17 Aug 2010

Poll results -- fooding!

Hey! There's a new poll (roads and parks) to the right --->
When you buy food (meat, dairy or veggies), do you choose based on...
...lowest price 18%17
...subjective quality 82%80
97 votes total

So this question (and these answers) are interesting, because they go against the conventional wisdom of conventional agriculture, i.e., politicians and farmers who claim that "people want more, cheaper food."

I have two thoughts on this. First, the people who read this blog (and responded to this poll) are abnormal as far as their food purchases are concerned, or second, that the conventional wisdom is wrong.

While talking to Ron Bailey at PERC, I mentioned this poll. He said that organic food is a waste of money (see Penn and Teller here and here), but admitted that he and his wife buy "nicer food" because they can afford it. I see his point -- that we should not require that everyone pay lots for "boutique" food -- but I also see his inconsistency: If it's so great, why doesn't he eat the cheap stuff?*

I also think that Americans have different choices compared to (more regulated) Europeans and (too poor for mass ag) people in the developing world.**

It seems that our markets are dominated by cheap AND low quality food. (See Fast Food Nation, Food Inc, and my modest proposal of how to balance the food and financial budgets.) I'm not too pleased with that.

What do you think?

Bottom Line: You are what you eat. Do you know what that is?
* Damian's post on food-illness -- below -- shows up today by coincidence.
** I eat more vegetarian and organic in the US and more meat abroad. I'm not against eating meat -- I'm against bad meat, in quality or environmental impact.


  1. I think that better wording of the quiz would have disentangled a number of issues. For instance, lowest price is a subset of quality issues and I may eat cheap tuna but not cat food.

  2. Tuna is less expensive than lots of cat food. Tuna is very inexpensive, actually. Perhaps David, our economist, can explain why lots of cat food is more expensive than tuna

  3. I didn't answer the quiz because the wording was bad, and no option for what I buy, "objective quality."

    Your takeaway was skewed by the inappropriately-worded, too-limited options.

    Nor does the conventional wisdom of conventional agriculture say that people want lower quality food. I'm no conventional ag. guy, as you know, but I worked in it for 13 years, and I'll tell you that there are objective criteria for quality that impact food prices.

    You know much about water, but you need to do a tad more research on food and agriculture.

    Your "cheap and low-quality" comment is spot on, though.

  4. I can't answer your current quiz because I dont' understand the question. Did you maybe mean to say "De-fund"?

    Ron Bailey sounds like a massive hypocrite. Why should I pay any attention to PERC if they can't even recognize the disconnect between what they say and what they do?

    P&T are funny, but unreliable as analysts. I stopped watching after their idiotic episode on smoking.

    Why do you say the developing world is "too poor for mass ag?" I thought cheap food was THE benefit of mass ag, and therefore the developing world should be its greatest beneficiary... isn't that what PERC would claim?

  5. albionwood, the developing world is too poor for U.S. mass ag. because it cannot supply the subsidies needed to make it appear cheaper in the marketplace.

  6. In all of your surveys, I seem to vote with the pack. We buy certain food items "organic"--milk, coffee, and fresh produce. Organic meat is very HARD to find, and meat while good, isn't so necessarily good for you if it's full of hormones and antibiotics. Organic (fair trade) coffee claims to be better for the people in the country that grow it, and is shade grown to reduce deforestation. The best food is the food we produce ourselves--eggs, veggies, and the occasional chicken or turkey. We KNOW where it came from, what we fed it, and how it died. Buying some things organic and not others makes sense for us and our budget.


Read this first!

Make sure you copy your comment before submitting because sometimes the system will malfunction and you will lose your comment.

Spam will be deleted.

Comments on older posts must be approved (do not submit twice).

If you're having problems posting, email your comment to me