The economic model adopted by the United States is based firmly in the belief that the choices of the consumer controls which goods are produced. Businesses pay attention to consumer choices in the endless quest for increased profit. An endeavor is profitable because it meets the needs or wants of the consumers and they are willing to pay more than the costs associated with production. It is that extra premium known as a profit.
The primary belief is that the profit motive will naturally produce the best outcome for individuals and society as a whole. In many cases the premise is true. When dealing with externalities; however, there can be a disconnect with calculating the true cost of a good or service. An externality is created when a company does not pay for all costs of productions and someone else pays for it. For example, large commercial farming processes have created externalities related to healthcare costs. Healthcare costs are not often associated with food choices by the consumer; however, they are directly related. Consumer choice will eventually lead to positive changes in food production once the consumer realizes that mass produced food is not always a bargain.
Agriculture has come a long way in the United states. The productivity of farming has improved to a level where the amount of food produced by American farmers can feed the nation and have food to export. Some food producers; however, have been able to grow more crops using techniques that are not so beneficial to your health. Frequently pesticides and herbicides are used to reach maximum production levels. Mass production has achieved its goal of profitability, but there is a price to pay. Health problems are emerging in record levels, especially problems related to obesity. The American Heart Association claims that nearly 1 in 3 adults in the nation are obese. Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health puts the price tag for treating obesity related ailments at nearly $190 billion in 2005. The Brookings Institute attributes 7.5% of Florida’s Medicare spending in 2012 to obesity. More important than the economic cost is the risk to our health.
The American consumer is starting to make the connection with choosing food and health related problems and costs, but it is taking time for information to trickle down. Consumers need to consider not just the cost of the product they are shopping for, but the health costs they are bearing. Evaluating the real costs of their food choices and consumption includes the costs beyond the dollar cost of the purchase. It is up to the consumers to make the changes and wise choices for a better future. Fortunately, many farmers are stepping up to the plate, so to speak, and bringing healthier products back to the dinner table. Consumers have become concerned citizens and are fighting back with their choices. As consumers become aware of the risks associated by certain food production, consumers will inevitably move producers to provide healthy choices. The net result will be better health outcomes. This is the power of consumer choice.