What would happen if a label on every product in the supermarket contained the information to show consumers just how much that food actually costs?
Mike Lee has a fascinating story in Food Tech Connect where he explores what would happen if a label on every product in the supermarket contained the information to show consumers just how much that food actually costs.
He says that food prices obfuscate the true cost of food in terms of the environmental and health impacts they make on our society over time. Negative externalities like fossil fuel consumption, air and water pollution, soil degradation, and poor labor practices are all food costs that aren’t reflected in the price tag.
Without a way to bring the impact of these abstractly large negative externalities down to the human scale, it’s a struggle to viscerally connect the actions of an everyday grocery shopper to these big systems issues.
He questions what broader cost to the ecosystem and society does the industry’s maniacal focus on yield create? What’s the aggregate cost of global warming caused by fossil fuel-based transport and production methods? What’s the aggregate cost of water purification needed to remediate the effects of pesticide ridden runoff? What’s the aggregate cost on healthcare from making junk food insanely cheaper than real food?
How might we better represent the impact of buying a particular food product on the food system?
What if a food label looked like these that detailed the cost of subsidies, pesticides and even health implications?
Acme Industries Corn Cereal—$5.29
Monoculture Nitrogen Loss Fee (per 1 ton soil)*—$0.63
Corn Subsidy Refund (25% COGS)** -$0.13
Pesticide Hazard Surcharge (Per US Citizen / 1,000)***—$0.66
GMO Corn License Fee # 1ZX78211A (Flat Fee)—$2.25
Or listed on a can of soda:
Annual Weight Gain Amount**—0.25 lb
Diabetes Type II Risk Increase***—26%
Heart Attack Risk Factor Increase****—20%
Gout Risk Factor Increase*****—75%
Would this approach force people to know and care more about the foods they eat, and how they are produced?