By Savanna Henderson, Humanitas Global
The current state of our food system leaves much to be desired. Outbreaks of foodborne pathogens like E. coli are often headlining segments in the news alongside stories on the need to raise food industry employees wages to a livable level. Deforestation, often for agriculture, is clearing nearly 36 football fields’ worth of forests every minute and taking with it some of the world’s richest sources of biodiversity and natural resources. The cheapest calories in the grocery store are the same ones linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The associated low prices don’t reflect the air pollution, soil degradation, water contamination or inhumane labor practices that often go hand-in-hand with cheap food. Though we catch a break at the cash register, we end up paying for these externalities later at the doctor, through taxes and in loss of natural resources and biodiversity. Some of the positive externalities in the food system, like increased animal welfare, are reflected in the prices of food (ever notice the price difference between cage-free eggs and eggs with no welfare-indicative label?), but they have to compete with cheaper food which to the unknowing customer is just as welfare-oriented as the other brand. Even foods that reflect one or more positive externalities rarely reflect EVERY externality, positive and negative, that encompasses production.
To put the true price on our food, we need an economic model that can apply value to every aspect of food production. Thankfully, True Cost Accounting (TCA) is a model attempting to do just that. TCA is able to capture environmental, economic and social costs and effectively match food prices with their associated impact, be it positive or negative. The team at Humanitas Global had the great pleasure of working with Food Tank to help produce a report titled, The Real Cost of Food Examining the Social, Environmental, and Health Impacts of Producing Food. In this report, readers are introduced to TCA, its benefits and challenges and the path forward. This report is meant for everyone since as consumers we all make up an integral part of the food system. It’s our pleasure to be able to share the link to access the report, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed contributing. Be sure to check out all of the great news articles and blog posts Food Tank has on true cost accounting as well.