If I asked you the cost of the food you ate in your last meal, you'd start calculating how much you paid for it. My can of soup cost $2.98. But is that really the entire cost of my meal? There is so much more that goes into that cost that we don't see and rarely think of.
Webster defines cost as "the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something". My soup (that I will use as my example in this piece0 only cost me $2.98 to purchase. But the cost is more than the actual dollar amount that I take out of my bank account and get the soup in return. The cost of that soup entails anything that is consumed to produce the product to appear in my bowl. That cost is then calculated into a monetary language, but the overall cost has to be translated and recognized.
Let me use a drastic example so you can see where I'm going with this. If someone dies due to the harvesting of the products put into that soup, that soup is $2.98 plus a human life. Whatever is used up to produce and give me that product is a cost. It is more than a few dollars. The cost comes in larger and more personal values.
All the Hands
I never really thought of all the hands that touch the food on my table until my husband was praying one day at a family meal and asked for blessings to be poured on all who had helped to bring the food to us. It was at that moment I thought beyond me cooking it and the grocery store where I bought it. I thought all the way back to the ones who supplied the seeds to the farmers and even the logistics people who transported the seeds and the final produce. There are way more hands involved than we might think.
In my day job, I work for a food company. I am part of a large number of hands who bring quite a bit of stuff to your table. There is the customer service reps who get the orders processed, the truck drivers, the ones who book the trucks, the marketing guys who got the customer, the packaging department, the ones who make the packaging material.... Do you see where I'm going here? There are thousands of hands involved in bringing that soup to my lunch.
Now lets put that into the cost factor. My an of $2.98 soup cost many employees time to get it to me. It cost them time from their families. It cost someone their health if there was an accident moving the product. None of these costs are included in that $2.98, but the costs did occur.
What Is Touched By the Process
I just mentioned how there is quite a bit more to brining the soup to my meal than growing, packaging, and selling the product. The process of any food related item is much more intense than you might imagine.
Let's say I'm eating vegetable soup. Seeds have to be bought. Where do the seeds come from? Someone has to grow them and harvest them. They have to review them for quality and keep track of them. They have to store them and package them. Then they have to sell them which involves marketing, sales, and website creation/maintenance. This doesn't even involve the shipping and the accountant at the initial seed company who have to collect money and pay taxes. Now we can move to the farmer. They have their hands who help on top of the equipment they have to purchase to plant and harvest. I've barely scratched the surface of all th4e hands who have helped to bring that single bowl of soup to my table. All of this cost me $2.98, but it is evident that the cost is much higher than a few dollars.
This is the people who touch the process, but there are more than a few people touching it. What about the land? The vegetables come from somewhere. Land is needed to grow it as well as sun and water. Soil is turned to plant the seed. Water is needed to grow it. Pesticides might be used to keep the insects from destroying the crops. That can lead to damage to the land and/or food which in turn can lead to other paths. That simple bowl of soup touches are thousands of things, like a spider web across our lives. That can of soup could be damaging the land. It could be giving jobs. It does a lot more than feed me.
Expand On The Damages
My daughter wanted me to read Food Fix by Dr. Mark Human. I did and got my eyes opened on the impact of my food and the demands I put on the food industry. That soup can pulls a lot of resources from our world and could be doing more damage than can be sustainable.
Let's go back to the beginning of my soup - the seeds. In planting the seeds, some of the farming habits damage the environment. We don't realize the damage until we investigate and learn more. This book my daughter asked me to read had me doing more research. This was interesting to me as I was the child of a farmer. Immediate needs are met, but long-term damage can be unseen until it is too late.
I don't want to get into too many details here as it could take up several books. That is why there is so much written about it. Soil issues. Water concerns. Pollution from the transportation of product. Can in landfill. See how that one can of soup can impact the world around us?
The End Result
Not realizing the true cost of my lunch can have bad results in the end. I could be helping to destroy land in one are of the country, depleting the water table, polluting the air, and filling the dump with items that will still be around several generations later. All from one can of soup! (okay, slight exaggeration there, but you get the meaning!)
The cost of my soup could be a quality world for my grandchildren. Is it really worth it? Makes you think. In this, I'm not suggesting that you should go to only eating what you can personally grow, but if you could....
What We Can Do to Improve Costs
To improve these costs that aren't reflected in the $2.98, we need to start by being aware. Most of us aren't so we continue to contribute to the unseen cost. We have to be aware of the cost and then we can decide on how we can help lower those costs.
Make your own. It is nearly always cheaper in actual money and in the unseen costs to make your own food when you can. Going to local farmer's markets help support local small farmers who aren't using more damaging methods to get bigger yields. Look for farmers who don't use pesticides and try to be more environmentally friendly if you can't grow your own vegetables. Freeze the soup so you can enjoy it later.
Research companies that sell the soup. Are they environmentally friendly? The monetary costs of the product might go up, but you might be saving millions of dollars in future environmental damage. Weigh your options and research which companies are doing what they can to lessen the true cost of food.
Recycle packaging. This is one of the easiest things to do. Clean up the can of soup, remove the label and put in the recycling bin. Reuse the container as a planter. Look for ways that you can avoid putting the packaging in the landfill. Lessen the future cost of that can of soup.
There are many other ways you can lessen the cost of your food. Research. See what you can do. Here are a few websites to give you ideas:
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 24, 2021:
Most of the soup we consume is homemade. We do what we can to conserve, recycle, and reuse. We all need to be good stewards of the environment.