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America Has the World's Cheapest Food

August 24, 2019

I bet you didn’t know that Americans spend less on food than any other nation on Earth?  It’s true!

But why is that?

It’s because food has become increasingly cheaper here in the good old US of A!

According to this chart, which was produced by Mother Jones, Americans spend only 6% of their household expenditures on food.  The French spend more than twice that amount!

The discrepancy becomes even larger when you begin to look at poorer nations such as Kenya and India.  Kenyans, for example, spend 45% of their household expenditures on food.

So what’s the problem?  Is it even a problem?  Americans expect their food to be cheap, and in this case, you get what you pay for.

But wait, back in the 1960’s Americans spent about 1/3 of their income on food!

Then the 1970’s brought drastic changes to our agricultural system.  Earl Butz, Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture made changes to our agricultural subsidy program.  The original intent of the program was to stabilize both the food supply and farmer’s incomes after the Great Depression.  The model developed by Butz promotes the industrial production of corn, wheat and soy.  At the same time cheap fossil fuels made fertilizers and pesticides more affordable.  Technological developments in industrial food production gave rise to more ready to eat foods - foods that were of course made with cheap corn, wheat and soy.

Small farms began to aggregate into large agribusinesses.

An overabundance means that corn, wheat and soy are used to make cheap milk, eggs, and meat - via huge cattle feedlots, industrial dairies, and massive hog  and chicken houses.

Our government subsidizes these crops, which creates an overabundance, which drives down the prices.  Cheap corn, soy and wheat = cheap meat, cheap bread, and loads of processed foods and drinks which are damaging our health.

Let's correlate cheap food with a few other facts:

More than 17% of America's GDP is spent on health care, according to a 2010 article by  Additionally, the US spent 50% more than any other country and nearly twice as much as the world average on healthcare.  Many things contribute to how much America spends on healthcare, but isn't it interesting to correlate food spending and healthcare costs?  Other industrialized countries that spend more on food have significantly lower healthcare costs.  

At the same time, life expectancy for Americans is decreasing because of increases in heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, and accidents.  The diseases can be prevented and treated with improved diets.  It is hard not come to the conclusion that America's cheap food is contributing to huge health issues.

Corn, wheat and soy all make the list of America's top 8 food allergies.  And guess what else is on that list - cow's milk.  Milk from cows that were fed corn, wheat and soy...  

Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from 1950 and 1999.  The team evaluated 43 fruits and vegetables and found  “reliable declines” in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C. Davis and his colleagues concluded that the declining nutritional content was due to agricultural practices designed to improve fruit and vegetable traits such as size, growth rate, and pest resistance rather than nutrition.  The plants ability to manufacture and uptake vitamins and minerals simply hasn't kept up with the new requirements to produce more and to do it quickly.

There is not hard scientific evidence that these things are all connected.  I have simply collected a little bit of data and correlated them.  But...

Is it a coincidence that as food becomes cheaper healthcare costs increase, life expectancy decreases, our foods have less nutritional value, and our children are developing allergies to the cheapest of these cheap foods?

I do not believe that it is a coincidence.

America's food system needs an overhaul.

Our government is not going to overhaul the system.  We the people must do it. 

That means that you and I must carefully choose how to spend our money. 

The most effective way to do this is to get to know your farmer.  Yes, YOUR farmer.

You have a hair stylist right?  Maybe a dry cleaner?  Perhaps a preferred mechanic?  A doctor!? 

In the same way that you get to know and trust these individuals, you should know your farmer.  After all, your health starts with what you are putting into your body.

Visit a farmer's market and talk to the people growing your food.  Find out what practices they use, do they use GMO seed?  Feed GMO feed to their livestock?  Are they organic?  Do they use fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides?  Do they select heirloom varieties that are higher in nutritional value?

Once you have found a farmer that you want to work with, visit their farm.  Verify for yourself how things are done. 

Consumer verification is where it's at and you can do this with YOUR farmer.

Amie Herrera

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with customization by Grapevine Local Food Marketing