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Lowering prices

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#1 Liza

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 01:14 PM

From an article linked, I've quoted:
"Today, most of Heartbeat's suppliers are as small and traditional as Nischan's grandparents were. But they aren't going bankrupt, not as long as there are enough restaurants and farmers' market customers around to snap up what they have to sell -- just-picked local produce, grass-ranged meats, eggs and dairy products from organically raised animals. Nischan acknowledges that many of these foods are still too costly for the average consumer. But, can-do Midwesterner that he is, he contends that prices will come down. "The more you support organic farmers, the better the pricing gets."

There's been a lot of debate on this site about this very subject. My husband, who spends his weeks working with small farmers and producers in this area, has always contended that food in this country is underpriced, and that's why purchasers think organic or artisanal products are overpriced. Is there a way we extend the debate outside the financial parameters?

#2 Michel Nischan

Michel Nischan
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Posted 31 October 2002 - 12:13 PM

The food in this country is NOT underpriced - it's so much more complicated than that. If we added the costs of corporate farm subsidies, healthcare costs traceable to conventional farming practices, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, hazardous agricultural waste cleanup, etc. to the food consumers are buying, the food would no longer be underpriced. Our government and corporate communities have simply spread the costs out over a variety of categories, making it conveniently impossible for consumers to know the real price of the foods they eat.

I feel the organic/sustainable movement (of which I am part) should do more than just pontificate in intellectual terms to ourselves. I was preparing for an organic conference I was unable to attend and wrote the following notes:

One of the greatest services the organic movement could offer the public would be a compilation of the facts formatted in a way that shows the social costs of our current food system. When the average housewife, bread-winner or working parent team can look at a simple presentation showing the social costs (healthcare, government subsidies, hazardous waste clean-up, etc.) of our current food system in terms of dollars and cents, they can make informed decisions. Dividing these costs out and adding them to the price of a gallon of conventional milk or pound of factory-raised meat would go a long way in persuading the public to lean toward supporting family farmers and organics.

In short, we need to stop preaching to the choir and try to reach the general public using language they understand.