Think It’s Expensive to Buy Organic? Exposing the Hidden Costs of Crappy Food
There’s definitely a huge misconception out there: that it’s more expensive to eat healthy or vegan than it is to eat like the average American. I’m here to call that whole line of thinking out for what it is: nonsense.
Our desire for extremely cheap food is a relatively new standard, that seemed to emerge alongside the “war economy” of the 1940s, when food processing become more prevalent. Suddenly the same techniques used to mass produce objects began to be applied to food. This era also saw the rise of “fast food,” extremely cheap diner food with tasty additives and sauces that made the food appealing, especially to younger people. Add decades of targeted advertising in the mix and suddenly you have a culture that is obsessed with buying the cheapest possible food they can get their hands on, even at the expense of tastiness and even health.
The Real Cost of Food
When we go shopping, we often find ourselves looking for deals. This is something natural for us, because we understand money to be a limited resource and that we should be frugal (at least to some degree). We understand that if a pair of jeans that normally costs $75 is “on sale” for $40, that it’s not because the quality of the item lessened, it’s because the store is running some kind of promotion out of the kindness of their hearts. Well, this isn’t exactly the truth. Often, department store sales are predicated upon sophisticated marketing techniques, as well as overstock. Quite simply, that pair of jeans may be on sale simply because the assistant manager ordered too many pairs, and now they have to be moved off the shelves quicker. It is important to note that the clothing we buy is often marked up to insane levels, so the company is still making handsome profits off of items that are on sale.
Now, there are certainly “cheap” clothes out there, and we know better than to buy them most of the time. Poorly made clothes are not a smart investment, even if the item only costs a few bucks, because all it will do is fall apart after a few washes, or have some kind of defect, like loosely sewn buttons, stuck zippers, or the like. At the end of the day though, saving money on a piece of cheap clothing may make sense in some situations, and that’s okay, because no matter how crappy a piece of clothing is, it’s never going inside of your body.
Food is a different story however. Food often goes on sale for much the same reasons as clothing: marketing techniques or simple overstock. So we look for deals, or become accustomed to purchasing cheap food from economy supermarkets like dollar stores, or fast food when we’re on the go. But what is the “food” equivalent of a poor thread count or a missing button? That’s right, horrible ingredients.
There’s a reason why high fructose corn syrup is in literally everything these days. It’s extraordinarily cheap. Never mind the fact that it is hyper-concentrated corn sugar made from the already finely extracted syrup of corn starch. Our bodies have no idea what to do with this stuff, other than to attempt to metabolize it. HFCS was never meant to be ingested by living creatures, regardless of what any corporate hack or paid-by-the-corn-industry “scientist” tells you.
But why is this substance so cheap? Wouldn’t you think the process of creating HFCS would be costly compared to the extraction of basic cane sugar? Well, one would think that if you had no knowledge of food subsidies, a topic that almost no one talks about, yet powers a good swath of our entire food industry. Corn is highly subsidized by the government for a number of reasons, not least of which for animal feed, but also to produce high fructose corn syrup. The “mainstream” food industry takes government money like there is no tomorrow, because they have powerful lobbyists. The dairy industry and the meat industry are even worse, but we’ll get to that momentarily. It’s enough to know that the real cost of food is far different than what we’ve been led to believe simply by shopping at supermarkets. If you think avocados at Whole Foods are expensive, you’d be shocked what a McDonald’s hamburger would cost were the government no longer subsidizing beef.
So we’re faced with a two-pronged illusion: one, that healthy food is just “more expensive” than what we typically see in supermarkets, and that this cheap subsidized food as no repercussions simply because we can’t see the “missing buttons.”
Neither of these is remotely accurate. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
What is Your Health Worth?
Prescription drugs are a $374 Billion dollar a year industry. Let that sink in. We’re not talking about doctor’s visits, ambulance rides, operations, or therapy. We’re just talking about pills. More than a third of a TRILLION bucks are spent in America alone every year on chemical substances that are not even designed to cure illnesses, but merely treat symptoms. How insane is that? All that unhealthiness and dis-ease is coming from somewhere – it’s not just manifesting out of thin air. And no, it’s not all genetics. Not even nearly so.
The culprit is diet. What you put into your body on a daily basis determines the overall state of your health. This should be common sense and taught in every health class in America, but it isn’t. What you put into your body determines your health, it couldn’t be an easier system to understand if we designed it ourselves with that intent in mind. Knowing this, we can get a clearer picture of the correlation between the money you spend at the supermarket and the money you spend in the drugstore or doctor’s office. The two are intimately tied together – you cannot talk about one without the other if you are serious about “saving money.”
Not enough emphasis is placed on understanding the concepts of investment in our society. Sure, we might talk about 401Ks and the stock market, but what about our health? Isn’t that worth investing in? Again, if we’re being serious about money, investing in our health should be our prime focus. Forget for a second all of the popular imagery associated with buying healthy foods: the supposedly steep prices and the belief that only hippies eat that stuff. Let’s talk about something that affects us all: money. You can drone on about animal rights and the environment all day long and people won’t listen, but things get serious when you bring their wallet into the picture. So let’s go there. Let’s talk about how much money you are planning to have in the future, and if you are planning on shelling out tens of thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of dollars in your lifetime for drugs, surgeries, and doctor’s visits, all for the sake of a fast food or high fructose corn syrup-laden garbage.
Because the two are correlative. Poor health is nearly always directly linked with poor diet, and poor health invariably means drugs and bills. It’s unavoidable in America right now, barring decent healthcare legislation (I wouldn’t hold my breath on that). It comes down to, whether or not you are willing to be smart with your money and spend a couple extra dollars on decent food with wholesome ingredients, or suffer the nearly-inevitable consequences and drop hundreds or even thousands on medical procedures and toxic substances down the road.
That is the real cost of food: everything you put into your body now is an investment for your future. It sound serious because it IS serious. A poorly tailored shirt with a loose button or a hanging thread is one thing, but do you want the edible equivalent of that entering your body and becoming a part of your cells? I think we all know the honest answer to that, and to be sure, some of what we put into our bodies can’t even be classified as a thrift store shirt. We’re talking about tattered rags and onion sacks as clothing, if you want to compare them to ultra cheap, processed garbage like some of what can be found on store shelves and in fast food restaurants. It’s not as if this is some kind of arcane wisdom, either, or a conspiracy that is being hid from you. The medical research into how dangerous processed food is could fill its own library. The World Health Organization even has processed meat (lunch meat, bologna, hot dogs, bacon, etc.) listed as a Class One Carcinogen, which means it is 100% proven to cause cancer. That list includes such wonderful things as coal-tar, ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, leather dust, radium-228, and solar radiation. Yes, ingesting cheap food is that bad.
So when we talk about what is and is not expensive when it comes to food, we need to look at things from a smarter point of view. Our health, as well as our bank accounts, depend on it.
Want more information on healthy foods? Be sure to check out our recipe section, which is growing every week with tasty new creations.