Hidden Cost of Food

Hidden cost refers to expenses that do not normally form part of a commodity or equipment. It includes expenses incurred on maintenance, supplies as well as improvements on the equipment or the commodity. Hidden costs are usually difficult to easily notice and, in so many occasions they have a very high tendency of getting unnoticed. The hidden cost of food include a variety costs for example the economic and social hidden costs which are due to poor quality control of food as well as lack of food security.

Firstly, in many occasions, a number of developing countries take lightly the importance of ensuring the availability of quality food that is safe for human consumption. This is usually as a result of lack of organizations constituted by consumers that are capable of acting as watch dogs on governments (Stovall, 123). This is contrary to what happens in developed countries where, such organizations have played a major role in the enhancement of national food security and quality control systems.

Obtaining food, normally involves a long process and, during these processes pollutions do occur. It is estimated that about 340 million tons of manure is formed after every year as a result of farming in the United States.  The mechanism of storage of this manure brings about decomposition (Rychel, 46). This in turn has lead to the emission of a variety of gases, some of which are hazardous. The gases include; hydrogen sulphide, methane and carbon dioxide among others. The adverse effects of all these hazardous gases, translates to costs of food that are hidden.

Water pollution

Water pollution in the agricultural industry also usually poses a number of negative effects.  To begin with, considerable environmental problems emerge, and then the many pollutants that result from farms are capable of making water unsafe for human consumption. Some nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen are used in plant growth. The excess runs off in water bodies where it contributes low oxygen content through the process known as `eutrophication’. Food, once produced at the place of production has to be transported to various localities where there is demand and need for consumption (Stovall, 142). Here there exists a hidden cost. That is the cost of the fuel used in the transportation of the food.

Food production as well as distribution requires a great amount of energy

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It is estimated to consume about ten percent of total energy used in the United States. In terms of calories, the current system shows that, three calories of energy are required to make one calorie of edible food on average. However, some foods even require more. All this still translate to costs that are hidden in food. This cost is accounted for by the industrial and processing practices which ensure that the food system is built. Other hidden costs in food could include: poor or lack of efficient practices of food growing, poor food processing techniques, inefficient storage methods as well as poor system of transportation of food products from the point of production to localities where it is demanded by consumers.

The processed food usually is transported to around the world majorly by air or shipped over the oceans and, in the process fossil fuel is consumed along these distances travelled. The combustion and consumption of these fossil fuels bring about the emission of pollutant gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide as well as other pollutant matters which find their way into the atmosphere. The effects of emission of pollutant gases and substances into the atmosphere, not only causes disease, which require money to treat the population of a given location, but also brings about climatic change globally such as causing acid rain. Fossil fuel is used to transport foods these long distances (Salander, 142). Combustion of the fuels release carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Another hidden cost is involved in the energy spent in the process of refrigeration which is needed in order to prevent fresh fruits, vegetables as well as meat and dairy products from going bad. This is because meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables shipped from distant countries to usually stay for about one to two weeks in transit before their arrival in the market places and shops where they again spend a few before they are purchased by consumers.

There are also hidden costs involved in industrial agriculture. This is because many countries around the world employ the use of highly specialized farming equipment, chemicals, fuel, pesticide as well artificial fertilizer that is derived from oil. The use of all these, usually has an adverse effect on the well being of the economy, environment as well as the social fabric.

A lot of industrial agriculture hidden costs are more often than not ignored when it comes to determination of productivity and, profit. As a result of this, there has been a steady increase in the cost of production of agricultural products more so at large scale production level.

The approaches used in food production also usually have a damaging effect to natural systems this is because the approaches uses large amounts of water, chemicals and energy .which pose long term effects which are adverse. Insecticides and herbicides that are toxic accumulate in both surface and ground waters and unmanageable heaps of produce a strange odor to the surrounding (Connors, 87). Poultry and livestock farming done to produce food taken as meat as well as their products, similarly adversely impacts on the surrounding environment. This results due to the chemicals used to treat them and, also the unpleasant odor emanating from their wastes to the environment and, not forgetting the cost that are also involved in feeding and treating of the livestock. As a result of this, the governments would have to spend highly on formulating as well as implementing policies that are meant to counteract the adverse effects. Other expenses and costs are also incurred in treating the illnesses caused by these adverse effects   that are hidden in the production process of food both from livestock as well as crops.

