I was reminded of externalized food costs when reading about the remarkable efforts of a Salinas teacher to educate children of itinerant farmworkers. The kids are trying to learn under disrupted, impoverished, crowded living conditions. If their parents were paid and housed better, we would pay more for food. …Speaking of which, Florida tomato pickers (mostly immigrants) have recently been awarded a much better contract, including higher wages, being informed about their legal labor rights, and many are cheering that the industry is really beginning to turn around. Expect some of the hidden costs of tomatoes to be less hidden.
The CEO of a large U.S. meat company told me that if he raised wages by $3, he could hire locals and not have to deal with immigrant labor. But then he would have to raise the price of his meat by 3 cents per pound (I’m not kidding). That amount, he claimed, would price him out of competitiveness. …
In support of this notion of the unseen costs of our food system, Batz and colleagues at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute identify the 10 pathogen-food combinations that cost us the most in terms of public health (medical care, lost productivity, chronic disabilities including permanent physical and mental damage to infants, etc.):
Campylobacter in poultry — costs $1.3 billion a year [sickens more than 600,000 Americans annually]Another source Nestle misses is the taxes needed to pay for government food policies in the form of taxation.
Toxoplasma in pork — costs $1.2 billion a year
Listeria in deli meats — costs $1.1 billion a year
Salmonella in poultry — costs $700 million a year
Listeria in dairy products — costs $700 million a year
Salmonella in complex foods — costs $600 million a year
Norovirus in complex foods — costs $900 million a year
Salmonella in produce — costs $500 million a year
Toxoplasma in beef — costs $700 million a year
Salmonella in eggs — costs $400 million a year
An example of unusual environmental costs of a food system comes from Zimbabwe, whose justice department has decided to solve undernutrition in overcrowded prisons by adding elephant meat to the menu. The government’s position is that there are three times as many elephants as conservation groups think, so they have “an elephant overpopulation crisis.”