Happy New Year! Today I went to a friend’s house for Breakfast All Day (aka BAD) and brought a glorious breakfast risotto along to share. I used Whole Food’s chicken sausage instead of pork Italian sausage, and a South African Chenin Blanc. It was delicious!
I’ve done a good deal of cooking the past two days – broiled t-bone steak, kasha (roasted buckwheat), eggs & skillet potatoes, black bean & salsa soup… – I love vacation days! However, between the looming work week and the time since I started this series on food, I decided I wouldn’t cook again until I posted part 2. I’ve been looking forward to sharing this article for some time – I’ll appreciate your comments!
“The end of cheap food” – leader, The Economist, 6 Dec 2007.
This introductory article highlights the causes and consequences of rising food prices, especially among the poor. Food prices around the world are rising for many reasons; this article points to several reasons: 1)the rising demand for meat in Asian nations (mainly China) due to higher incomes; 2) American ethanol subsidies; and 3) rich-world (mainly Western) agricultural subsidies.
Some things that surprised me:
- 30% of American-grown corn will be used for ethanol production
- One tank of ethanol-based fuel in an SUV equals enough corn to feed one person for an entire year
- Brazil produces a sugar-based liquor that is cleaner than corn-based ethanol
- Many poor countries that used to export food now import it, putting their farmers out of business
The article is a bit fairer than I’m about to be, but it seems to me that agricultural subsidies are completely unjust. By enabling agribusinesses to sell grains – maize, wheat, oats, barley, etc – at below-market prices, the U.S. government (and other Western nations that subsidize agriculture) is effectively aggravating the already-poor lifestyles of billions of people around the world. Even in America these subsidies encourage poverty, as they have made it impossible for smaller farms to compete. (For more on this, see this article from an online newspaper)
This is not a new problem; while searching for articles I ran across this one from the New York Times, published in 1910. It talks about the rising cost of meat (beef, pork & fish) as well as the rising cost of dairy products. It doesn’t really address why, aside from mentioning the panic of 1907, but I found it interesting that we haven’t really changed our ways.
So, what is to be done? There’s always the standard lobbying of politicians to pass fairer food bills. I’d love it if we could organize a boycott of big food companies that benefit from these subsidies, until they agree to operate without them. We could all buy from local farmers only, until the big farms get the idea: we don’t agree with food subsidies, so change your ways! But these ideas are probably too idealistic – is there anything new under the sun?