Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Cost of Food

I know I haven't been blogging too much lately, sorry about that.  Just too much going on, not to mention the holidays.  I will try to post more after the new year, if not sooner.  Just wanted to remind you all that I'm still here.  Anyways, this is a noteworthy post to Jim Kunstler's blog Clusterfuck Nation, from two weeks ago, in which the writer, C.Cruz, ruminates on America's relationship with food.  I'm hoping that he (or she) doesn't mind that I'm lifting this.  I hate it by the way, it makes me feel very lazy.  Speaking of food, if you want to build on what you read here, I highly recommend the documentary Food Inc. 

It is a commonly accepted fact that people today actually spend much less income on food than people did in the past eras. Historically, the economists tell us that the percent of our incomes spent on foodstuffs has been consistently falling throughout the twentieth century. Economists tell us that this is due to much more efficient agriculture. This is code for kicking all the farmers and land workers out of their jobs and replacing them with fossil fuels. This was good news to economists, since the money that we weren't spending on foodstuffs we could spend on other stuff, which was mainly cars, houses, electronic doodads from the Pacific Rim, and cheap plastic crud imported from China. Economists proclaimed we were all getting richer by this development, and out economy was expanding. What was also expanding was our waistlines.

This is extremely deceptive, however, as what they bought before World War 2 was food, whereas what we buy is "food". People used to buy free-range chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef, fresh, seasonal vegetables, artisan cheese, fruits, milk, whole wheat bakery-produced bread etc. Before the Interstate highway system went in , most of these were relatively local. Today we buy waxy fruits and vegetables grown especially not to decay, thus devoid of flavor and nutrients, genetically modified crops, mass-produced loaves of processed white bread, antibiotic laden corn-fed CFO meat, pasteurized BGH processed milk, chicken and eggs from overcrowded dungeons, cheez, and of course massive amounts of corn-syrup drenched "processed" foods. To an economist there is no distinction however, eggs are eggs, beef is beef, and a head of lettuce is a head of lettuce. My guess is if you actually made an apples-to-apples comparison between the quality of food then, and food of comparable quality today which can be purchased at local co-ops and high-end groceries like Whole Foods you find the cost of food (not "food") to be as high as it has ever been, if not much higher. I'm amazed when people complain that healthy food costs too much while they have plenty to spend on cable television and World of Warcraft subscriptions.

The "cheapness" of food thanks to oil has masked and legitimized the thirty-plus years of falling actual wages. Food is cheap, so why pay extra? After all, no one in America is starving - the poor are even overweight! What a great country! Sadly, even the cheap food is getting unaffordable due to unemployment and falling incomes. People are turning to food banks to make ends meet in unprecedented numbers, but what food banks sell are mainly donated "nonperishable" items, meaning processed to the point of unrecognizability. This "food" is guaranteed to lead to all sorts of health problems and morbidity, leading to an increasingly unhealthy population. With healthcare already unaffordable, however, the new poor have no other option but a lifetime of ill-health, drug dependence, and hospital debt, that is, if they're not dying on the streets. The next time you hear about the cost of food, ponder that.

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