media, news

TIME Magazine: Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

Americans now spend less on food than ever before. According to the USDA, less than 10 percent of our income is spent at the grocery store. We’ve come to expect cheap meals. But, we’re paying the difference in other places, like with health-care bills and damage to the environment. This week’s cover story in Time Magazine sums it up….

“Once you factor in crop subsidies, ecological damage and what we pay in health-care bills after our fatty, sugary diet makes us sick, conventionally produced food looks a lot pricier.”

You can get a burger, fries and a Coke for right under $5. I paid about that much last night for a head of broccoli. Bad-for-you calories cost less than good-for-you calories. We know this. And it’s no wonder America has a weight problem. But it’s not just our personal food choices that are to blame. When you look at what goes into making that $5 meal, it’s even worse.

Corn is the staple of everything on that value menu, from the corn syrup in the Coke, to the oil the fries are cooked in, to the feed the cow eats. That’s because corn is super cheap to grow thanks to government subsidies. Annually farmers produce 12 billion bushels of corn – four times what they did in the 70s – to feed our food supply. Corn itself is not bad, but with the chemicals necessary to produce such a mass crop, the rate at which Americans are consuming it, and what we’re now not eating instead, it’s simply unnatural.

Cheap corn has kept meat prices low while demand has sky rocketed. It’s the diet of farmed animals (even fish), never mind that cows and chickens are meant to eat grass. Details. The animals live in wall-to-wall packed CAFOs (concentrated-animal feeding operations) and they’re pumped full of antibiotics to keep the waste and bacteria from killing them. All of that gets packaged up with the meat. And it’s sold at $2 a pound on a shelf near you.

Angry? Then you should probably read the article.


You’ll Never Look at Dinner the Same Way…

A little scared?

Don’t be. Ignorance may be bliss, but not when it’s in the form of a cheeseburger giving you E. coli poisoning. Rare? Not so much. Food-related illnesses happen to an estimated 76 million Americans a year. A gross figure that could be helped with some responsibility.

Food Inc., a new documentary out in theaters, points out just how far removed we are from where our food comes from.

Consider this scenario:  You go to the grocery store, pick up a package of chicken breasts, a marinade, box of pasta, jar of sauce and a bag-o-salad. In an hour it will be dinner. But have you ever asked where those chickens were raised? How were the tomatoes in that pasta sauce grown? Probably not. It’s OK, I didn’t either.

We’ve come a long way in how we get our food. And we’re really efficient at producing large amounts of food at a low cost. But it’s coming back to bite us.
Now we have new strains of E. coli, antibiotics, pesticides, artificial food additives, and whatever else is or may be in the foods we eat every day. And then there’s the taste. Tomatoes are supposed to be sweet when they’re ripe! But I suppose ripening with chemicals just doesn’t have the same effect.

If that’s where the movie ended though I wouldn’t be wasting my time and yours. We’ve heard most of this before. We’ve seen the E. coli spinach on the news and heard about what goes on in meat processing plants. Yes, “Gross,” but that’s not the point. The point is that WE (the consumer) get the last word. We have control over the foods we buy and eat. If you don’t want antibiotic-pumped chicken, don’t buy it. If you don’t want Coke with high-fructose corn syrup, don’t buy it. If you don’t want genetically-modified tomatoes, don’t buy them.

Eventually the food companies will change. They’ll have to in order to stay in business. Organic, free-range, local food will become more accessible if it’s demanded. The power is in the wallet.

Intrigued? See for yourself.