Why is eating good food so expensive? That is a mighty big question to answer and really has a few relevant responses. Most consumers who wish to purchase locally grown food seemingly have to pay a hefty price. In reality, is it all that more expensive? How big of a role do government subsidies play? There are a lot of moving parts that result in a local pasture raised chicken to be priced at $20, where the supermarket you can buy one for $5. Let’s take a look at those parts.
The first thing we should ask is, “Is that an honest price?” Most foods in the supermarket are coming from commodity crops that have government subsidies to lessen the sticker price in the grocery store. These programs create an artificial price prejudice against anything that is not in that program. These prices in conventional food items are just simply not real; It’s a façade. People are led from this system to think that those prices in the grocery store are real, and locally grown, integrity food is inflated. That, of course, is just the opposite of reality. That local, quality, food grown by members of your community is the honest price and the commercial food items actually have an artificially pushed down price due to government subsidies.
WHAT THE CHECK OUT DOESN’T SHOW
As mentioned above, you will never see those tax dollars at the check out. Government subsidies, that you paid for, are invisible by the time you get to the check out lane. That’s one thing to think about. Another is, what price tag would you put on healthy ecological function across the country? How much would it cost to clean up the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico? What about the toxic build up in soil in commercially raised animal farms, and depleted soils from commercially grown crops? What price tag do you put on your health? The screen at the checkout does not include any of this. When you buy from a local and reputable farm, you are voting against toxic build up in your own community and your money is redirected from building a deadzone to creating a vibrant ecosystem as well as supporting a local family and those they employ.
In 1960, the amount spent on food per capita of income was 17.5%. In 2013, the amount dropped to 9.6%. Now let’s take a look at health care costs. In 1960 the amount spent on healthcare per capita of income was 5%. In 2013 that number jumped to 17.4%. We literally flip flopped from paying the farmer, to paying the doctor, almost exactly. At the end of the day, we spend the same amount, it’s just going somewhere different. While we are on the health care topic, let’s just ask, if your local farmer showed up at the market selling tomatoes $2 more than the grocery store down the street, but behind his stand was a brand new Porsche SUV, how would you feel? Now imagine that isn’t your farmer, it’s your doctor. Anything change? Why must we be so stingy with those keeping us healthy, but are ok to spend a years worth of income for those who profit when we fall ill? Seems like our grandparents knew better.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Discover your own kitchen. Buying a bag of potato chips, you pay approximately $8/lb for potatoes. So one of those 5lb sacs of potatoes at the grocery store, you would pay $40 if they were potato chips. You think you would never do that, yet, a few isles down in the chip isle, you do. And don’t even get me started on the corn chips! Point is, you can go to your local farmer, buy some of the most expensive potatoes there, take them home and make your own chips for a small fraction of the cost. Pre-cooked microwavable bacon is $25/lb! That’s expensive and the examples are endless. From frozen french fries to soda drinks to McDonalds to candy and so much more. There is a lot of money in processed foods. So much in fact, that if we took all that money, there is plenty in the system for all of us to eat like kings!
This often is not an argument against price. It is just simply a topic on priorities. “$5 a dozen for eggs Mr Farmer?!? No way! I’m going to buy mine at the supermarket. Besides, my supermarket has a Starbucks where I can buy a $6 drink.” Do we actually NEED that Disney vacation, the newest gaming system, the kind of car we drive, or the Starbucks drink? Do we actually need to pay our doctor when we have a local farmer willing to put medicine (integrity food) on our plates? This is not about price. It’s about priorities. Which will you choose?