Cheap food is actually incredibly expensive. If you look at the all the costs, you are talking about the farm subsidies. That's billion a year to make that food cheap. You look at the pollution effects. The quality of the water all through the farm belt, nitrates in the water, moms who can't use tap water because it, you know, blue baby syndrome from nitrogen in the water. You look at the public health costs. You look at the cost to the atmosphere. Agriculture is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases.
~ Michael Pollan
Unhealthy food is cheaper because our government's policies support its production. We're spending nearly billion a year to subsidize corn and soy production. Where do those foods go? Into our food supply as high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil (trans fats), that are the foundation of almost all fast food and processed foods that are "manufactured" by the food industry.
Since the 1970s--when our agricultural policies where changed to support corn and soy farmers--we're consuming, on average, an extra 500 calories (mostly in the form of cheap, artificial high-fructose corn syrup) per person.
Corn and soy are also used to feed cattle for the production of meat and dairy. In fact, 70 percent of the wheat, corn and soy farmed in this country is used to feed animals used for our food. The world's cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people--more than the entire human population on Earth!
So, when our government helps pay for these foods--well, of course they're cheaper! That explains the low price tag. But what about the OTHER costs to you?
We all know that bad foods are bad for your health. It turns out they are also bad for the national pocketbook. For example, one expert has estimated that healthcare costs related to obesity are 8 billion per year. That's nearly 12 percent of total healthcare expenditures--and more than twice that caused by smoking! Seventy-two percent of Americans are overweight and over one third are medically obese. One in three children born today will be diabetic in their lifetime and the life expectancy of our population is declining for the first time in human history.
A report from the Worldwatch Institute called Overfed and Underfed: The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition documented the real costs of obesity related to poor diet--and this does NOT include the other effects of poor diet such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, autoimmune diseases, and osteoporosis.
According to a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine (i), we're spending about ,000 per person for each extra year of life gained from medical interventions like drugs and surgery ... as if that's something to be proud of!
What if that ,000 per year was given to each person during his or her lifetime to support better nutrition, lifestyle, and stress management? My guess is that we would save trillions of dollars in health care expenditures on chronic disease!
There are very few, if any, subsidies for the production of produce or healthier alternative foods. And the same government agency that supports the production of the ingredients for junk food provides less than 0 million for education on healthy nutrition.