Cheap Food and the Environment
Upon learning that I’m writing a book entitled The Real Cost of Cheap Food, most immediately assumed that the ‘cost’ I will be discussing is to the environment, as it is no secret that today’s food system places tremendous stress on ecosystems. Soil erosion, deforestation, aquifer depletion, ‘dead zones’, pesticides leaching into underground wells, industrial livestock facilities fouling our air and water … the price that the environment has paid in the name of ‘efficiency’ is quite remarkable. Ultimately, however, it we who are (or will be) actually paying for this system of accounting that seems to live by the proverbial principle of seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil. Granted, on a planet with some 6.7 billion people (and roughly 2 billion more in 40 years), global food security is going to have an environmental impact, no matter how lightly we tread. And if global consumption of meat (especially beef) continues to increase, and if we continue to demand foods out of season, then those costs will increase accordingly. This chapter will unpack some of this complexity by showing the location of certain ecological costing ‘hotspots’ within our current food system.