A Penny for Your Foods

Why is healthy food so expensive? I don’t mean “health food.” I mean real, live, down to earth healthy food. Yes, a banana at 50 cents at your local fruit stand is no bank breaker. But think about it like this:

1 bagel = 1 dollar, 300 calories (guesstimate) and limited nutritional value
1 banana = 50 cents, 100 calories, and a plethora of nutrients

To get the same amount of straight-up energy, you’d have to spend 50% more on the healthy food (bananas) than on the less-healthy option (a bagel).

This is obviously a very basic, overly simplified algorithm. Less healthy things like croissants and muffins are usually more expensive than something like a bagel. But then again, more elaborate (the reason croissants are so expensive – and delicious) or “exotic” fruits are more expensive. Silly little containers of fruit salad that consist mostly of days-old, over- or under-ripe honeydew generally run between three and five dollars. For the same price, you can get a small soup (which is of course fairly healthy, depending). But you can also get at least two muffins or three to five bagels! And this is all so far without taking into account fast food, where at McDonald’s one can partake of a Sausage Egg McMuffin for a mere 450 calories – running only a couple of dollars.

No wonder this society is so unhealthy. When you can get a more filling (or disgusting…), higher energy meal for a roughly equivalent price, it’s only logical to choose that option when eating based on financial reasons alone.

But I wonder why this is the case. I don’t think I need to argue that a Sausage Egg McMuffin, or even a croissant, muffin, or bagel takes more time and money to produce. Aside from shipping costs, which make tropical and exotic fruits legitimately more expensive (but really, the “sausage” in the McMuffin did NOT come from the pigs next door), it has got to be cheaper to get an apple on the shelf for consumption than it does a baked good or especially something involving meat. That doesn’t even take into account the costs – financially, agriculturally, and otherwise – of raising animals for slaughter or making muffins. (I’m probably being a bit hard on muffins…)

Yes, fruit is perishable. Yes, some of it comes from far away. But meat is perishable too, and I don’t even want to know how long some of that McDonald’s stuff has been sitting around. Plus, that meat had to travel, too. Here’s where I think the difference lies: fruit is unprocessed. Thus, because processing involves labor and therefore wages, as well as machinery and factories and therefore huge amounts of energy, foods that are processed should by all rights cost MORE than unprocessed foods in equivalent quantities based on caloric content and nutritional value (better should be cheaper – deterrent!).

Then there’s the whole issue of how you can’t find fruit anywhere hardly. (Restaurants, coffee shops…)

….Don’t get me started on vegetables.


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