When Cheap Food Isn’t Really Cheap

In the 1950s the average American family spent 26% of their income on food. In the 2000s people spend 10% of their income on food. How is this possible and why is it not a good thing?

First of all, it is not as though people are eating far less now than they were in the 1950s. In fact, the opposite is generally true. It is also not as though people are generally growing more food today and therefore have less need to purchase food at a grocery store.

So what gives? How are we eating more for one third of the percentage that we used to eat just 60 years ago?

The answer is through completely different agricultural practices. Food growing practices in this country look completely different than they did just 100 years ago, for example:

  • There is now a fraction of the number of people there once was trying to grow food.
  • Most of the people growing food now are owned by multinational conglomerates.
  • Most of the farming done now is mono-cropping on an industrial scale.
  • Most of this farming is able to take place because of cheap oil and cheap chemical soil amendments.
  • Most of the farming practices that take place now are historically new and completely unnatural.
  • Most of the food we purchase now is processed and contains many by-products of industrial products.
  • Most of the food we eat now has a fraction of the nutrients that it did before these industrial farming techniques were introduced.

So whereas you may have purchased eggs from a small farmer who supplied them to your local store in 1950, you now purchase them from a grocery store chain that purchases them from a battery chicken farming operation that keeps chickens under unnatural lighting to increase their egg production.

That locally farmed egg probably came from a chicken who was given some feed, some table scraps, and hunted for lots of bugs and weeds. The 1950s egg probably contained many more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin E (along with a host of other necessities). The 2000s egg contains the same number of calories, but far less nutrients. (This may be why we also have an obesity epidemic).

So, in a way, we pay for what we get – nutritionally deficient food that is grown on such a large scale that you’d need to eat four eggs to get the nutritional equivalent of one of the 1950s eggs.

So, is the food we are eating really cheaper?

Another factor to consider is what these large scale petroleum-based farming practices are doing to the soil. Anyone who grows food should know that their number one concern is always the soil, whether you grow beets or bacon. Small scale food production allows you to explore more sustainable growing practices like no-till gardening and the free-ranging of animals.

Large scale food production simply doesn’t pay attention to the soil, which future generations will need to produce food. Because of this either our generation or future generations will be forced to drastically amend the soil through various resources including both money and massive amounts of labor.

So, is the food we are eating really cheaper?

Food is an investment. It is the nourishment we give our children in order for them to either be healthy, strong, and able to produce food for themselves… or not.

Bookmark and Share

Speak Your Mind