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The real price of today's cheap food

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In the United States, it is estimated that all the CAFOs combined produce about

100,000 metric tonnes of manure per minute, creating a serious disposal issue. The manure is too laden with antibiotics and hormones to use as fertilizer, so what we are left with is pure waste product, product that on a mixed practice farm would be put to good use. What to do with it all? The simplest solution seems to be to create vast and often poorly contained 'waste lagoons.' In other words, just forget about it and deal with it later. Some might leak out and find its way into our rivers and watersheds but right now that is just the risk and price of doing business. As long as the great wheels of beef production keep turning and pushing out a very cheap product, no one seems to mind too much.

 

America's Role

Why corn, you may find yourself asking - why has corn implicated itself into so many different aspects of our modern food system? The answer is simply cost. The American government heavily subsidizes corn farmers, the result being that growers can sell their product for much cheaper than it costs them to produce. Not to mention the fact that so many farms that once grew a variety of crops now find it more lucrative to simply produce corn.

We here in Canada do not subsidize our corn farmers but, as we know what our neighbours to the south do certainly affects us here in the Great White North.

Government subsidies combined with tariffs imposed on imported cane sugar ensure that corn is the cheapest sweetener out there. Head to Mexico and you will find that their soda pop is still sweetened with plain old sugar, while here in Canada and the U.S. it is now sweetened with glucose-fructose. These very same subsidies have also succeeded in putting countless Mexican corn farmers out of business, as they cannot compete with the cheap stuff coming out of the US.

So the subsidy keeps our food cheap. But does it not seem a bit like a subsidy on ill health? After all, what it cheapens are things like soda pop, fast food hamburgers and all sorts of processed foods. While the cost of these products is kept artificially low, the price of fresh, healthy food climbs with every economic bump. Should it not be cheaper to cook for yourself than buy a meal at McDonalds? Should a hamburger be cheaper than a head of broccoli?

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