Our Food is Too Cheap
[Cross-posted at La Vida Locavore.]
I don’t have much today, for soon I’m off on my meander of food production irrationality, I’m at 50% for 28 yards of soils, today is going to be a very long day. Of course I will expend enormous amounts of time for this, energy and resources that has no direct economic benefit to me personally. I like being human, those super-brain incomprehensible-equation humans-behave-rationally economists can shove it, ha.
Long ago when I returned to America I rejoiced in Safeway and Lucky’s, marveling at chickens for $5 and gorging on rib steaks—this, baby, was home, cheap bountiful food of almost any desired variety, bye-bye $20 scrawny Med chickens, hello apple pie. Of course over the years the hunger contradiction of the United States has relentlessly widened even more with so many going hungry here, leading to a bewildered sadness that even in a land of plenty somehow Americans fails with food.
Let’s be very clear, I mean to lecture no one, there are no frantic warnings or dire predictions here, I’m just a tiny blogger engaging an issue I deem to be relevant to with my personal set of skills and frame of reference. Of course the United States has a lot more things to worry about right now than cheap food, and I don’t have the right to judge anyone with my life path (uh, yeah). Perhaps if we learn as a country not to elect ruthlessly fuckup Republicans who start endless wars and a Depression one day we as a people can pay attention to how we eat.
Now then. By pure coincidence before I started this grinding construction project I read Michael Poulan, Prince of Foodies, who waxed a little too prosaically on the benefits of personally growing food. Therein, he said, would be a good lesson on the real amount of labor, time and resources it takes to put a radish on your salad.
No shit. I am a long, long way from putting seeds in the ground and already I’m shocked at how much hard work this is, and I’m no beginner with a hoe. I’ve fooled around with personal gardens before but this is a real production platform and oy, growing food is an incredible amount of work. How did America pull that little trick of massive cheap production with all this required labor?
I don’t know, but I suspect the wonder Technology answer is not it. Likely the cheat occurs in a one-time window of available oil, combined with tragically cheap labor from Mexico. These two factors should have led to a gastronomic heaven, yet our attention has been elsewhere and we blindingly followed the dictum that more and cheaper food must mean we’re basically doing things right.
Well, no. Too-cheap food—for those that can still afford to buy it—has led to a proliferation of processed food, contaminated foods, health problems like obesity and diabetes, and laughable public fads of shunning bread and pasta. By cheapening food we’ve disrespected it, denied it’s true value in our biology and made the terrible assumption that if it’s cheap we must have done it right. If we made it more expensive by paying the real-time costs we’d pay a lot more attention to how it’s eventually used (like the French).
Economists will sniff your realism reeks, dude, if you want more people to eat make it cheaper in the market so more can afford it. To which I say, take a good look around at our nirvana of cheap nutrition, brothers and sisters, bite the mealy 130-day-old tasteless apple of American food knowledge and view the empirical results. I don’t know, but I suspect the paradox of making food cost more would eventually feed more people.
I must be on my way, I don’t dare wade into the Valley commute and expect to get anything done this morning. Please be well, gentle people, may Democracy be with us this day.