January 6, 2012

Today I didn't buy a carton of milk....

Today I was at the store and I was going to buy a half-gallon of milk.   As you may have guessed, I only buy organic milk because I believe it is a healthier choice, but mostly because I believe it is more humane to animals and the environment.  Generally, the “good” milk as we refer to it is about $2 more than “regular” milk.    I went to the milk aisle today and regular milk was about $1.80 while the good milk was a solid $5. 

I didn’t buyit.  I grabbed a little box of soy milk for coffee and went on my way.  This small example of food economics is actually a shadow of what is happening on abroad scale this year.  Last April, a NY Times article ran saying that in February 2011, wholesale food prices rose by 3.9%. That’s the largest hike in prices in 1 month in almost 40years.   Much of this increased cost is coming from the rising price of fuel and transportation(another reason to eat local?!). Unfortunately, we will likely be seeing this trend negatively affecting home-cooked meals because restaurants make food on such a large scale and can absorb the cost through other routes (alcohol) much easier that an individual can at a grocery store.  Though Applebee’s did raise their prices 2%this year and Starbucks followed with a 1% increase in some regions.

Finally, I want to ask a question in the face of frustration and fear about food prices increasing:  is this a bad thing?  Prices of food in the US have been incredibly low for decades.  An August of this year,an article in Tufts Now by a food economist explains:

“[Increasing food prices] indicate to consumers that they should moderate their consumption,and it indicates to producers to innovate and produce more efficiently. These are all good things that can happen. Moderating consumption should not mean people going hungry, but perhaps going a little easier on the meat consumption,because that uses more resources than raising fruits and vegetables and grains.”  

As always, we all speak with our money.  If you read my blog, you know I preach moderation in many forms.  As Gail Bambrick from Tuffts says more clearly than I could: “What we consume sends a message to food producers and manufacturers. If prices encourage us to use fewer resource-intensive foods like meat and buy food with no packaging,these changes will alert the food industry that they must become more efficient or risk losing profits.” 

I encourage you to vote with your dollars
....I am!

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