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What’s the REAL Price of Junk Food?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Warning! Rant Ahead.

Have you ever wondered why healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are more expensive than junk food? Or if there's anything you can do about it?

Think about it for a minute. That bunch of carrots for sale in the grocery store is basically yanked out of the ground in some remote location, hosed off, thrown in a truck, and delivered to your grocery store. Sure, that costs money. The land, the seeds, the pesticides, the water, all the labor, the transportation, the grocery store itself—none of this comes cheap. It costs even more, apparently, if you want to leave the pesticides out and go organic.

Now consider the humble Twinkie. As Michael Pollan puts it:

“ Compared with a bunch of carrots, a package of Twinkies, to take one iconic processed foodlike substance as an example, is a highly complicated, high-tech piece of manufacture, involving no fewer than 39 ingredients, many themselves elaborately manufactured, as well as the packaging and a hefty marketing budget. So how can the supermarket possibly sell a pair of these synthetic cream-filled pseudocakes for less than a bunch of roots?”

Good question. Especially these days, when a global economic meltdown is making the cost of healthy eating even more of an issue for many people. Just how does your supermarket sell Twinkies and other “junk” foods so cheaply?

Well, there is a reason, and as you might expect, it’s got a lot more to do with special-interest politics than with the law of supply and demand, or any legitimate reason.

In a nutshell, here’s the situation: the same government that hands out funds for research on the obesity epidemic and scrambles to find money to treat obesity-related diseases with one hand has been busy for years handing out money to subsidize the Twinkie, and most of the other junk food you’ll find on the shelves in your local supermarket, with its other hand.

I don’t want to take up space in this blog on either a detailed explanation of this situation and how we got into it, or on a rant about the evils of corporate irresponsibility in the food industry and the complicity of government bureaucracies in helping to create our obesity-promoting food environment with ill-considered public policies. If you want to know the details of this strange case of how the government has been using one hand to thwart the other, Michael Pollan does a pretty good job of outlining the general picture in this article . And you can get a more detailed look at the history of this problem and all the other ways it has influenced our current situation in Food Politics, a very interesting book by Marion Nestle.

I’d rather think about ways to correct this situation, so that healthy foods become more affordable and junk foods become the “luxury items” that most of us pass up.

Honesty and Integrity in Food Pricing: A Modest Proposal

Here’s an interesting idea that’s been circulating around lately in various groups concerned about both healthy eating and social responsibility.

The idea is that we should put a few mathematicians and economists in a room and have them figure out what all the junk food produced with subsidized crops should really cost if there were no subsidies. Then we should make the retailers include this “real” price on their price tag, along with the actual selling price.

At the same time, we could have the numbers people start figuring out what it really costs to produce, distribute, and consume all food products. Right now, many of those costs just aren’t taken into account at all. The prices we pay just don’t include things like the added health care costs likely to be associated with frequent use of certain products; the future costs of dealing with problems like soil erosion, pollution, or destruction of forests and other natural resources; or even what the items we buy would cost if they were produced under conditions that provided a true living wage for workers and fair compensation to communities where unfair trade practices have debilitated local economies.

At some point, these actual costs really do have to be paid—either by future generations, or in present human suffering that could be avoided. So, it simply makes good moral and practical sense that we should start keeping track of these “real” costs, and making decisions that take them into account, both on the individual level, and on the social/governmental level.

We may not be able to get “exact” numbers, but we can at least get a pretty good idea of which products generate the biggest difference between selling price and true social cost.

It would probably take a while to see whether this information would actually change buying habits enough to force changes in either government policy or in the commercial food production and marketing industry.

Personally, though, I think that one immediate benefit of implementing this kind of “truth in pricing” policy, even if we don’t actually change the prices that people actually pay at the grocery store right away, is that it would immediately become clear that the “worst offenders” are pretty much the same items that cause the biggest problems for people trying to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle. If knowledge is power, this might be just the ticket we need to start generating some big changes, on lots of different levels.

