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Why we must pay for the REAL cost of Food

Many agree that the real cost of most of our food is nearly double what we pay. Until we understand these other costs, or see each one actually added to the food price, we will continue to make the wrong buying choices.

First the real cost of food. Over the last 50 years we have experienced EU subsidies and EU farming policy of ‘efficient’ farming practices that have reduced food prices to record lows.

However, the amount spent on subsidy, cleaning chemicals out of water, increased ill health (diabetes & obesity), carbon dioxide omissions and fixing degraded soils, almost matches the cost of food.

Tasty, cheap, unhealthy

This means that if all these costs were added directly to the price of what we eat, food priced at £1 should really be priced at £2.

For Example (please note this is a blog so figures are estimated):

Fried chicken burger and fries from a takeaway
Cost £3.70
Subsidy to farmer .50
Cleaning water cost .40
Soil degradation .40

fatty factory farmed

Environment cost .50
Estimates NHS cost 1.90

Total Real Cost: £7.40

Most of the extra £3.70 is paid for through taxation, and water rates, so we all pay it anyway. The cost of the environment and soil degradation will fall upon the next generation. All extremely unfair for our children and on those people who eat healthy unsubsidised food cooked at home that cost more to produce but does not cause ill health or soil degradation.

For example:

Sustainable mixed farming

Organic chicken & vegetable stew with organic potatoes
Cost £4.70
Farm subsidies 0
Cleaning water cost 0
Soil degradation 0
Environment cost 0
NHS cost .20

Total Real cost: £4.90

No surprise that at current prices and low food knowledge, most people opt for the unhealthy option. If the real costs we added and people cared as much about food as plastic, the choice would change.

What should I buy?

With Brexit and a possible rise in the cost of imports the government will not want food prices to rise, or the NHS costs related to diabetes and obesity. It seems likely that we will see more double whammy initiatives like sugar tax, where sugar consumption is reduced and tax income increased. Perhaps fatty food tax and import duties on unhealthy foods.

If the government went one obvious step further and changed the school curriculum to include growing and cooking good food they would see, over time, some big changes in diet. Such as a reduction of; sugar, fat and meat in the national diet and consequently, a drop in NHS spend, as well as the average household food costs.

We, and many other experts, have been vociferous about food in the curriculum this since 2012 Blog here and it is incredibly annoying that this golden opportunity has been missed and has cost the nation £billions.

I love veg now

For example if we cared more about animal welfare and healthy food:
Organic bean & vegetable stew with organic potatoes
Cost £2.70
Farm subsidies 0
Cleaning water cost 0
Soil degradation 0
Environment cost -20
NHS cost 0

Total Real cost: £2.50


Brexit can mean tailoring subsidies for the UK instead of EU food policy. Good farming practices like organic should be rewarded and factory farms taxed for cleaning chemicals out of water courses or degrading soils.

Just like subsidies for green energy that have reduced the UK’s CO2 omissions, food should follow, perhaps even, a small subsidies for those farmers who help schools join our Crop for the Shop initiative and set up veg patches and supply seeds and veg plants.

New technologies like Cold Plasma Pyrolysis that turn plastics into useful forms of energy and chemicals for industry should be heavily subsidised by all world governments. just imagine people all over the world collecting up valuable plastic to be converted in to energy and useful chemicals!

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