The final part of my High Cost of Cheap Food series is really the most important—the high cost to our health. Our health has an enormous impact on our lives and the well-being of our families. And all these indirect costs of cheap food—to the farmers, to rural communities and small businesses, and to the planet—add up to more than we would like to admit.
Did you know that, according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the cost to American households for food has declined 60% since 1941? Not a bad thing when considering the family budget. But during the same time period, the cost of health care has increased by, you guessed it, 60%! All that savings from lower food costs is swallowed up by health care, starting at the doctor’s office! And nobody likes piles of medical bills, so folks are demanding government assistance, which means higher taxes.
The bulk of increasing health care expenses, especially regarding chronic disease, is the result of the changes we have made in our food production and processing systems. We’ve succeeded in making food cheap and plentiful, but our health is the cost. It’s quite the paradox! There’s a lot of profit in cheap food and health care. The ag chemical cartels make billions off the industrialized agriculture they promote. And big pharma makes billions off the pills they sell which usually only treat symptoms.
The list of evidence that connects poor health and chemical contamination to our food and environment is growing. Everyday we learn more about the connection between chemical exposure to not only cancer, but autism and countless other auto-immune diseases. Research studies coming out of Canada suggest some gluten sensitivity symptoms are actually due to the elevated levels of glyphosate—designated a “probably carcinogen” by the World Health Organization—in the grain.
We’re not paying the whole price of our cheap, industrial-produced food at the check-out counter, we’re paying for it later—sometimes years later. We’re paying at the doctor’s office, the hospital, and the pharmacy. We’re paying through the loss of work days and quality of life. If all these costs were paid-in-full at the grocery store, how many of us would truly put that “cheap food” in our baskets, let alone be able to afford it all upfront?
So what if we focus more on the food we eat again? As Hippocrates very wisely said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Change starts first with us. We choose what we put into our bodies, what we feed to our families. We have that control. And we have that choice—more than 5% of the foods at your local market are organic! And at the current growth rate of 10% a year (which is actually less than the past several years) we have the potential to reach 100% in about 30 years. Imagine it! No more pesticides or herbicides or other questionable chemicals filling the shelves, just cleaner, healthier food.
I stepped into the world of organic in the mid 80’s when organic options in the supermarkets were available almost nowhere. And now, 30 years later, you can find organic in every store! That was the work of one generation. So my challenge to the next generation is to walk through the door we opened and reintroduce the world to healthy, flavorful eating. If you look at it as a two-generation project, we’re already halfway there!
My new challenge to America is to be CHEMICAL FREE BY ’43!
By replacing chemical agriculture with regenerative organic agriculture and artificially low-priced, low-value food with fair-priced, high nutrition, high-value food, we can resolve the paradox of the “high cost of cheap food”:
- The economic failure of farms and farmers;
- The decline of rural communities and small businesses;
- The pollution of our planet;
- And the chronic disease tied to poor diets and poor food.
I invite you all to be a part of this solution, to be a part of this change, and put one more organic item in your basket each time you shop. Your farmers, your communities, your environment, and your body will thank you.