Maybe food producers wouldn't be so eager to jump on the junk food bandwagon if they thought their customers were aware of just what a bad deal it really is.

And knowing the true cost of that “great deal” that gives you 2 sausage biscuits with eggs and cheese for $3 just might make it a little easier for us to say “No” to those 900 calories and 54 grams of fat, and yes to a nice homemade omelet with local eggs and fresh veggies.

Some brave companies, like Original Beans are even taking this concept of truth in pricing seriously enough to actually change their prices. But it's not clear yet whether they'll be rewarded for this courageous step. That's up to us.

OK, rant over.

What do you think? Would knowing the “real cost” of the items in your grocery store make a difference to you in what you selected? Do you think food labels ought to include this kind of information?

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All the more reason to look into your local Co-Op. Report
I'm not sure how to get there but the effort has to continue to show people that eating healthy is affordable and time friendly. It may take a little more effort at first but it can be just as easy to pack a healthy lunch or snack than to grab something out of a box or drive-thru window. Even if I have to pay a little more for food I will always do it if it makes me happy and is real food. This was a great blog - great way to think about how we really perceive the cost of our food. Report
It never ceases to amaze me how our government bows down to big business, even at the expense of the health of the nation. I'm sure the government wants all of us to be fat and lethargic so we will not care what the government does - no matter what party is in charge! Report
We don't eat meat which is very expensive - almost no packaged foods from grocery....the almond milk we use and some of the ingredients for our shakes are expensive. Other than that - our groceries cost less now that we are vegetarians and eating healthy. Also, we try to grow some veggies - and put up what we don't eat - we are fortunate. We are blessed to be able to do that. I can grow a tomato plant and some swiss chard in a big pot of dirt..... Report
Great idea, and great discussion here in the comments. I've always felt the same way about many other parts of life: for example, fuels. If the real cost of gasoline were calculated it would be on the order of $10-15 per gallon. It has been so heavily subsidized that $4 gas a few years ago was a shock of epic proportions to many folks. We need to see the real costs of the products we buy in order to make a completely informed decision as to whether each product is truly worth it. Report
I guess I have to disagree with the fact that junk food is cheaper. Over the years, and even today, when I have decided to follow a food program or eat healthy my food bill goes down. I don't understand it. The same number of people are being fed...maybe its because the portions are different. I don't know. What I do know is my pocketbook is heavier and the receipt from the store proves it.

JoAnn Report
Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes! It makes me sick to see the choices out there, and how we're encouraged by big business advertising to eat junk. Short term goals of big business, instead of awareness of longterm health will kill us all. Report
Interesting article. It is a well known fact that the growers (farmers) do not get paid well enough for their products, and that much of the inflation is due to marketing, trucking, middlemen, etc. I try to keep costs down and health up by growing many of my own produce in my garden. Gardening is back in a big way, even in the cities. Try it! Report
That was very interesting. I think they should show what the real cost would be. It is only fair. If more people knew the truth maybe they would complain. Report
Because the last post spoke to some farming issues, I will go ahead and add my "two cents" on the same. I've lived on a farm for the past 20 years. Our original plan when we married was to make a living off the farm. However, that turned out to be a "pipe dream" / fairy tale! We will NEVER be able to live off the farm. The cost that we were offered for our blueberry fruit, delivered to the processor was 5 cents less per pound than it cost us to pay to have it picked. NOTE: that does not include any other costs of farming and growing and producing this crop. There would be NO pay to us on any level for the hundreds+ hours that are put into growing this crop. There are NO subsidies of any kind for the small guy. The IRS wants to call it a "hobby" if it doesn't produce actual income within a certain number of year.

There are so many issues on so many levels on the topic of farming. We are just "small": less than 20 acres. We cannot afford machines, so we hire local people to pick the fruit. But at least they get paid, which is more than I can say for us. My husband works an additional full time job to support our family and provide health insurance.

We are not 100% organic because of diseases that kill off the whole blueberry plant. We have never used pesiticides. Because we are a family-run farm, we presume that we would not want others to eat anything that isn't safe / good for us to eat. That is a big deal for my husband. Natural is always better...

