header photo

Sonlit Acres

Encouraging sustainable living

The High Cost Of Cheap Food.

 Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than any other national population. The cheap food that our government has pushed so hard to achieve,  is cheap only because we ignore some of the true costs involved; costs such as the pollution of groundwater by runoff from giant feedlots and excessive use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers; and the heavy use of antibiotics in high confinement feeding operations that eventually makes those antibiotics less effective. In a rational accounting system, these costs would be added to the price of fast-food hamburgers and the like.

The hidden costs of industrial food are being charged against the future as well as the present. In our cheap food system, we lose soil 10 times faster than it is being replenished.  Cropland the size of Indiana is lost each year to erosion. In addition to the washing and blowing away of overtilled, chemicalized soil. One of the most critical forms of topsoil loss is the oxidation of humus in the soil, the binding of the carbon in humus with the excess oxygen to which it is exposed, results in the release of CO2 to the atmosphere.

The burning of fossil fuels is the major culprit in global climate change, but the massive release of CO2 into the atmosphere as a result of industrialized agriculture is another major, and growing, contributor. Furthermore, there’s no doubt that the way we eat has a great deal to do with the epidemic rates of disease we are suffering. Especially disturbing is the growing incidence among children of diet-related diseases, including what used to be called adult-onset diabetes, as well as skyrocketing rates of obesity in both children and adults, which in turn increase the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease and several types of cancer. The hidden cost of our cheap food is very high indeed.

The high price of convenience. The one undisputed virtue of industrial food is its convenience. Today we are free not only from the effort and insecurity inherent in hunting, gathering or growing our own food, but also from the task of preparing it. But this convenience comes with a price: with it we experience a lack of awareness unprecedented in history. We don’t understand the nature of our food. We don’t know where it comes from, or the work required growing it. We don’t realize that our abundant food supply depends on the availability of cheap fuels that might suddenly become much more expensive. Few of us understand what constitutes quality in food, and finally we miss many of the deep pleasures available through eating and sharing with others the simple, wholesome and satisfying food.

Surely there has been no society in human history more estranged from the natural world than ours, and we experience that broken relationship in what we eat and the way we eat it: artificial foods bearing little relation to their origin in soil or in living plants and animals; eaten thoughtlessly, on the run.

During the Depression of the 1930's, there was real hunger in the cities. Many people in the country were devastated financially, but had enough to eat, either because they were used to producing a lot of their own food, or because they had neighbors who could, and with whom they could barter. Now, almost a century later, a serious economic collapse would find vastly more people in cities and suburbs, even many of those still living in rural areas   lacking the skills and accumulated wisdom necessary to raise their own food.

Producing our own or buying it close to home is a recipe for the best, freshest ingredients possible. One result is that our eating would be simpler and more basic;  food made from the best of ingredients tastes better and does not require a lot of fancy preparation.


Go Back



Please donate

To help us keep this site going.