This book explains how True Cost Accounting is an effective tool we can use to address the pervasive imbalance in our food system.

Calls are coming from all quarters that the food system is broken and needs a radical transformation. A system that feeds many yet continues to create both extreme hunger and diet-related diseases, and one which has significant environmental impacts, is not serving the world adequately. This volume argues that True Cost Accounting in our food system can create a framework for a systemic shift. What sounds on the surface like a practice relegated to accountants is ultimately a call for a new lens on the valuation of food and a new relationship with the food we eat, starting with the reform of a system out of balance. From the true cost of corn, rice and water, to incentives for soil health, the chapters economically compare conventional and regenerative, more equitable farming practices in and food system structures, including taking an unflinching look at the true cost of cheap labour. Overall, this volume points towards the potential for our food system to be more human-centred than profit-centred and one that has a more respectful relationship to the planet. It sets forth a path forward based on True Cost Accounting for food. This path seeks to fix our current food metrics, in policy and in practice, by applying a holistic lens that evaluates the actual costs and benefits of different food systems, and the impacts and dependencies between natural systems, human systems, agriculture and food systems.

This volume is essential reading for professionals and policymakers involved in developing and reforming the food system, as well as students and scholars working on food policy, food systems and sustainability.

chapter |10 pages


The Urgency of Now
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section 1|38 pages

The Power and Potential of True Cost Accounting

chapter 1|13 pages

From Practice to Policy

New Metrics for the 21st Century
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chapter 2|12 pages

Cotton in Egypt

Assisting Decision-Makers to Understand Costs and Benefits
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chapter 3|11 pages

Upstream, Downstream

Accounting for the Environmental and Social Value of Water in the Andes
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section 2|34 pages

Thinking Systemically

chapter 4|17 pages

Methods and Frameworks

The Tools to Assess Externalities
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chapter 5|15 pages

Health Impacts

The Hidden Costs of Industrial Food Systems
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section 3|64 pages

From the Field

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chapter 7|16 pages

Incentives to Change

The Experience of the Organic Sector
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chapter 9|10 pages

Fostering Healthy Soils in California

Farmer Motivations and Barriers
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section 4|58 pages

For the Public Good

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chapter 11|13 pages

True Cost Principles in Public Policy

How Schools and Local Government Bring Value to Procurement
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section 5|27 pages

Through the Value Chain

chapter 14|12 pages

The Business of TCA

Assessing Risks and Dependencies Along the Supply Chain
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section 6|41 pages

To the Table

chapter 16|9 pages


Comparing Meat and the Alternatives
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chapter 17|7 pages

Dining Out

The True Cost of Poor Wages
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chapter 18|12 pages

True Price Store

Guiding Consumers
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chapter |11 pages


Mobilizing the Power and Potential of True Cost Accounting
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