Tuesday, October 23, 2007

You are what You grow

From here

Drewnowski gave himself a hypothetical dollar to spend, using it to purchase as many calories as he possibly could. He discovered that he could buy the most calories per dollar in the middle aisles of the supermarket, among the towering canyons of processed food and soft drink. (In the typical American supermarket, the fresh foods — dairy, meat, fish and produce — line the perimeter walls, while the imperishable packaged goods dominate the center.) Drewnowski found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of cookies or potato chips but only 250 calories of carrots. Looking for something to wash down those chips, he discovered that his dollar bought 875 calories of soda but only 170 calories of orange juice.

As a rule, processed foods are more “energy dense” than fresh foods: they contain less water and fiber but more added fat and sugar, which makes them both less filling and more fattening. These particular calories also happen to be the least healthful ones in the marketplace, which is why we call the foods that contain them “junk.” Drewnowski concluded that the rules of the food game in America are organized in such a way that if you are eating on a budget, the most rational economic strategy is to eat badly — and get fat.

This perverse state of affairs is not, as you might think, the inevitable result of the free market. Compared with a bunch of carrots, a package of Twinkies, to take one iconic processed foodlike substance as an example, is a highly complicated, high-tech piece of manufacture, involving no fewer than 39 ingredients, many themselves elaborately manufactured, as well as the packaging and a hefty marketing budget. So how can the supermarket possibly sell a pair of these synthetic cream-filled pseudocakes for less than a bunch of roots?


Tristan said...

"This perverse state of affairs is not, as you might think, the inevitable result of the free market."

Actually it most likely is - you detail the supply side of the free market but no the demand side. Even if twinkies cost more to produce, there is less demand for them.

Twinkies have to be cheaper than carrots because most reasonable people would opt for nutritious carrots over junk. The demand for twinkies being lower, the free market demands that they are cheaper.

Admittedly the masses of advertising we have means twinkies may well be more desired than carrots in many a person's mind - yet I still suspect the above reasoning holds, and we are, indeed, looking at a free market explanation.

Anonymous said...

It's simple. Hidden subsidies and state-corporate coordination. Remember, capitalism externalises costs, and these 'costs' often dwarf the market price of products. 'Twinkies' is probably a case in point. I

Ibrahimblogs said...

That is a thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing it!! We indeed get what we grow!

This is Ibrahim from Israeli Uncensored News