by hand. Mixing the ingredients, letting it rise, punching it down etc. Years ago she showed me the process and I used to make my own bread but it is such a lengthy process I gave in to convenience and started to buy store bought bread most of the time. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten all of the little tricks that ensure a perfect loaf. Any of you out there who bake from scratch know that there are no short cuts in the baking process – if you make one little mistake it will not turn out right. Next week I hope to get a refresher course in bread making and have Mom show Sagan ‘the way’. These are important skills that are fast disappearing and need to be handed down.

– Sagan’s Dad



  1. I just use a bread maker. Convenient and easy (most of the time).

    I think one reason organics cost more is because the farmers aren’t capable of the big crop production. For them, more time and labor is spent to grow a field of organic grain (and a smaller yield) than those who use pesticides and genetically modified crops. In order for the organic farmers to continue producing organic crops, they need to up their prices to stay in the business.

    Although, I do think the giant “organic” producers up their prices just because they can. Local farmers, who often use organic techniques, will charge less or equal to the supermarket price for non-organics.

  2. As the daughter of a former farmer, I can tell you that gena is fairly right on. It’s actually quite a bit more work to farm organically. The field has to be bare of have no pesticides for like the previous 5 years or something, (so 5 years of not technically organic crops). Plus a field of organic crop will yield far less than a field of traditional grain. Your neighbours can’t spray their crops or yours will get it in the wind. The reason chemicals were used in the first place is to get a “better” crop, less disease, less pests, more production, so this is all decreased when farming organically. The cost of organic seeds is quite high because it can’t be contaminated with any regular seeds. Often harmful weed patches might be picked by hand (seriously). If it was a straight up issue of farmers charging more and making more money, there would be nothing NON-organic.

    Most of the cost of bread does not go to the farmers. The farmer is probably paid 25 cents out of a loaf of bread. (though things are changing, crop prices are improving lately, however, price of bread is going up too huh?)

    sorry for such a long comment. I may be wrong on a few things, but this is my impression from talking with my dad.

  3. I have wondered the same myself Sagan’s dad. I think a lot of it has to do with the higher cost of wheat in general over the past year. I also think that organics and whole-wheat products cost more because they are more perishable. A local baker told me that keeping the fatty part of the wheat grain, the germ, in (as in whole wheat) makes the bread go rancid in a way that white bread doesn’t, preservatives or no.

  4. The cost of bread in general has gone up due in part to the shortage of wheat. Gena and Randi are right in that it costs more for a farmer to produce a “certified organic” product. The yield is smaller, the seed more expensive, etc.

    As a beef producer, I can attest to the hoops one must jump through to be “certified organic” – no pesticides, fertilizers, etc. can be used on our feed (hay or oats) and/or pasture. No antibiotics or growth hormones, etc.

    And the high cost of fuel does have some bearing on the price of all grain products, whether organic or not. It costs an extraordinary amount of money to harvest a crop. Was talking to my sister-in-law tonight – they are grain farmers – their fuel bill alone (this does not include the cost of seed, fertilizer, etc.) will be in excess of $20,000.00, and they have no crop to take off.

    We have suffered a terrible drought in this area this summer, so there is nothing much in their fields. It cost them roughly $60,000.00 to put a crop in this year, and now they have nothing to show for it.

    Oh my goodness, I did ramble on, didn’t I?

  5. I so agree with you. My Mom always made bread from scratch, but she uses a bread maker these days. But one of her sisters used to make the best rolls. Okay, she may very well still make them, but I don’t live there so I don’t get to eat them anymore.

    Anyway, my Mom used to say that even using the same recipe, she couldn’t get the same results. A lot of it just comes from experience I think. This aunt is at least 10 years older than my mom, if not more, and she had a large family so I’m thinking she made a lot of bread over the years.

    Tips from an experienced bread maker should definitely be passed down.

  6. Thanks for all the input, and no need to apologize for long posts/ramblings….thanks for answering my question in detail.

    Sagan’s Dad

  7. One of my fondest memories is coming home from school on the days my Mom would make fresh baked bread. If I close my eyes and think really hard I can still smell that intoxicating smell.

    I’d like to learn how to make healthy bread, using no white flour, maybe a combo of oat flour and wheat flour? I do hope you’ll share some photos with us.

  8. I complete agree with you about how expensive it is to be healthy these days. In Malaysia, organic anything is considered rich man’s food. Sad, isn’t it?

    We bake all our own bread now. We just inherited a breadmaker, but we actually prefer to do it by hand. There’s

  9. As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by a twitchy hand – There’s nothing quite like eating something you produced in your own kitchen. And it’s so much cheaper too.

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