As has been said--there are so many levels of issues surrounding our food and what we put into our bodies. Unfortunately, there seems to be a large part of the population that has lost an understanding of the process of growing food.
We also deal with a lot of stealing where people come to U-pick and eat their way through the field while they are here. {I'd like to see that happen at the local grocery store where you eat the food as you put it in your cart. Then you only pay for what you haven't eaten yet!}

Enough said for now. I personally do not know any family farms run by rich people. They may have land (but we pay for that too!) and fresh air and space to roam, but there is a cost to doing what we do. The only reason most keep doing it (for next to nothing) is that they love what they do. Report
What I have not seen discussed here is the farmer's point of view. Farming is a business. The farmer plants crops that will make the most profit. This is not a simple process, but it requires the farmer to be looking at market trends, crop production estimates for a global economy, understanding of crop management, balancing production costs to production outcomes and so on.
The types and quantities of crops change as the markets change. Not too long ago, organic farming was not a money making venture. So, few farmers and fewer large-production farmers did much of this type of farming. This changed when the American consumer puts their money into organic produce. Organic farming is now more profitable to more farmers; and therefore, more farmers are producing this type of crop in large quantities. If more American's asked for carrots and not Twinkies, more farmers could make money farming root crops. If the organic farming example does not provide enough evidence for you, what about the huge increase in farmers planting corn which is then process into ethanol; the end result of that crop has nothing to do with a food crop (health or not healthy).
Trust me when I tell you farmers are not trying to plant crops that are likely to end up in high calorie-density foods. They are planting crops to make money and take care of their families.
So, if you spend your dollar on healthy foods, the American farmer will feel that impact and change their crops to fit the market trends.
I figure that even if the monetary cost of junk food is low, the physical cost on my body is higher and I would rather pay more money upfront for healthier choices and not pay later with my health! Report
Informative article! Very helpful. Thanks a mil. Report
I have a hard time while at the store and seeing the elderly with junk food in their carts! They will pay for junk high in price and complain the fruits and veggies are so expensive! Report
Junk food Junkies, the term has merit huh? It IS addictive, the glucos rush from all that carbohydrate from bleached white flour and high starch foods....the high levels of saturated fat is just the blood letting after the sword. For those places that still use hydrogenated oil (Trans Fat) in their fry vats...they should be taken out and shot.
My brother spends on average about 20 bucks or more on Fast Food a week...( 2-4 visits.) On top of that he often buys snack stuff at 7-11 after work when nothing else is open. Nutty BuddyDrum Stick, a bag of nuts or chips, and a slurpee coming close to 10 bucks every day. He is really getting very fat these days and I cringe with pain at the shame of his costly waste. But alas it is HIS money and none of my business so I keep my mouth shut.
While I (unemployed) struggle to stretch out 50 bucks for a whole weeks worth of healthy groceries...and remarkable do so. If I went coupon clipping and price shopping I bet I could do even more. Report
Great Information, I thought I knew the price already...you have made me take another look!!! Report
I do some of my grocery shopping in a lower socio-economic neighbourhood where the carts behind me and in front of me are often filled with white bread, pop, chips, frozen pizzas, weiners and other non-foods. It has always made me a little sad that the kids in these families are growing up eating like that because of limited funds.
Because I grew up in a household with pretty lousy eating habits (my mother, who died of a heart attack at 56, never met a vegetable she liked) I am especially conscious of my own habits and, when it was within my control, those of my daughter (who at 17 never eats at home and lives, from what I can tell, on a steady diet of pizza slices and Starbucks' crappucinos).
What I think is really missing from these families is not money, but education, not just food preparation/nutrition education but education of the tastebuds. When I'm really thirsty, I drink water, not juice or pop (wine and beer are consumed for entirely different reasons). I know that white bread is cheaper than whole grain, but a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread is tastier and much more filling than peanut butter on white bread, so there is no necessity for an extra sandwich or additional snack. I'm not even going to suggest substituting carrot sticks and celery for potato chips where the kids are concerned - kids are kids and would generally rather have chips, but perhaps there are too many snacks being consumed because the meals are not filling enough. Weiners, for such a fatty food, do a surprisingly poor job of filling a belly, especially on a white bread bun.
I have always assumed that I spent more on my food than some other families because I bought better food, but when I do the math I see that's not necessarily the case. I make my own granola and yogurt, which I have for breakfast with a banana and frozen blueberries. I make large batches of soups and casseroles so I can pack a lunch every day, the cost of which is minimal. Just this morning I made a pot of broccoli and cauliflower soup with romano cheese, which will provide me with at least 5 meals. Total cost, less than 5 bucks. The way I eat is something I learned as an adult. I had to train my tastebuds to appreciate real food because it was used to Rice-a –roni and Shake and Bake, but once I got used to eating properly and actually saving money through bulk food preparation and feeling positive health effects of a decent diet I realized that could cheerfully never eat a 1500 calorie fast food meal again.

