Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What does food cost?

If you have tomatoes and beans in your backyard garden, you probably don't care about the calories in vs. calories out numbers. You'll spend perhaps a calorie or two for 10 calories in return, but nobody is really keeping score.

Historically, early farmers spent about 1 calorie for every 10 they harvested, more or less.

ONE IN >>> TEN OUT.  That's approximately where we started with the early crop cultivation.  Not a bad return for manual labor.

Since then, of course, we've made dramatic advances in science and technology.  You'd expect maybe ONE IN >>> ONE THOUSAND OUT????  Waaaay wrong.  How about TEN THOUSAND????  Nope, still way off.

Today we spend about 10 calories for every 1 calorie we harvest, and that's just for fuel.  It costs more to farm these days than we get in return.
That's TEN IN >>> ONE OUT.
The 10 calorie input is just the fuel we use.  Fuel for the tractors and trucks.

It doesn't count the cost of fertilizers, of irrigation, of seeds, and of labor.
Then there's the impact of soil leaching, forest area loss and impact on water management, chemical runoff, ground water contamination.  Then add the post-harvest processing that virtually all our products suffer, and transportation to the store, all of which adds to the ratio.

It's not news.  We've known for awhile that the real cost for our food was going up. We're getting away with it for now.

We're consuming resources that are becoming progressively more expensive and that won't be replaced, and we're fostering a consumption rate that's increasing exponentially. It's not the first time it has happened, of course.

A disturbing illustration of how it works is the classic bacteria and petri dish.  The bacteria will multiply because there's room and food, right up to the point where they poison themselves in their own deadly waste and die.

Tree huggers have warned us about this stuff.
Now there are dirt huggers doing the same.
Time for change?