¡Hola, amig@s! Anybody grilling now at the height of summer? Then the first article might be interesting for you. In fact, all of today’s haul is extremely interesting – there doesn’t seem to be any lag in food news due to summer/vacation time!
This is what I was reading today:
Mark Bittman (or rather, his student intern, as it seems) has been trying for a year to estimate the true cost of a cheeseburger. Why is that so difficult, if every single fastfood restaurant has a well-established menu and price list? Because, to arrive at the true cost, you also need to take those costs into account that the firm doesn’t consider, but society still bears, so-called externalities:
Whatever the product, some costs are borne by producers, but others, called external costs — “externalities,” as economists call them — are not; nor are they represented in the price. Take litter: If your cheeseburger comes wrapped in a piece of paper, and you throw that piece of paper on the sidewalk, it eventually may be picked up by a worker and put in the trash; the cost of that act is an externality. Only by including externalities can you arrive at a true cost.
Bittman et al.’s results? “We estimate that Americans eat about 16 billion burgers a year of all shapes and sizes, based on data provided by the NPD Group, a market research firm. (The “average” cheeseburger, according to the research firm Technomix, costs $4.49.) And our calculation of the external costs of burgers ranges from 68 cents to $2.90 per burger, including only costs that are relatively easy to calculate. (Many costs can’t possibly be calculated; we’ll get to those.)” Most of the costs they calculate are from the contribution of fastfood consumption to obesity (requiring healthcare costs) and to global warming (through the CO2-emissions embedded in them). The article explains really well how difficult such a cost-benefit analysis is and how reliant on external data (what, for example, is the adequate price of one unit of CO2-emissions?). An educational read for sure. I especially like his conclusion:
In this discussion, the cheeseburger is simply a symbol of a food system gone awry. Industrial food has manipulated cheap prices for excess profit at excess cost to everyone; low prices do not indicate “savings” or true inexpensiveness but deception. And all the products of industrial food consumption have externalities that would be lessened by a system that makes as its primary goal the links among nutrition, fairness and sustainability.
Then, the FAO Regional Office of Latin America published new data that with the food wasted in the continent, one could easily nourish more than the number of food insecure persons in the region. According to the FAO, around 15% of the region’s production go to waste every year, which constitutes 6% of global food waste. Similarly to Europe and North America, the greatest share of waste is at the household and retail sector (28% and 17% respectively). Only with the food thrown away by supermarkets and small retailers, it is estimated that 30 million persons could be fed, corresponding to 64% of those suffering from hunger in the continent. Thus, as Raúl Benítez stresses,
“While it is important to highlight that the countries in the region dispose of more than enough calories to nourish all their citizens, the huge quantity of food that is lost or that ends up in the trash is simply unacceptable in the face of the fact that around 8% of the regional population remains food-insecure”.
One French supermarket could have one solution to share with the world on the topic of food waste, though: Check out their clever way to market ‘inglorious’ (or, as I would translate the French word ‘moche’, ‘ugly’) produce that didn’t fit the norms, raise store traffic and raise awareness about food waste: I am loving that campaign!
Finally, my attention was just drawn to a movie focusing on one man’s courageous, if seemingly quixotic battle for healthy cafeteria food in the United States. ‘Cafeteria Man’ follows Tony Geraci, food-service director for Baltimore, in 2011 as he pushes for big-level changes in the way his city’s school food system feeds its students. As Michael Pollan says in the movie, “If Tony makes this happen here the way he wants to, I think you’ll see this happening all over the country”. The question I asked myself is – has this change happened in more municipalities, 3 years after this apparent recipe for success was distributed? The FAQs on the movie’s website don’t answer that question, but give good inspiration for communities that feel inspired and ready to push for change in their own cafeteria. You can also “rent” the movie and watch it directly on the website. Finally, Tony has a series of ‘Tony’s Tips’ videos that explain how to get healthy food on kids’ plates, and how to get the kids to eat it.
And with that, happy summer (grilling)!