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We’ve got a lot of problems when it comes to our food system, but one of them was clearly articulated with a simple graphic. How do food subsidies affect what we’re eating? Check this out...
This graphic was recently published by the Consumerist, with the few words, “This is why you’re fat.”
The New York Times had a little bit more to say about the graphic, which by the way was put together by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The Times says:
Thanks to lobbying, Congress chooses to subsidize foods that we’re supposed to eat less of.
Of course, there are surely other reasons why burgers are cheaper than salads. These might include production costs, since harvesting apples is probably more naturally seasonal than slaughtering cows (even though both are in demand year-round). Transportation and storage costs might also play a role, as it’s probably easier to keep ground beef fresh and edible for extended periods of time, by freezing it, than cucumbers.
Interesting analysis, but it’s missing the heart of the matter, which PCRM lays out on their own website — the legislation which governs all these subsidies is the controversial farm bill. “The bill provides billions of dollars in subsidies, much of which goes to huge agribusinesses producing feed crops, such as corn and soy, which are then fed to animals,” PCRM writes. “By funding these crops, the government supports the production of meat and dairy products–the same products that contribute to our growing rates of obesity and chronic disease. Fruit and vegetable farmers, on the other hand, receive less than 1 percent of government subsidies.”
What would our society look like if fruit and vegetable products received more of the cut? I’m reminded of the scene from the Oscar-nominated film Food Inc., where a lower-income family grapples with the issue of spending what little money they have on fast food burgers because it is cheaper and more filling than buying fresh vegetables but knowing that they’ll end up likely spending even more down the line in health costs. That’s a decision that no family should have to make.
It’s a fairly striking pattern. Unhealthful foods, with the exceptions of cookies (the blue line), have gotten a lot cheaper. Relative to the price of everything else in the economy, sodas (the orange line) are 33 percent cheaper than they were in 1978. Butter (dark brown) is 29 percent cheaper. Beer (gray) is 15 percent cheaper.
Fish (the yellow line), by contrast, is 2 percent more expensive. Vegetables (purple) are 41 percent more expensive. Fruits (green) are 46 percent more expensive.
The price of oranges, to take one extreme example (not shown in the chart), has more than doubled, relative to everything else. So if in 1978, a bag of oranges cost the same as one big bottle of soda, today that bag costs the same as three big bottles of soda.
But consumers who would like to be able to buy local fruits and vegetables not just at farmers’ markets, but also in the produce aisle of their supermarket, will be dismayed to learn that the federal government works deliberately and forcefully to prevent the local food movement from expanding. And the barriers that the United States Department of Agriculture has put in place will be extended when the farm bill that House and Senate negotiators are working on now goes into effect.
Originally posted by nh_ee
It is mechanization and processing that make these "Processed" foods cheaper , in volume.
Originally posted by nh_ee
You can process a hamburger patty, and freeze it forever.
When was the last time McDonalds provided a "Fresh Till" date on your Big Mac ?
Last year, Midwestern lawmakers proposed an amendment to the farm bill that would provide some farmers, though only those who supply processors, with some relief from the penalties that I’ve faced — for example, a soybean farmer who wanted to grow tomatoes would give up his usual subsidy on those acres but suffer none of the other penalties.
However, the Congressional delegations from the big produce states made the death of what is known as Farm Flex their highest farm bill priority, and so it appears to be going nowhere, except perhaps as a tiny pilot program. Who pays the price for this senselessness?
Certainly I do, as a Midwestern vegetable farmer. But anyone trying to do what I do on, say, wheat acreage in the Dakotas, or rice acreage in Arkansas would face the same penalties. Local and regional fruit and vegetable production will languish anywhere that the commodity program has influence.
Ultimately of course, it is the consumer who will pay the greatest price for this — whether it is in the form of higher prices I will have to charge to absorb the government’s fines, or in the form of less access to the kind of fresh, local produce that the country is crying out for.
Farmers need the choice of what to plant on their farms, and consumers need more farms like mine producing high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables to meet increasing demand from local markets — without the federal government actively discouraging them.
In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.
To better quantify the impact of foodborne diseases on health in the United States, we compiled and analyzed information from multiple surveillance systems and other sources. We estimate that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Known pathogens account for an estimated 14 million illnesses, 60,000 hospitalizations, and 1,800 deaths. Three pathogens, Salmonella, Listeria, and Toxoplasma, are responsible for 1,500 deaths each year, more than 75% of those caused by known pathogens, while unknown agents account for the remaining 62 million illnesses, 265,000 hospitalizations, and 3,200 deaths. Overall, foodborne diseases appear to cause more illnesses but fewer deaths than previously estimated.