Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Some thoughts...

Maybe, the solution to helping Ohio family farms is not Issue 2 but rather for the consumer to realize that our food costs are some of the lowest in the world, and lower then really makes sense. In 1929 the average American spent 23.4% of their income on food. Today it is around 10% with nearly half of that being from eating out! Maybe, the solution is to realize that an egg should cost more than 15 cents each! And maybe price increases should go to the farmer.
Out of that 15 cents the farmer sees maybe 6 cents. And that has to feed, house, and care for that chicken for a day (1 egg a day on average is very good production.) That 6 cents also has to pay for buildings, new chickens, insurance, and pay the farmer's salery.

The reason a dozen organic eggs is $3.50 or $4.00 is because that is how much it costs to raise chickens in conditions which most people would consider “reasonable.” The reason true Pastured eggs cost even more is because that is how much it costs to raise chickens in more “optimal” conditions.

Most people would be shocked to realize that in most egg farms chickens are kept in battery cages. On average, each caged laying hen is afforded only 67 square inches of cage space—less space than a single sheet of letter-sized paper on which to live her entire life.

We don’t like to think that the amount of money we choose to spend on our food has a direct relation to how the animals are raised. The extra $2 a dozen for cage free eggs does not buy the farmer European vacations and expensive cars, it buys them the ability to treat their animals the way most farmers want to, in the most humane way possible.

U.S. consumers spend roughly 10 percent of their income on food compared with 22 percent in the United Kingdom, 26 percent in Japan, 28 percent in South Africa and 51 percent in India. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reports that in 1919 the average American had to work 158 minutes to buy a three-pound chicken; nowadays, 15 minutes gets you the bird. Americans spend less than 6% of their after-tax income on groceries, a figure so low they can afford to spend another 4% eating out.

Add to that fact that today a much smaller percentage of the food dollar goes to the farmer then used to. Look at how even the price to farmers is compared with the price to marketers over the past 40 years.

From Envirovore: On average, farmers and ranchers only receive 20 cents of every dollar that consumers spend on food.
Lays Classic potato chips: $3.79 = .08
One head of iceburg lettuce: $1.99 = .37
One pound top sirloin steak: $7.99 = .92
Pound of bacon: $3.29 = .55
Loaf of sliced bread (one pound): $2.99 = .17
One gallon skim milk: $3.99 = 1.55
Five pounds of flour: $2.89 = .86
Add to this the fact that farmers costs from seed and fuel to fertilizer and land are steadily rising every year. It is really no wonder why large operations are so scared of additional regulation which will require them to give their animals ore space. They simply do not have the profit margin to do so. Many have little or no profit at all, even after long days and high risks.

Large farmers in Ohio are in a catch 22. If legislation passes in Ohio which limits confinement livestock operations what will happen? Probably most consumers will not even register the blip, grocery stores will just buy their product from states that do not have those regulations and hundreds or thousands of Ohio farms will go quietly out of business. And the funny thing is, many of the same voters who will vote AGAINST cruel confinement animal operations will be shocked that now their normal eggs have doubled in price, and will happily change to the cheaper out of state product.

Still, I feel the solution is not Issue 2, but rather for all of us to realize the true cost of the food we eat, and the way it is raised/grown, and vote with our dollars. Maybe eat out a couple fewer times a month or buy less processed food and use the diffrence to support farmers and farming techniques we agree with.

(I know, probably to much to hope for...)

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