I've recently tried to help a family who has severe physical problems and have to shop with food stamps. It became clear very quickly that with their very limited amount of groceries - that unhealthy food was the way to get the most meals for the buck. A meal of processed meat is considerably less then chicken or fish. I generally stay away form many of the less healthy foods and start my shopping in the produce isle so I was unaware of how much cheaper it is to eat the less healthy stuff. So now these people with health problems are eating foods that are not healthy. Argh!!!! Report
I avoid junk foods and mass-produced foods, trying to stick to ingredients that are basic and when possible: organic, too. My concern is nutritional density for the calories consumed...and that can be tricky on a budget. Trying to buy 'grown in USA' is even harder than avoiding packaged goods though!

People where I live are aware of another real cost of many foods because so many local farms are being foreclosed upon after generations of being working family businesses: so even fresh produce has a hidden price when stores buy from food supplyers who sell foreign produce and ignore the local farmers in favor of corporate resources. Report
BTW, everyone should try carrying there meals the Japanese Bento box way. It's much fresher healthier way of eating. There also fun to make. Report
Prices are only a problem because minimum wage hasn't been risen enough to support families. I have a hard enough time paying my utility bills. Other then that people eat fast food because its addicting. I eat fast food because I am addicted. Yes, its cheaper to make your own. When you have a injury and can't stand for long periods cooking isn't always an option. Tried using a chair, but it just makes me more accident prone in my kitchen. Anyways, our generation pleases itself with instant gratification. Anything is easiest when its fast. Everyone can be pushy and rude in stores, cuz everyone has an important place to be. It's the same with our food. When your in a hurry you can buy something to shove in your mouth and go, you do. Report
Coincidentally, I recently came across a (non-SP) blog where the writer is trying to eat for less than $1 a day on *fresh food*. He read the study about junk food being cheaper than real food, and says (I think someone else made the same point above), "In my experience, healthy whole foods like rice and oats and carrots are much less expensive on a per serving (or per meal) basis than nutritionally bereft, highly processed foods like cookies and potato chips. If you ate two cups of rice and a pound of carrots, you’d be stuffed, but you can eat half a bag of chips without hardly even noticing. (Well, except you might feel sick for the rest of the day.)" It's interesting reading. Report
I am giving it my best effort this year to not only loose weight, but to be healthier. I really started ready labels about a year ago, and I had no idea what I was really reading/looking for. So I have been trying to educate myself and my husband and little girls about what the information on the labels mean. As we did this the same question always came up, why are veggies more expensive then junk? No we know. I read the posted links as well, and I am sure there are few more sides to this story (there always is), but so far I am a little upset with the views I have read today.
Rachel Report
I am giving it my best effort this year to not only loose weight, but to be healthier. I really started ready labels about a year ago, and I had no idea what I was really reading/looking for. So I have been trying to educate myself and my husband and little girls about what the information on the labels mean. As we did this the same question always came up, why are veggies more expensive then junk? No we know. I read the posted links as well, and I am sure there are few more sides to this story (there always is), but so far I am a little upset with the views I have read today.
Rachel Report
