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I am trying to eat healthier with less processed foods and I'm a pretty smart guy to begin with. But I can't figure this out for the life of me - why are berries so expensive? I love things like boysenberries and blueberries but I almost choke when I see their price in the store. Why are berries expensive?

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At this time of year, most berries are flown in from South America, as it's the wrong time of year to grow things outside in the northern hemisphere. Although a lot of produce is grown in California due to its longer growing season, there are still times of the year when even they can't produce vast quantities (and greenhouses increase the costs) – Joe Mar 11 at 19:24
    
related : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/65871/67 (regarding the costs in growing & picking grapes) – Joe Mar 11 at 19:35
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While I agree that "expensive" is open to interpretation, I don't think that most would disagree that berries generally cost more than say apples or bananas or oranges. I believe that there is certainly a place for fact-based answers that are not subjective... as the answers we have show. I don't believe there is a reason to close this as "primarily opinion based". – Catija Mar 11 at 19:57
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@Joe but that's exactly the point... And, I suppose if you want to get technical, a banana is a berry... While (botanically speaking) strawberries and raspberries are not. – Catija Mar 12 at 15:07
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@Catija, a botanical "berry" has nothing to do with a culinary "berry". – Joe Mar 12 at 22:42

It is a combination of many factors. To sell you one perfect apple, one perfect bunch of bananas, or one perfect half-pint of berries requires:

  • the land to grow on
  • workers to plant, tend, weed, and pick
  • transportation to market
  • loss allowance for fruit that's bruised or spoils in transit
  • loss allowance for fruit that spoils while at the store and people won't buy it

Many of these factors are objectively higher for berries than for applies or bananas, especially given their short shelf life and tendency to bruise.

This puts a floor on the price growers and stores can charge. Then on top of that, they are delicious and healthy, so at least some people will pay that price. This removes downward pressure to sell them at a loss to get you in the store.

A better question is what can you do about it? The answer is generally to use frozen berries (they don't incur the spoiling and bruising losses) or to eat berries only when they're in season locally and eat other kinds of fruit the rest of the year.

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Another option worth mentioning is going to a local farm and picking yourself. Around here we can pick for around 20% of the supermarket sale price – casey Mar 11 at 23:03
    
Blueberry bushes grow well in pots, so they're ideal fruit to grow even with next to no outdoor space. The season can be a few months with a mixture of varieties and they grow in a wide range of climates. – Chris H Mar 12 at 7:37
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@casey Sure, that probably saves a little money but even saving 80% of a few dollars is a small saving compared to the investment of time. – David Richerby Mar 12 at 18:18
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@casey That's provided you have a local farm growing them. We don't. We have greenhouses, but they usually don't allow visitors picking them. – Mast Mar 12 at 22:48

There's a variety of reasons I can imagine:

  • They're more delicate than most other fruits, so shipping without damaging is harder. Loss due to crushing is expected.
  • They go bad quickly, which can limit the area they can be delivered to and the method of delivery (planes are more expensive than trucks) but also gives them significantly shorter shelf life in the stores - meaning stores have to charge extra for what they sell because they have to discard anything that starts to rot.
  • They're more difficult to pick because they're tiny and (often) protected by thorns, so the cost to produce is higher.
  • They're in additional packaging... apples are loose in giant boxes, berries are usually in small plastic containers that add cost to the overhead.
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Think of it the other way around. I got the answer by asking why are bananas so cheap. I live in Michigan, and bananas, even though they have to be shipped from points far south of here, are cheaper than non-cull apples which can be grown locally. The reason (if you remember the Banana Boat Song by Harry Belafonte) is that bananas grow in 6, 7, and 8 foot bunches, meaning that they can be harvested very quickly without a lot of labor. Apples have to be picked one at a time. You will also notice that strawberries are cheaper than any other kind of berry. This is because they are bigger, and therefore take less labor to pick the same quantity. Potatoes and wheat are harvested by machine and therefore cost even less

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Referencing facts would vastly improve your answer (or other experts). Berries are expensive due to a number of factors, including cost of production, cost of transport, and short lifetime and season. – Bruce Alderson Mar 14 at 0:07

Another answer perhaps overlooked is that they are smaller than fruit Irregardless of cost of production, shipping and storing, a small box of berries with 30 berries in it seems like more value than an single apple, even though they have the same weight.

Likewise, the way they are used affects how much people will pay; They are often used more as garnish and decoration. A small box of raspberries can be enough to spruce up a dessert, whereas fruit often needs to be a bigger ingredient.

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Can you support the use statement with facts? People regularly make smoothies with berries, if not entire desserts like cobblers and pie. I'd argue that the reason you often find berries only used as garnish is because they are expensive, not the other way around. – Catija Mar 16 at 13:44

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