I've written before about the problems of cheap food. Our hunger for it is feeding a lot of terrible practices, such as giant agribiz monoculture farms, overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, not to mention sad, bland produce and fake food products on the grocery shelves (Snacknotsowells, for example).
The picture I paint on this blog is that we should all be shelling out real dough for local, organic produce at the farmer's market and grassfed/pasture raised meat and dairy. Well, maybe that works if you have the access and the funds. But as it's becoming painfully clear, most of the people world do not have the access and funds to buy their food this way. They need cheap food. And it's only getting worse.
Bee Wilson reviewed four books on this subject in this week's New Yorker:
- The End of Food (Paul Roberts)
- Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System (Raj Patel)
- Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood (Taras Grescoe)
- In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (oh, you know who wrote that one).
It's a fascinating article. Here's the clincher, as Wilson puts it: "No one has yet discovered how to raise prices for the overfed rich without squeezing the underfed poor." It's become clear that The Market hasn't solved this problem. So what do we do? How do we solve this conundrum? Wilson ends with this quote from Roberts: "the real question is no longer what a rich country would do voluntarily but what it might do if its other options were worse."