How To Win About 1000 Arguments in One Simple Chart

According to the US Public Interest Research Group (as cited by the Huffington Post), a huge majority of produce subsidies go to the manufacture of artificial sweeteners and junk food.

According to the study, a whopping $17 billion of the total $260 billion the government spent subsidizing agriculture went to just four common food addititives: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils. By comparison, the government spent just $261 million subsidizing apples,

and far less still supporting fruits and vegetables, like spinach, broccoli and blueberries, that public health experts say encourage better health.

They go on to say,

This is a key factor that makes junk food [cheaper] than healthy food — and, by extension, that makes many Americans obese.

Umm… Duh?

And while that’s shocking enough, here’s a pretty awesome chart I found a while back:

Look at this: Nearly 85% of all food subsidies go to meat, dairy, oils, starches and alcohol, whereas less than half of a percent go to fruits and vegetables. Do you want to know why we have an obesity epidemic? Want to know why apples are more expensive than twinkies? Want to explain McDonald’s dollar menu? Here you go.

I once was chided as a conspiracy theorist because my response to the (extremely tired) argument of “healthy food is too expensive,” was that unhealthy food was not inherently cheaper, but it was just heavily subsidized. This isn’t a conspiracy. Look at the chart.

So the next time a haughty-taughty Michael Pollan worshiper tries to tell you that vegetarianism is not accessible across class-lines, tell them to look at the chart. The next time your coworker tells you “vegetarianism works for you, but not all of us can afford organic arugula every night,” tell them to look at the chart. The next time your school lunch person gets mad because they can’t afford to include vegetarian options, tell them to look at the chart. The next time your Tea Party Uncle calls you a socialist hippy for not eating meat, tell him to look at the chart.

The problem isn’t the food. It’s the policy. It’s something we can (theoretically) change.

About Ian

The guy who cooks the food. The guy who writes the words.
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2 Responses to How To Win About 1000 Arguments in One Simple Chart

  1. IndyAlex says:

    Found you from FB. Dig the blog.

    That chart is wild. I’m surprised fruit and veg are so low… unless they included corn with the grains because it’s more of a grain nutritionally? And put some of the corn with sugar because of corn syrup…?

    And honest to goodness, I can (and sometimes do) feed my spouse and I vegan meals for a week for $50 or less. Beans, rice, and canned and frozen veggies are waaaay cheap (even without all the great subsidies given to meat and dairy products).

    • Ian says:

      Thanks, Alex!

      I don’t know the specifics, but there are two major factors that I wish there was more information regarding this chart:
      1. Do the grain subsidies include grains used to make cattle feed? If so, that’s an even higher form of cheaply subsidizing animal food industries.
      2. To what extent are the subsidized grains used to make corn syrup, rice sugar, etc? If that’s the case, once again, we are heavily subsidizing more junk food production, as the Huffington Post article suggests.

      Also- this is a later blog post- vegan food is cheap. Certainly there are some specialty foods that are of limited demand and, thus, are more expensive, but yeah. lentils, rice, beans, and leafy greens are really cheap.

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