The Real Cost of Cheap Food
If I had a dollar for every time someone said that they don’t buy fruits and vegetables or “healthy food” because it’s too expensive, I could feed a small town all organic food for years! But, of course, it’s true — when you look at the prices of so-called “conventional” junk food compared with local, organic fruits and veggies, on a calorie per dollar basis, the junk often wins. Many people assume that it’s the produce or organic foods that “cost more” than highly processed, shelf-stable ubiquitous and cheap junk food, but what if the price tags that we see don’t tell the whole story?
Take the very American, $1 hamburger, for example. To produce a fast food burger you need to start with growing corn — which requires acres of corn fields, seeds, gallons of water, gas for heavy machinery, pounds of fertilizer and sprays of pesticides, and government subsidies. Then you need to fatten cows as quickly as possible, potentially give them antibiotics, deal with their waste, transport them to slaughter, power the slaughter facility, refrigerate the ground meat and then cook it! Not to mention all the costs associated with the processed wheat bun and condiments. Are economies of scale really so efficient that all of those costs amortize over tons of ground beef and fixings to make a really cheap burger, or are there parts of that whole list of “costs” that don’t actually show up in the price of our fast food burgers? Click here for more information.