One of of life’s great mysteries is why junk food is so much cheaper than unprocessed food. Almost everything we use is laden with oil or gas (as embedded energy). In fact its difficult to think of anything in modern life that isn’t oil dependent. Junk food or processed food is highly dependent on oil as is all food but even more so since its made in a factory packaged in plastic etc.
Its a very strange fact that has been highlighted again this week in a report that processed food is cheaper than fresh fruit and vegetables. What is even more surprising is that after the rise in oil prices in recent years the trend is getting more pronounced. Junk food is getting cheaper and fresh food is getting more expensive. Even more surprising is that this trend is not just in developed countries but also developing countries. In some of the major BRIC countries and South Korea the price of fruit and veg rose 91% over the period 1991-2012 and the price of junk food 20%. All this is having a devastating effect on health worldwide with a shocking 70% of Mexicans being overweight or obese.
As to why this price differential has opened up so much the reports explanations are unconvincing. One theory put forward on the news is the lack of seasonality in fresh vegetables. Since demand is met anytime from anywhere using long oil dependent supply lines this has pushed up the price of fresh food. What is certain though is we are sitting on a health timebomb that as the report ruefully states no country has found a solution for so far.