The hidden cost involved with negative effects of food production in industrial goes beyond just farms and fields. Compounds from nitrogen for instance contribute highly to degradation of coastal fisheries and, make it difficult for survival of aquatic life. There is a huge task in estimation of hidden costs in industrial food production which involves accounting for all the profits and expenses involved. This is usually so because of lack of proper understanding of the potential damages. In addition, there exist huge and indirect costs which are implicit in the steadily increasing energy needs as per industrial agriculture. They include, among others, unfavorable weather events, floods and droughts.

Hidden economic costs in genetically food crops

However, the data on this is yet to spread and, this makes it difficult for determination through economic calculation as well as estimation of actual cost. Most estimation therefore, base calculations on empirical evidence rather than concrete evidence. This is done without consideration of important factors such as segregation costs involved in agricultural food industry and also economic burden involved in measures of coexistence. There are also cases of occurrences of contamination incidents in the stages or the process of production of the genetically modified food crops (Salander, 85). These incidents are, more often than not, addressed insufficiently or even not addressed at all. Costs involved in genetically modified food crops are contributed to majorly by incidents of contamination, some of which have brought about disruptions in global trade and made farmers as well as business people to  experience huge loss that is worth billions of dollars. As if this is not enough, these incidents of contamination have left a lot of liability cases still in their pending state.

On such occasions, the governments are forced to take adequate measures in order to counteract market distortion as well as paying for costs of testing and control f the damage caused. Still under genetically modified food crops other costs involved are known as costs of co- existence in farming. This one may be unavoidable unless there is the introduction of completely different circumstances from the one currently existing in most countries. Like for instance under the current circumstances contamination of maize in most countries is in evitable. Co-existence leads to costs of a substantial amount for both genetically modified food crops farmers as well as non-genetically modified food crop farmers.

A case study about maize production Spain showed that hidden cost of food crop production resulting from economic and social negative effects of cultivation of genetically modified crops are massive and so for that reason, there has been a decline in production of organic maize and a wide variety of maize have ceased to exist and, are no longer planted due to contamination. Farmers whose crops were contaminated were compensated by the seed companies and this still demonstrates the effects of hidden costs in food crop farming since the seed companies had to bear the loss. This usually also has a socio economic effect when such like farmers are not compensated and the peaceful environment is then compromised when the farmers decide to retaliate (Sirageldin, 45). Again farmer who try various ways to keep away contamination still have to bear considerable costs since the mechanisms of prevention and protection against contamination are also costly. Many countries lack existing mandatory measures to help cut down the contamination of food crops which is globally widespread.

Hidden cost in encouraging locally produced food

The difficulty or problem affecting a more sustainable agricultural industrial food production is proper use of natural as well as social resources that are within reach. Agriculture need not necessarily give out food products by causing harm or adversely affecting the surrounding environment. Farmers are allowed to be productive and efficient in both farming and protection of natural endowments for posterity. Food crop production does not necessarily taken away from local areas especially the rural communities. This is so because manageable food crop production and farming which among other things require managerial skills, technical knowhow, as well as labor. If all this are obtained locally, it creates job opportunities for both people in the local areas as well as businesses with accessibility to the local areas.  This implies that a reasonable way to encourage locally produced food is to promote agricultural networks to local areas as well as communities.

People who are non farmers enhance their relationship with natural resources in three ways. These include; being involved in it by forming organizations as well as consuming the food (Van, 78). To begin with, they visit and get a close look at it, then they take a walk through it, they also take a bath inside it. As a result of this government are able to obtain considerable subsidies to farmers. The options that are usually taken during such visits, impacts on the supply of goods and services both directly through food production, as well as indirectly through landscapes.

The organizations they form and join make them feel as though they are actively in activities aimed at protecting and conserving the nature at local level and its values. Locally produced food ensures that the local residents as well as business people get the opportunities of forming organizations that have now become one of the largest membership corporations in countries that are industrialized. This is so due to the fact that it is an activity that takes place on a daily basis. Locally produced foods are also eaten on a daily basis and thereby shaping nature on a day to day basis. Food being a basic need and a necessity has to be produced and consumed. This encourages and enhances local food production system.

However there are no checks and balances in case of overconsumption and this brings about the aspect of hidden costs of some locally produced food types.

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