Food is cheap at market, but costs a lot elsewhere

By Dr. Marion Nestle on 04/10/2011 Question: I pay a lot for food, and more each day, but then people like you say our food is cheap because its real costs are “externalized.” Huh? What’s that supposed to mean?

Answer: Food prices are indeed going up, and I can hardly keep track of the possible causes: natural disasters, crop failures, commodity speculation, corn used for biofuels, lack of research in agriculture, the declining value of the U.S. dollar and just plain greed.
But we Americans still pay relatively less for food than anywhere else because so many of the costs of industrialized food production are “externalized.” We pay for them, but not at the grocery store.

Human costs
I was reminded of externalized food costs when reading about the remarkable efforts of a Salinas teacher to educate children of itinerant farmworkers. The kids are trying to learn under disrupted, impoverished, crowded living conditions. If their parents were paid and housed better, we would pay more for food.

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