You Get What You Pay For: The Cost Of Healthy, Quality Food
It’s a cliché because it’s true: You truly do get what you pay for.
While many Americans follow that philosophy when it comes to buying clothes, cars, homes and electronic gadgets, many don’t apply the same standard to the food they eat.
That’s a shame considering food is much more important to a healthy life than any of those other items.
Still, more consumers in recent years have become aware of the importance of the food they eat. Information is now readily available from many sources on the potential health consequences of a diet heavy in processed food.
In terms of cost, a lot hinges on how you look at things.
Costs can be calculated in different ways. Eating cheaper cuts of meat and lots of processed food certainly can cut your weekly grocery bill. But if you think in the long-term, they can prove costly.
The grass-fed, pasture finished beef produced by Acabonac Farms, as well as the organic vegetables grown by East End farmers, is simply healthier for consumers. Packed with vitamins and nutrients that come from nature and not a laboratory, these products offer buyers a healthy diet by doing nothing more than eating what nature provides.
Acabonac Farms also never uses the growth-promoting antibiotics or hormones that are often found in industrial meat operations.
The cost may be slightly higher (although not always). But, as the numbers show, Americans are currently spending less on food than they did even 40 years. Perhaps they can afford to spend a bit more.
What Americans Spend On Food
Fortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics continuously tracks information on where people in the U.S. spend their money. Every year, the data is compiled and analyzed, then released in a report .
When it comes to food, on an inflation-adjusted basis, people in the U.S. spend less than they did almost 60 years ago. In 1961, the average household spent about $10,000 on food each year. Now, they spend $7,203.
The BLS reports that spending on eating out jumped 8 percent in 2015 and another 5 percent in 2016. Meanwhile, spending on food to cook at home rose just 1 percent.
Is It Really Food, Though?
The unnerving part is that many of the foods purchased by Americans are not actually food at all.
In his fascinating book, “In Defense of Food,” author Michael Pollan points out that “while it used to be that food was all you could eat, today there are thousands of other edible food-like substances in the supermarket.”
Food-like substances? Pollan goes on to explain that starting in about the 1980s, food began getting replaced with “nutrients.” Many of the products on shelves had fiber, didn’t have the wrong kind of cholesterol, etc. But many of the products are very far away from what nature would have produced.
Pollan’s not alone here. There are lists scattered across magazines, podcasts and the internet about foods that are not really food. Fake cheese, for example, made in a laboratory. Or some types of chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, peanut butter, eggs, butter, potatoes…the list is very long.
The point is, all of this is easier and cheaper for food companies to make than actual food.
The Cost Of Eating Food That’s Not Food
With cheaper costs to food producers, the cost of food has gone down. In an ironic twist, now buying “real food” costs more than buying “food-like substances.” Eating such processed food, in the view of Pollan and others, has contributed to disease, two-thirds of Americans being overweight and more cases of diabetes.
Other countries such as France typically spend more on food and have less of the health issues associated with a poor diet. According to studies quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, processed food makes up 70 percent of the average American’s diet, while the French diet focuses on unprocessed food cooked at home. The French also eat more vegetables.
They have lower insurance rates and longer life expectancy, too.
Ways To Cut Spending
When it comes to food health, you get what you pay for. That’s the economic reality when comparing the cost of “food” from industrial operations compared to the natural way a ranch such as Acabonac Farms produces beef.
That said, there are ways to trim costs.
Shop at a farmer’s market or through a CSA. If you can use either of these in your area, there simply is no reason not to. By pooling their resources, farmers and ranchers in a CSA (community supported agriculture) can offer consumers the best possible prices.
On the East End of Long Island, Acabonac Farms offers beef shares through various
CSAs. Many of these CSA’s offer add-ons such as bread, honey, flowers and eggs.
Buy unprocessed foods. While prices can fluctuate based on the season, typically vegetables, fruits and legumes aren’t very expensive. If you must go to the grocery store and find yourself easily tempted, one idea is to shop around the edges of the store where typically you will find natural foods. Avoid going down the aisles, which is processed food land.
Buy more. Yes, buying in bulk requires freezing a portion of your food and will cost you more on the front end, but you’ll save (often significantly) over time. Beef such as that sold by Acabonac Farms is flash frozen, which mean you can buy in bulk and store it in your own freezer.
In the end, it may cost more in terms of money to eat “real food” rather than “food-like” products in today’s market. But with a little care and planning, it’s possible to eat a healthy diet that will cost you far less in the long run.