Last night I made a beautiful salad for dinner. I felt like eating something fresh and delicious that was vibrant with colour and bursting with nutrients.
It was delectable. It was also shockingly expensive.
And it made me angry. Sure I like the odd craft beer, cold brew coffee and truffle-infused omelette with a side of smoked salmon, but generally I am not someone with fringe dietary requirements and I am not someone who falls for food trends – you won’t find nut butter or macro organic quinoa, or almond flour in my pantry.
But I do believe we should eat food as close to its natural state as possible. And I do believe we need a variety of fresh, nutritious foods. And yes, we should be eating ethically as far as we possibly can. And I do believe we should use first principles when cooking and avoid processed, ready-made meals, sauces and dressings containing ingredients with names like polyoxyethylene-(20)-sorbitan monostearate (an emulsifier used to substitute for dairy products, in case you were wondering).
But guess what? We’re being punished for it. My grocery bill is sky high.
So it got me thinking, how are low-income families supposed to make healthy food choices? With food prices already so high, how are poor people supposed to buy nutrient rich, healthy food that isn’t loaded with excess carbs and sugar and sodium and trans fat? And it's not just here. I mean, in some countries a Happy Meal is cheaper than a head of cauliflower! Consider the following list:
-Coconut oil (R69) vs sunflower oil (R14)
-Butter (R42) vs margarine (R13)
-Pasture chicken (R50 per kg) vs grain-fed chicken (R28 per kg)
-Kale (R25) vs Iceberg lettuce (R14)
-Salmon (R270 per kg) vs hake (R45 per kg)
-Mussels (R120 per kg) vs fish fingers (R56)
-Vegetable juice (R20) vs fizzy drinks (R8)
-Steak (R130 per kg) vs polony (R29 per kg)
-Quinoa (R100 per 500gm) vs white rice (R8 per 500gm)
-Tinned soup (R25) vs soup powder (R4)
Overall spend: R851 vs R219
You’ll notice that the food items in the left hand column are vastly superior in terms of its nutritional value and taste. But we can see that it’s also vastly more expensive.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Mass produced, battery farmed, hormone grown, pesticide sprayed, artificially flavoured, sugar-laden, trans-fat containing foods are cheaper and more readily available than their healthier, more ethical alternatives. And it’s killing people. Especially poor people.
How is that okay?