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Costco sells more organic food than Whole Foods

Lauren Katz is a project manager at Vox, focusing on newsroom-wide editorial initiatives as well as podcast engagement strategy.

If you had to choose, which grocery store would you guess sells more organic products: Whole Foods or Costco Wholesale? The answer: Costco. The Seattle Times reports that the latter company sold more than $4 billion in organic products this year, compared with Whole Foods' estimated $3.6 billion annually.

The organic food boom never stopped

The USDA's most recent Census of Agriculture found that total organic sales for farms grew more than 60 percent in just five years, translating into big profits for farms that focus on growing organic crops. Organic food has been on the rise in the US, with the popularity of farmers markets and big-box stores like Walmart adding organic food to their aisles.

Are pricier foods always healthier?

A glance around your local grocery story will reveal that organic foods are more expensive, but it's harder to determine whether the products are actually better for you. Price doesn't always equal value, but scientists can't agree if organic matters at all for our health, regardless of price. They've been debating for decades whether organic foods are actually more beneficial to health.

An Annals of Internal Medicine review found no clear health benefits to organic produce. But there must be some sort of benefit, right? Consider a study in the British Journal of Medicine that found higher levels of antioxidants in certain organic crops.

Yet other studies, Brad Plumer points out, say that what matters as much as cost or personal health is the the environmental impact of growing food.

While the debate lives on, Costco and Whole Foods are continuing to sell a whole lot of organic products.