According to an image created with information from the World Bank and U.S. Department of Agriculture, posted on the Gates Foundation’s 2012 Annual letter, Americans on average spend only six percent of their annual income on food, a smaller proportion than any other country in the world (http://www.gatesfoundation.org/who-we-are/resources-and-media/annual-letters-list/annual-letter-2012). According to Daniel Wesley’s article “100 Years of Consumer Spending” for Credit Loan Visual Economics, consumer spending on food was at least forty percent in 1901 (http://visualeconomics.creditloan.com/100-years-of-consumer-spending/)
While this has much to do with the technological farming innovations of the 1970s and the rise of agribusiness, all of which are productive advancements of our country, it has left us with negative externalities as well.
Alyssa Battistoni explores the downsides of the revolution of the food industry in her article for MotherJones titled “America Spends Less on Food Than Any Other Country.” She explains that the United States has shifted from small family farms, to large farms with a goal of producing the most calories for the least amount of money. These cheaply produced calories tend to be the most unhealthy, leading to rising rates of obesity, unsafe food, and underpaid employees in the food industry (http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/01/america-food-spending-less).
Sarah Wolfe writes in her article for The Week titled “Why Americans spend less of their income on food than any other country” that the disparity of income proportion spent on food is so great between America and other countries that even the second lowest country, Singapore, is at 7.3 percent, a full percentage point higher than the U.S. (http://theweek.com/articles/446652/americans-spend-less-income-food-than-other-country). Yes, some of this disparity can be attributed to America being a wealthier country overall, but a greater majority has to do with the way the food is produced.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, the United States has the highest purchasing power parity (GDP) of any country in the world. The United States is also the eighteenth most obese country in the world (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2228rank.html). Having the freedom to explore efficient but HEALTHY food production options should be one of the benefits of being a wealthy country. It is time for Americans to take the initiative to find the middle ground between the pre-1970s farming methods and the destructive practices of today’s agribusiness culture. What good is it to be so wealthy? If we cannot make productive and healthy choices and innovations, we will not be around to see what else we can innovate and revolutionize as a country.