If one does not take the actual and external costs (social, health and economic costs) of food in the modern age, food costs much less now than one hundred years ago. This is because until fuel becomes prohibitively expensive, the costs of mass production, using petrochemicals at every stage from agriculture, to distribution, lowers delivered end costs. Mass scale production and costs passed on to the general public are well hidden.
Victorian age grocery shoppers might balk at the precious cost of an imported pineapple or melon. However, the shopper, when paying the modern, and more reasonable price, is not accounting for the cost of the jet fuel or refrigeration that ultimately gets spread out among the entire populace.
People in the Victorian times paid significantly more for imported food, but also for meat, for example. This is because the external costs, growing, transport and availability were not conveniently ameliorated by the cost of oil and chemicals which gave the world a “green revolution” . Farming today is industrialized, and often dependent upon still available fuels for herbicides, pesticides, stock grains and more. The food and agriculture revolution however, should not be confused with the new Green er energy and greener living of the modern day. The newer movements ask for everyone to deeply investigate costs that are typically forgotten, such as the health costs of poor nutrition with processed foods, obesity and diabetes, pollution and run off of both pesticides, herbicides. There is also erosion by concentrated effluents, , hormones, animal feeding, slaughter and other non calculated costs. Besides such contamination such as e-coli, salmonella, BSE, (mad cow) and other bacterial and viral outbreaks, then follow the manufactured waste of packaging, advertising, it’s pollutants and waste, and more transport by dirty fuels.
People once routinely spend a full third of the income obtaining food. To avoid such high costs today -since fuel costs and lost arable land costs are an increasing reality- would entail future people learning to support sustainable farming.
Small is beautiful is one way for this to occur. In the small and local movement, people grow more and save open land. They network for small community farms, connect and exchange not just produce and healthier groceries, but a sense of connection, green living and belonging. They are less likely to have poor nutrition, waste, contaminants and under-nourishing food products.
Finally, although our grandparents and great grandparents spend considerably more on food, all the thousands of more products invented for consumers now require that people still spend quite a lot of money. Now instead of getting just staples, people shop for everything from I-pads, to Hello Kitty. They want more choice although they want less debt. Leaning to spend less in any generation, is ultimately a matter of whether one wants quality, or quantities of stuff to consume.