Food Cost vs. Food Value

This image:


and the statement:

A few weeks ago, my kids and I saw a billboard for a famous fast-food restaurant boasting $5 meals. While five dollars sounds like a reasonable amount to spend, dinner would be over $20 for a family of four. That’s a lot of money to spend on a “cheap” meal! I usually spend $8-10 on a nice home-cooked meal. With $20, I can go all-out!

from, got me thinking this morning. I’m not sure they’re really comparing apples-to-apples (doritos??), but it definitely is food for thought. Ha. 🙂

I also like that it’s not only about cost – the article also discusses nutrients and time – arguing that in all three cases, “real food” can often win out over “fast food”. I think I like the article because it reminds me of the research I was doing in product development in Sweden, which focused on developing products with consideration of their full life cycle costs (both monetarily for the manufacturer, but also for customers during use of the product and for disposing of the product at the end of its useful life). While in much of the manufacturing world, the race is to the bottom: cost reduction. We (my friends at BTH!) were a step ahead of that, emphasizing cost reduction while acknowledging that any value equation considers both costs as well as benefits. This article is stepping into the same conversation regarding food: it’s not only about producing cheap calories! It’s also about:

  • nutrition, and the long-term implications for our health
  • time, and whether we would rather spend time sitting/standing in line at Mickey-D’s, or sharing time with family/friends in our kitchen
  • food source, and whether we would rather be supporting big industry or local farmer
  • food production methods, and whether we would rather support producers that use practices that improve or degrade soil and water
  • taste!
  • safety, and whether the food that we eat is handled and prepared in safe ways

…and probably a host of others that are not on the top of my mind at this particular moment. I wrote a few things about “share value” – actually with an emphasis on comparing costs of a CSA share with costs of purchasing food at a retailer. I trust that you will keep in mind that value is more about reduction of costs – it also needs to include all of the benefits.