The real cost of junk food is YOUR HEALTH! If you are into natural remedies, you probably know the medical lobbyists try to block them, or at least discredit them. There is a woman in Arkansas who is a licensed naturopath. Has been for years. Puts out a newsletter that gives people an opportunity to buy natural remedies much more cheaply than when we buy them in the health food store. She was prosecuted, almost got sent to jail, and now is prohibited from calling herself a naturopath, even though she has the diploma to prove she is. Can you imagine? The reason junk food is so cheap is because the government wants us to be weak and sickly. This keeps the doctors in business and keeps us so focused on getting rid of our latest health breakdown that we don't notice what's going on in this country or are too sick to fight back. The other day, in a weak moment, I went to Golden Corral. (I know I should focus on the salads and veggies but have a huge weakness for mac 'n cheese.) As I was enjoying my mac 'n cheese, I couldn't help but overhear the conversations around me. It seems a huge number of my fellow diners have had bypass operations. One bragged that he was 46 when he had his, almost as if he had run a marathon and come in first. I glanced around and noticed all these people were eating huge quantities of meat. Of course, it was silly to let a perfectly good dessert bar go to waste, especially since they had already paid $7.99 for the lunch buffet, so they did what any sensible person would do...they loaded up their plates with cake, cookies, ice cream, toppings on the ice cream...there was fresh fruit available, but they didn't seem very interested in it. I personally went for the fruit, but I have to say I was sorely tempted by the dessert bar, and what decided it for me was watching those poor souls slowly dig their graves with their teeth. Report
Unfortuantely so many people ignore labels that more info on them wouldn't do much good for the masses....ignorance is bliss, so they say. It is sad that my kids could be eating the food they want because their friends eat it for less money than what we currently spend to feed them properly. School lunches are just as bad----they don't even cook anymore ---it's warmed up chicken nuggets or bread sticks, even in Kindergarten. These are not choices for our young. Many parents picture a home cooked meal for their little ones on a cold day and do not look into the "healthier" versions of lunches. It's garbage in my opion and I know I could put that money to much better use.

While I'm considered a big weirdo for sending brown bag lunches daily, my kids are ALL normal weight and also do not have any behavioral problems. They do not get Twinkie sugar bombs in their lunches and think it's pretty normal to eat ants on a log for snacks....they are definitely in the minority locally.

It upsets me that I have to pay more for organic, but I do. It irritates me to no end that our government continues to subsidize only certain farmers...not the ones growing the organic goodies we want (at least that's the case here)....but I do my part by going to the farmers markets and grow my own.

I don't enjoy the fact that grocery shopping is done primarily in the outer edges of the grocery mart but I understand that's how it is. Big business does't run my kitchen! Report
I don't think the "real" prices should be added to the label, because there's so much info on them already. And when you are in there with $20 to get food for three people for a week, you have to buy what you can afford and it's usually not "junk" food. But it is a lot of pasta, rice, and/or canned veg. that are generic. Which means more salt and often lower quality than some of the name brands. Report
I’ll see your rant and raise you… ;)

Yup, You went and got me started. It took two hours of my life and some change… I couldn’t help myself… but still I won’t post it all here…

My full ‘rant in reply’ is on my SparkPage for anyone interested but the short of it is that I think this issue is just a small portion of the greater global crisis we find ourselves in and in my mind that is linked in titanium to what I keep seeing on this board, and well, almost everywhere else for that matter. The problem here isn’t “the government” its people who live in democracies, Americans and others, who divorce themselves of the responsibility for what they allow their governments to do.

If for some reason you want to see the full path of my reasoning and reply yourself just hit the picture under my username and you’ll find the blog-post there.

Otherwise to sum up… I agree that there is a need for Americans to know the true cost of the products they use. They need to know what it costs taxpayers in subsidies and health care. They need to know what it costs consumers in damage to their personal health and higher costs. And they need to know also what it costs in damage to the environment and our ability to be energy independent.

