Why Is Sustainably-Produced Food Priced Higher?

Does "safe" food cost more? You bet it does. Just as we all know "you get what you pay for" with any kind of product, our industrialized, mass-produced food supply is produced with the cheapest ingredients, shoddiest workmanship and total disregard for final product safety, yet amazingly, there is more awareness about regulating cheap products made in China than the poisoning of our food supply produced right here at home.

The spring issue of Spirit of Change magazine will be out in just two weeks. This "Protecting Our Food Supply" issue contains facts and information every eater and gardener will want to know about.

Raise your awareness of food safety issues. Discover why earthworms and honeybees are more vital to your diet than you ever could have imagined. Learn how to select healthier food in the grocery store and cultivate your garden more sustainably. Don't leave it to the government to protect your food supply; keeping our food supply safe, local and sustainable is everyone's job, and, yes, there is a cost for this security.

Read radical homemaker and sustainable farmer Shannon Hayes blogging for Yes! magazine, "Why are my prices higher than those at the supermarket? Glad you asked." Shannon is the author of Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture and can be reached at RadicalHomemakers.com.

"Every week during the growing season, my husband and I cart our family’s grassfed meats to market. We sell pork chops for $11 a pound; ground beef goes for $7.50.

Every week, we meet someone who tells us the prices are too high.

In fact, at those prices, the average net income for our family members has maxed out at $10 per hour. But part of our job is to hold our chins up and accept weekly admonishment for our inability to produce food as cheaply as it can be found in the grocery store.

The truth is, food in the grocery store is not cheap. We pay for it in advance with our tax dollars, which support farm subsidies that go to support an ecologically problematic industrialized food system. We pay for it with the lives of our soldiers and with the unfathomable military expenditures that support our national reliance on fossil fuels, upon which the industrial farming model is completely dependent. The prices only look cheap because we are paying for them someplace else: through our taxes, and via the destruction of our soil, water, and natural resources through irresponsible farming practices.

The viability of a small farm is dependent not just on garnering a living wage, but on our ability to steward our land in a way that allows it to stay healthy and productive into the future. Industrial food production, in contrast, currently depends on farm subsidies—and on a license to deplete soils and pollute water for immediate profit with no regard for what happens tomorrow. This is our nation’s cheap food policy: Make the food in the grocery store as inexpensive as possible, so that we can justify lower working wages for Americans.

With policies like this, we are losing our farmers; we are also poisoning our public with toxic food. Between 1999 and 2006, the CDC estimated that 45% of American adults were suffering from chronic illness. You can’t tell me that has no connection to the food supply.

Even with chronic illness rampant in our society, our current government oversight policies for food safety favor the production of unhealthy, industrial food. My family farm shoulders a disproportionate burden of expense in order to meet regulations that prove the safety of our products—even though they are more easily traced, and more cleanly produced, than corporate food. This adds to our prices and makes it difficult for many of our fellow farmers to stay in business. Rather than adhering to policies that favor an industrial food supply, we need regulations that level the playing field, enable living wages, and ensure that every citizen can afford the price of real food produced in a way that honors a life-serving economy.

My family wants to nourish our local community. We want to sell pork chops from real pigs, ground beef from real cattle. We want to conduct our business honestly, and we want to see our fellow Americans compensated fairly for their contributions, so that we can all earn a decent living. We want to see government policies that would help bring to an end our ecologically rapacious, gastronomically toxic food system. We want to go to our weekly market with our heads held high, carrying wholesome food that our neighbors can afford."

With gardening season just around the corner in New England, now is the time to start thinking about growing some of your own food and ensuring your own food safety and protection. At the very least, become aware of what you are buying in the grocery store or local farmer's market. Read the spring issue of Spirit of Change for information on what you need to know and how to get started, then dig in!

Carol Bedrosian is the publisher of Spirit of Change holistic magazine and can be reached at carol@spiritofchange.org