Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Illusion of Cheap Food

We used to grow our own food, and the marketplace was the centre of every town. Now, we live in huge cities, and our food comes packaged and wrapped in plastic from a sanitized supermarket.

30 million meals are served every single day in London, England. Just try and picture the farms, the factories, the stores, and the trucks that are required to grow and deliver and cook that much food – every single day of the year – in every city around the world.

Carolyn Steel, author of Hungry City: How Food Shaped our Lives, says in a School for Life blog post:

“Have you ever thought about food? Not in terms of what to eat for breakfast, but about what food really means? Ours is the first society in history to take food for granted: to treat it as something to be made as cheap and convenient as possible, while we get on with the ‘more important’ things in life. Industrial food systems have made feeding ourselves seem easy, but when you factor in all the externalities – fossil fuel consumption, rainforest destruction, desertification, pollution and obesity, to name but a few – it becomes clear that ‘cheap food’ is an illusion, and an expensive one at that.”

In her TED talk in Oxford last year (see below), Carolyn outlined some of those expenses:
• 19 million hectares of rain forest are lost each year to create new arable land.
• A further 19 million hectares of arable land are lost due to salinization and erosion.
• One half of the food currently produced in the USA is thrown away.
• One billion people are obese, while another billion starve.

What did you eat today? How much did it cost?

1 comment:

Shelley said...

Well, since you asked . . . we ate a very, very yummy stir fry and, other than the sauce and the rice I put it on top of, made it entirely of ingredients from the Saskatoon Farmer's Market . . . eggplant, tomatoes, red & green pepper, carrots, topped with chopped fresh mint leaves! :-)