We need to know though, not so that we can add yet another layer of regulation and manipulation to the situation, but so that we have the information and ammunition we need to take down the outdated manipulations of the past.

And personally, I would not add it to food labels. Mainly because they are so full of the information we need to keep us alive that cluttering things up with PSA’s (public service announcements) would make labels more confusing and even less useful. Too many people use them not just to improve their health for the future but more importantly just to stay alive, right now, and from day to day. I think labels are already pushed to the limit just serving people with the basic facts about content, people with food allergies, diabetes, hypertension, low kidney function and so forth. I can’t imagine the redesign that has room for advocacy as well.

Still, as I said, I think identifying true cost/price is a worthy project for those with the resources.

In the meantime, I think it’s even more important for the rest of us truly engage in civic life and stand up to meet our responsibilities as citizens to every extent that we can.

We have met ‘The Government’ and they is US.

I honestly believe that. If Americans don’t start emulating the ideals of our founders and take responsibility for our own government then the country is going on the scrapheap of history and I shudder to think of what will happen next.

I’d like to believe our generation won’t be the one that fails to meet the challenge. I hope that we can do better than this. Report
Thank you for this article. For me, it is very timely, as I am coming to the decision to give up sugar as much as possible. The decision is more for health reasons than weight reasons; I truly believe the weight loss will follow. Seeing the reply by Oriole2009 (without knowing the details) reinforces this feeling.

However, I am not sure that posting the "real cost" of items would influence my decision to buy. I've tended to be influenced by price and probably always will be, but part of this lifestyle change has included moving away from that and not always going for the best bargain (i.e. big tubs of buttered movie popcorn with unlimited refills) if it means serious overeating.

Dean, I love your blogs and articles! Report
No, I don't think that showing both the "real" cost and the "sale" cost will make a difference. After all, if the real cost of box of cookies is $5.00 and the sale cost is $2.50 then it looks like a better buy than a pound of carrots with $1.15 and $0.99 numbers.
And if you want to rant about the government's inconsistency you need to look no farther than tobacco. We're still subsidizing tobacco farmers at the same time that we're telling people not to smoke! Report
Junk food isn't really cheaper than fresh meat or produce, it just appears that way because of the way it's marketed.

I have to laugh at myself sometimes. I'll say, heck no, 99 cents a pound is way too much for cantaloupe. But five minutes later, oh, look, chips are three for five dollars! "On Sale!!!"

Well, duh. Those chips are in, what, 7-oz bags? 10-oz? Now do the math. OK, girlie, set down the chips and splurge on that cantaloupe. Report
Lately I've been following Michael Pollan's suggestion to "get out of the supermarket whenever possible". And I am more than happy to pay fair prices to my favorite local farmers of organic produce, at least as long as I can afford it.
But most people I know don't see beyond cost and convenience, even if they can afford to pay more.

Personally, I would welcome the idea of knowing the real price of food items, and basing my choices on them.
But I don't think there are many who would. Come to think of it, maybe I need a new circle of friends - lol! Report
excellent article! i am glad someone finally put it so distinctly. Report
I've read all the very interesting entries here but I'm having a hard time understanding: no time, can't afford to eat healthy, not convenient, and others. Just how do you think our parents and grandparents fed us good, fresh, homecooked meals when they had large families & small incomes? Report
Heavens, this is something I haven't even thought about - and even though I live in Australia, I am sure the situation would be the same. That article sure sat me back and made me think!! Report
Very interesting article, boy am i glad that i don't like twinkies. Report
ooops....sorry...fat fingers on the keyboard. I would have to eat a dozen twinkies to even begin to come close to the nutritional value of one slice of whole grain bread. So tell me again how twinkies are cheap? Report
ummmm.....I don't know anybody that unit prices food by calorie. I based it nutrient density. I get a lot nutrition for my buck when I buy whole grain bread and carrots than I would if I bought twinkies. I would need to eat a dozen twinkies to even come c Report
I have always thought it was wrong for government, medical profession etc, to stress wt loss and better health and not see that healthy foods are less expensive then the "junk". It's hard to eat better when it costs so much more. I agree Carrots yanked out of the ground should be way cheaper then junkie food. Report
Very interesting! Thank you for this blog. Report
CINCYDORY pretty much stated my opinion. I'll just add this: calculating the "true" cost or "social" cost is going to be subjective no matter who is doing it. I wouldn't trust that information even if it was provided.

