The cost of food

Images-1I read a really interesting article in the December/January issue of Monocle called Milked Dry by Sophie Grove.  She wrote about the cost of food. 

More and more people are interested in knowing exactly what they are eating.  There is a wave of consumers who want to buy local which I hope turns into a tsunami.  That means buying from their local farmers for fruits, vegetables and grains at the greenmarket and their butchers that source meat locally including purveyors who are making food that has no additives in it.  I am one of those consumers.  

There is no doubt that the cost of buying food like this is expensive.  You are paying for the cost of producing food in small quanities on family farms.  The upside is that you know what you are eating.  This concept is the return of Main street where people would stop at their cheesemonger, their bread maker, their butcher or their vegetable stand until someone came up with the idea of a one stop shop grocery store.  That was when everything changed.

Here are some interesting statistics that Grove noted in her article.  In 1930 we spent 21% of our disposable income on food, in the 1950's it dropped to 17% and now it hovers around 6% (3.9% for eating out).  The policies have been oriented towards lowering prices creating cheap mass manufactured food. Those policies have also led to obesity and heart disease. 

It won't be easy but I'd like to see us slowly turn back that clock.  Smaller portions with more vegetables with high quality meats that aren't injected with hormones.  Create more farming jobs that provide locals with their food supply and pay them what they deserve for healthy products.  It is good for our health and it is also good for the econmy. 


Comments (Archived):

  1. Lisa Abeyta

    Several years ago, I was on bed rest for months and couldn’t shop in stores for my family. I used a local grocer’s delivery service and discovered I ordered online far more veggies and fruit than when I was pushing my cart around. It has always made me wonder if we’d buy and eat more fresh food if we weren’t wandering the aisles being tempted by packaging. It doesn’t address the expense of fresh food vs. packaged, but it does address convenience.

    1. JLM

      .I find this to be true of everything I buy on the web. I buy what I want because I know what I want and it is available.This is exactly why men should be rationed as to how often they can go to Sams and Costco — too much impulse buying.If you ever need a power washer, call me, I have 3 of them..

      1. Wavelengths

        As Kid Mercury would say, #truth.

  2. Marla Aaron

    This is such a huge issue. I try to shop this way and feed our family this way. I also recognize it as the luxury that it is. We need to work towards a day when that’s not the case. When I read this today I couldn’t help thinking about the SNAP challenge, where people try to live on food stamps for one week. Newark Mayor Corey Booker has been documenting his attempt on Instagram. It just illustrates how far we have to go to get to a place where access to good food for everyone is a given and not a luxury. I’ll check out the Monocle article!

    1. Gotham Gal

      it is really hard to have access to fresh food at reasonable prices. there was a book written by Kathleen Finn <http:“” the-kitchen-counter-cooking-school=”” dp=”” 0143122177=”” ref=”sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1355326203&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=kathleen+finn”>how she took 9 people and taught them to each well for as much as the cost of prepared food. it is not by any means a solution but interesting.

      1. takingpitches

        It’s hard, but if you’re lucky, you can figure it out. I’ve found everywhere i have lived in NYC and DC that there’s unbelievable variation in price among food stores — more than almost anything else I can think of — that sometimes are just feet apart. And it’s counter-intuitive.For example, in Hell’s Kitchen, I know to ignore the Food Emporium, where “fresh” vegetables that are actually rotten cost a fortune, but, conversely, there is a small neighborhood fruit and vegetable grocer called Stiles on 52nd that somehow provides actual fresh stuff at about 1/4 of the supermarket price.

  3. Ryan Drew

    Could a viable investment model exist to jumpstart the growth of local farms?Real estate or capital costs could be addressed, payout would (most likely) be over a longer term, but could also be a mix of money and (CSA-like) product.

  4. Laura Yecies

    Kind of the Michael Pollan “In Defense of Food” thesis

    1. Gotham Gal


  5. Jeff T.

    Those are some interesting stats. I’m curious about the rest of the breakout regarding income as well, especially around real estate (be it a mortgage or rent) and transportation. Where did the income get re-allocated and where could it potentially be recouped from?

    1. Gotham Gal

      good questions. no idea.

  6. Wavelengths

    As with most essential resources, this is also an issue of localized supply-and-demand. Everyone needs food. But if your local food store has only the low end of mediocre for everything, and at 50% more than the several groceries in the city 50 miles away, then people have to think about the cost of transportation vs. cost of food.Then, even if some local farmers grow some produce, it may only be large crops of several items, shipped across the country several times a year, but no viable farmers’-market environment.If the local cost of mediocre groceries is so high, maybe there’s a delivery service that could ship good produce and meat and still be competitive. (And I’m talking about communities of 10,000 or more, many many with the oil boom in West Texas, where the local groceries are gouging everyone.)I fondly remember walking wide-eyed down Joe Randazzo’s veggie market in Detroit. Four types of eggplant? Really? and everything fresh? and cheap? I mean ridiculously cheap for ridiculously wonderful fruits and veggies. Ahhhh, Almost worth moving back … uh, er,If I could get Joe to ship to me … or his counterpart …

  7. TanyaMonteiro

    the scary thing is moving back to africa I see history repeating itself. The fast food industry is only just starting to introduce its mass manufactured/processed food here or at least to the masses, i think often how to stop this tsunami

  8. William Mougayar

    I love Monocle- isn’t it a great magazine? So global.We have been Locavores for several years and try very hard to keep it that way. It’s not easy. You have to keep working on it.The process food industry and the long food supply chains have messed things up for us in North America especially.We need more greenhouses on top of roofs and we need to preserve farm lands as much as possible and stop converting farm land around cities into housing units.

    1. Gotham Gal

      love monocle too. the roof gardens are brilliant.

      1. William Mougayar

        This is my favorite one from Montreal. It’s like a co-op and they deliver your locally grown produce in a basket to your home… I know NY is a leader in rooftop farming.

  9. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I am a big supporter of local farmers and the idea of eating locally. However, this past week I listened to an extremely interesting podcast on Freakonomics radio about the economic behind locally grown food & the effects on the environment. It might not change your mind but it raises some excellent points. Here is the link

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks. Will listen