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Unpacking The Environmental Impact of Organic Farming

In recent years, organic food has surged in popularity, becoming a huge trend embraced by health-conscious consumers and eco-enthusiasts alike. 

Market shelves and restaurant menus are increasingly filled with organic options, and the demand shows no signs of slowing down. However, amid the buzz and enthusiasm, a critical question arises: what is the actual environmental impact of organic farming? 

While it's widely believed that organic practices are better for the planet, it's essential to scrutinize these claims and examine whether organic farming upholds its green reputation. In this article, we’ll dig into the nitty-gritty of organic farming to see if it truly lives up to the hype.


What Organic Farming actually Means

A huge market for organic food products has emerged over the past few decades, and its growth does not look like it’s stopping anytime soon.  Market size was valued at  $227.45 billion in 2023, and Statista estimates that by 2026 this market should almost double to a whopping $437.4 billion.




Organic farming is intended to produce high-quality food without using mineral fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, animal drugs, genetic engineering and food additives that may have adverse health and environmental effects. Essentially, organic agriculture should align with  the cycles and balances in nature without exploiting it. 

How? By using local resources, recycling, and efficient management of materials and energy - for instance by managing pests naturally, diversifying crops and livestock (i.e. through crop rotation), and improving soil with compost additions, animal and green manures. 

Organic agriculture holds the promise of satisfying humanity’s food demands while at the same time contributing to food sovereignty, enhancing animal well-being and soil health, and preserving our planet for future generations. 


The Real Environmental Impact of Organic Food

Animals raised organically 


It might come as a surprise to some, but in the case of animals - and especially poultry and pork - organic production performs slightly worse than conventional methods on a climate level.
That is due to the fact that animals spend more time outside, resulting in more emissions from manure. These animals also require more feed, since in organic farming they have a higher lifespan and productivity may be lower. 

For animal products derived from ruminant animals such as beef or lamb, organic and conventional production are comparable because most of the emissions come from enteric fermentation and the resultant gasses emitted by the animals, which will occur regardless of their type of feed. 


Organic ‍fruits, vegetables and grains production


Fruit, vegetables and grains show a general trend for organic production to have a slightly lower climate impact (1-2%). 

This is mainly due to the lower energy required to produce non-synthetic fertilizers. However, in some cases, the benefits from the energy saved are outweighed by the lower productivity which can sometimes make conventional farming less impactful.


The Drawbacks of Organic Farming

Another drawback of organic farming is that it naturally has a lower product yield compared to conventional agriculture. 

According to some studies that utilize Life Cycle Assessment, yield averages are 8 to 25% (1) lower in organic systems, and this lack of productivity can contribute to creating more greenhouse gas emissions overall. 

Lower yields are due to lower fertilizer input, the potential for crops to be attacked by pests and the competition for nutrients with weeds and grass. However, with certain crops, growing conditions and management practices of certain organic systems come closer to matching conventional yields, making each case different.


Organic for the win - The overall benefits of organic farming

Whilst  organic systems might yield less food, they have significant benefits in terms of biodiversity, human health, animal welfare and soil fertility.

For starters, significantly fewer synthetic pesticide and fertilizer residues are circulated versus conventionally produced foods. This helps with biodiversity conservation and lowers water pollution. 

Organic agriculture also contributes to storing carbon in the soil, favoring soil quality and reducing soil erosion compared with conventional systems. Under severe drought conditions, which are expected to increase with climate change in many areas, organically managed farms have frequently been shown to produce higher yields than their conventional counterparts, due to the higher water-holding capacity of organically farmed soils. 

Soil health is perhaps the single most important factor for future domestic food production. It has been estimated that soil degradation costs England and Wales £1.2 billion per year and that intensive agriculture has already caused arable soils to lose 40% to 60% of their organic carbon (2). Without good soil health, we cannot grow crops. For this reason alone, organic agriculture wins out over conventional agriculture in terms of environmental sustainability.


Wrapping it up

While there can be some drawbacks to organic farming - such as lower yields and higher emissions for certain animal products - its overall environmental benefits significantly outweigh the drawbacks, making organic products an often healthier and more sustainable alternative for the planet.

Plus, the booming market for organic goods offers big opportunities for businesses to tap into in an increasingly eco-conscious society. Despite its challenges, the positive impacts of organic farming on the environment and our health make it a great alternative to conventional methods and far from being just another marketing ploy.



Understand the impact of your meal

30% of global emissions can be traced to the food we eat. Klimato helps restaurants, caterers and food producers to measure, reduce and communicate the climate impact of each meal served with our peer-reviewed database and carbon labeling system. Learn more about how Klimato is making the food industry more sustainable.






  1. Reganold, J.P. and Wachter, J.M., 2016. Organic agriculture in the twenty-first century. Nature plants, 2(2), pp.1-8.
  2. United Kingdom Food Security Report 2021 ( Accessed 25/07/22