Report: The True Cost Of Food Is Three Times What Americans Pay For It [Infographic]
A new report has found that Americans are only paying a third of their food’s true value. Published by The Rockefeller Foundation, the research states that total food expenditure in the U.S. comes to $1.1 trillion each year, a figure that includes production, processing and retail and wholesale costs while excluding post-retail costs such as food service, preparation and disposal.
The level of expenditure is significantly higher when hidden factors absent from the retail price are brought into the equation, however. When elements such as human health complications, biodiversity loss, the impact on the environment and the economy are added in, the figure rises by an estimated $2.1 trillion to reach a true cost of some $3.2 trillion per year.
At $1.1 trillion, human health was by far the greatest driver of hidden food costs. It takes into account the share of direct medical costs attributable to diet as well as associated productivity loss. For example, obesity results in an estimated $359 billion in direct medical costs and lost productivity per year while other health complications such as hypertension, cancer and diabetes add up to just over $600 billion.
The report states that “understanding the true cost of the food we consume is a first and necessary step towards remaking the incentive structure that drives our food system today and, ultimately, transforming it”. Tellingly, it adds that the true cost of food “disproportionately burdens people of color who are more likely to suffer from diet-related diseases, have less access to water and sanitation, and often work in food production jobs for less than a living wage”.