The value of food

The value of food

Franck WALLET 09-01-2016

The first reason for food waste in our rich countries is the loss of value of food. One can throw something that has low value. But you’ll hardly find someone wasting high value things.

Foodwaste we can see everywhere (households, restaurants, supermarkets, industry…) is only a consequence of this low value given to food.

We are talking about two values:

-economic value: the food has never been as cheap as today. Average households nowadays spend 12% of their incomes in food, though it was 30% in the 60’s

-moral value: today, most of the actors who waste food assume it. It’s globally accepted, when it should be a shame. That’s good news for the food suppliers, which fills their pockets every time we re-buy them a product we already had bought before…for the bin.

So, why has food lost so much value for us?

The principle of supply and demand gives the answer: the supply is too high. We produce a lot, and we buy a lot from all over the world, so as a consequence, we have a lot more than we need.

1/ We produce a lot:

In order to maintain agriculture in our countries, we have to make sure that the farmers earn enough here.

The farmer’s income is composed of: the crops they sell  + a lot of subsidies, especially from Europe (Common Agricultural Policy, CAP).

The help from CAP is combined with an efficient industrialized and polluting agriculture – machines + GMO + inputs (pesticides, fertilizers). From this follow overproductions, to a point where now, in addition to set aside a huge part of the crops for agro-carburants, Europe must take care of limiting the production in order to avoid the prices to decrease too much.

2/ We buy a lot:

As rich countries in a globalized economy, we can extract pretty much as much as we want from the world markets. It means a lot of food for us, and higher prices for the poorer countries (when we reduce the supply on the market, the remaining part gets more expensive).

As a result of all this (here shortly summarized), we have that much food in our countries that we are now accustomed to 1/excessive choice 2/crazy uniformity 3/incredible affordability, and in that sea of cheap food, we can waste a lot without being hungry.

In that crazy system, don’t we miss the most important: enjoying the richness of a valuable food we respect?