The High Price of Cheap Food

April 21, 2019

note: I by no means am the creator of this phrase. I’ve seen it used with relation to food, fashion, labor, etc…”The High Price of Cheap ____” I was most recently reminded of it listening to a podcast call The Farm Report, during an Interview with Bob Quinn, about his new book “Grain by Grain”. Check. It. Out.

I am a FIRM believer that there is no such thing as “not enough time”  –  when you don’t have time for something what you really mean is “this is not my priority”. 

Consider applying this logic to money. An item’s “worthiness” of value is subjective.

We find it SHOCKING that eggs would be priced at $8/dozen. But a Starbucks latte for $5? Makes sense. To be clear, thats 12 eggs – and 1 Latte. We are waayyyy to used to buying cheap food.

Food isn’t an entitlement, it is a luxury. And if people work hard to bring you that food, they should be paid for it.

I’m not here to tell you “health food” isn’t expensive. You know that shopping at Whole Foods will cost you more than shopping at Safeway. If you are looking at cost, alone, the choice is easy. Safeway, Fred Meyer, Winco**

I am here to shed some light on why paying more for what appears to be the same ingredient, is worth it.

So this begs the big question – what should food cost?? 10 for $10.00 Lean Cuisines? Or $2.50 for a head of Kale. Ground beef for $3.00/lb or $10.00/lb? I see where the frustration comes from. But is it the fault of the kale farmers, or the co-op owners, or should we be focusing instead on why it’s even freakin possible make a plastic tray of food for $2.00 and still be making a profit.

Let’s do an exercise – say you were going to make four meals of teriyaki chicken with rice and broccoli.

(Note: would you consider this a “healthy meal”? yes, probably. So we’re not just talking about “healthy” vs. not, but about the manner in which that food was grown, processed, packaged, etc…).


Organic/Pasture Raised – Ingredients

“Conventional” – Ingredients

(price per Lb)ChickenRiceBroccoliTotal
(4 Servings)
Conventional $3.69  $1.50  $2.29 $7.48
Organic/FreeRange $7.49  $3.50  $2.99 $13.98
Pre-Packaged$8.00 (@$2.00/ea)

Doesn’t take a mathematician to see that pre-packaged and conventional are neck-and-neck for first, and Organic isn’t even in the race.

You want to go with the cheaper one! Duh. Your hard earned money is precious, so the logical choice for you and your family is the cheaper one, right?

My goal here is to convince you to pick the pricey version. Here goes.

Why should you NOT chose the cheaper ingredients? Why does the cheaper food create more COST to you and your wellbeing?

  • Money – How do they make this sh*t so cheap?? Here is one small example: Taxpayer’s fund subsidies provided by the government to the farmers that grow the corn that makes feed for animals, oils and sweeteners. If you want to produce cheap chicken you NEED cheap corn feed. The farmer’s don’t just grow feed that is inherently cheaper, it is made that way by help from the government. And where does the government get its money? Us.
  • Packaging – that plastic tray isn’t going anywhere. For many many years. Buying single ingredients allows you to bring your own reusable bags and the cooked food can be stored in reusable glass Tupperware. You could theoretically made 5 days of Teriyaki Chicken w/ rice and not use any plastic. The landfill now holds 5 less Lean Cuisine trays that it would have in scenario “1”.
  • Environment – methane production from concentrated animal production facilities, soil degradation from pesticides and fertilizers, proximity of production (international vs local requires way more fossil fuels to transport that food – while nutritional value is lost in the process).
  • Health – Ya, I should have lead with this one. Does organic matter? Yes. Is pasture raised chicken better for you? Yes. Not only will be price of your health care go up overtime based on the quality of the food you eat, but so does the cost to your family, your community. Tired of paying taxes to cover medicare and medicaid for people who eat garbage? I am awful for saying that. And don’t get me wrong, I believe people need the support and I am happy to contribute in order for them to get it. But shouldn’t we also get a say then, in what type of “healthcare” is being provided? (If you are interested in this at all here is a cool article about a program in New York where they give “prescriptions” that equal currency that can be used at farmer’s markets).

**Have you had success finding healthy, cleaner options at stores like Costco, Winco, etc.. ? It’s possible! I’m not saying Whole Foods and Natural Grocer’s are your only options. What I am saying is that writing off health food stores as too expensive ignores the root cause of why the alternative is so cheap.

This was a long one – I know.

It’s also not a topic for everyone. Though I wish it was, there are so many ways to help the world and not every one will chose this one. But if nothing else, let’s try. Now and then, take time, or pay someone to do it for you. Use your money and your time to “vote” for what you believe in.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

get real food recipes and conscious eating info!