I do find it interesting that talk is being batted around about a so-called Obesity Tax. In other words, making junk food and even good food that happens to be high-caloric (such as a restaurant dessert made with all natural ingredients) more expensive by levying a tax. Isn't that ironic - have the government subsidize products to make them cheaper, then tax then to make them less appealing from a financial point of view. LOL Report
I couldn't agree more on your blog. My sister is a widow with two kids, and a victim of our "food politics". Obese and unhealthy! Report
Great blog! When my kids were little, they loved veggies and fruits for snack ( my baby took a large green pepper for her snack when other kids brought junk food as her choice food before an apple), yogurt with brown rice, every vegetable that was ever produced, including okra, brussells sprouts, turnips, etc. We tend to like what we were brought up on. Sadly, other parents gave Sunny Delight instead of pure Orange juice, Soda instead of water and never enforced that their children drink milk, even if it is with strawberry or chocolate flavor that you add! I remember one of the kids that went to school with my children, never grew back his lost front 2 teeth until the doctor had to instruct the parents to stop soda and give milk to drink instead!!! I really like your idea of adding the cost factor to the package. I would love to see warning labels too as to what soda, yummy tasting processed foods, pre-packaged high fat and high sodium foods can do to your body!! Thank you for making people think! Report
I want to go even deeper than the twinkie. I see and hear commercials for how cheap fast food like KFC is as compared to making your own food. I heard a commercial for buying Kool-Aid because it's "better" and essentially healthier than soda. My first thought was: What the hell happened to water? That's (for the most part) free! Report
I'm with you to a point. Current farm subsidies are outdated and need to be reformed or completely repealed. They might have made sense in an era when the majority was in agriculture and agriculture meant small family run farms, but they make no sense today.

You lose me when you want to calculate the "full" cost of foods. Junk food doesn't cause obesity. Overeating and lack of exercise cause it. I love junk food but without it, I'll binge on anything that tastes good. It's not the companies' fault that I'm over-weight. It's mine. Is it right to force companies to account for the lazy behavior of their consumers.

The problem, the FUNDAMENTAL problem with most of us who are over-weight is that we don't take responsibility for our own actions over the long-term. Those who care about the origins of foods will usually find a way to figure it out. Those that don't wouldn't bother to read an "actual cost" label. In fact, it might encourage them to buy more thinking it's a pretty good deal. And with Twinkies rumored to be sturdy enough to last through a nuclear war, they could choose to stockpile A LOT more unhealthy foods due to new labeling. Report
Subsidised or not, it's really sad to see what passes for food in the supermarket these days. Great blog. Thanks for sharing your rant. Report
this is why we have been going to the asian grocery store lately. you can buy a crate of california oranges there for 15 dollars. it has about 100 oranges in a crate. we are so limited on money but we have bought a lot of staples from there. we just got a 25 pound bag of rice for 12 dollars. since the economy has been so down we have basically been living on rice and vegetables with some lean meat. i have a huge family so it feeds us all and it is healthy. Report
Unfortunately, some people wouldn't understand the "real price" label and would just think they are getting a bargain.

In my town, the farmer's market seems to think that they can charge even more outrageous prices than the supermarkets for produce. Not much incentive to buy there when you have limited money. Report
Excellent article!! Report
Food labels ought to absolutely include this information! I'm entirely sure that it would change the way that people think about their food and their purchasing habits would follow. While we are at it, let's get labels on our GMO food too! Report
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