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What's the cost of cheap food?

What's the cost of cheap food?

Many consumers don't realize how their buying habits directly affect our domestic food supply. In Canada we're one of the first western nations to reach  Food Freedom Day , the day the average Canadian has earned enough to pay his or her entire year’s grocery bill, including alcohol.

Food Freedom Day in Canada

In 2022,  Food Freedom Day  fell on February 8th in Canada, only 39 days into the New Year and averaged about 10% of a person’s annual income. For many people cheap food is a reason to celebrate, who can’t use more dollars in their pocket?

But not everyone is jumping for joy. In the last 30 years, how we eat has changed dramatically. Ready-to-eat value-added meals have become the norm. We're all so busy keeping up with our day-to-day lives that we don’t want to stop and prepare a scratch meal. But how does this affect our food system?

How Cheap Food Affects the Alberta Family Farm

If you weren’t aware, most of the prepared foods that you purchase, whether they're mainstream or organic, are all owned by a handful of  multinational corporations . These massive companies have one primary goal, to make profits and keep their shareholders happy. To gain market share they must be competitive in the retail marketplace. "The lowest price is the law" or "lowest prices guaranteed" are part of a cheap food policy used to attract consumers to their big box stores. These corporations don't decrease their profit margins to be competitive, instead they pay lower prices for the agricultural commodities like grain, livestock or vegetable crops, that make up their product ingredients. These commodities are traded internationally and force Canadian producers to compete in a global marketplace that's not a level playing field. How can an Alberta rancher compete with a rancher in South America or Australia when they often have expensive winter feed costs? Unfortunately, Canadian farmers have little leverage and as a result are often paid less than their costs of production.

It’s cheaper to raise 100,000 chickens in a barn

As a direct result of this cheap food policy, most farm and ranch families have either one or both spouses  working off the farm  to make ends meet. Imagine working an 8 hour day only to come home and have to work several more hours to get the chores done. Not to mention weekends and vacations spent planting crops, calving, haying or a whole host of other jobs. In agriculture this has become a reality and its fallout has far reaching consequences. Very few farm and ranch families have children that want to stay on the farm. They've grown up watching their parents sacrifice and struggle financially to keep the farm going and don’t want to carry on the legacy. We're in a serious crisis in Canada and the graying of our farming population is upon us. The  average age  of farmers in Canada in 2021 was 58. Farm closures and auctions are increasing at an alarming rate and what does this mean for our food supply? It means that fewer farms and ranches will remain and those that do will get bigger and more intensified to meet market demand. As producers are squeezed to decrease their costs of production, more and more will adopt the factory farming model to make ends meet. It’s cheaper to raise 100,000 chickens in a barn than 2,000.

In the United States, large corporate farms account for 92% of all hog production and 96% of all poultry production. During the grain finishing process, between 80 and 90 percent of cattle production is concentrated in less than 5 percent of the nation’s feedlots ( read more at farmandranchfreedom.org ). Canadian production models are very similar to the US and if our numbers aren't already there, we're headed in that direction fast. Putting all of our eggs into the factory farming basket is not secure, we need to diversify if we're to build stable farming communities.

Is the food monopoly secure?

All you have to do is look back to 2020 when Covid 19 forced the  closure of Cargill . Almost immediately there were supply chain shortages resulting in empty grocery store store shelves. This is because Cargill is  one of only three companies  that supply 85% of the meat sold in Canada. On TK Ranch we're very concerned about the security of our food system. If we can't entice family farms to stay in business there's a real threat that multinational corporations will get bigger and control our food system even more. When almost all of the foods that we eat are manufactured by only a few multinational corporations, how can we as Canadians feel our food supply is secure? These monopolies threatens our ability as consumers to choose the foods we want because they might not be able to compete in a global economy. Small family farms provide alternatives to this monopoly and the only way to make change it is to ensure we have diverse and healthy farming communities.

When you buy locally raised and processed products you're voting with your dollars for change! This helps secure a healthy future for our rural and urban communities.

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