“When you buy cheap food, the real costs have been externalized. Those externalized costs have always included labor. It is only the decline over time of the minimum wage in real dollars that’s made the fast food industry possible, along with feedlot agriculture, pharmaceuticals on the farm, pesticides and regulatory forbearance. All these things are part of the answer to the question: Why is that crap so cheap? Our food is dishonestly priced. One of the ways in which it’s dishonestly priced is the fact that people are not paid a living wage to process it, to serve it, to grow it, to slaughter it.”
-Michael Pollan,Journalist Michael Pollan has written several thought-provoking books about our society's policies and attitudes toward food and eating. He is the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008), The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006) and The Botany of Desire (which as been made into a PBS documentary). Pollan is also a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine.
In an interview with Amy Dean of Truthout (reprinted by Moyers and Co.), Pollan addressed equitable food pricing, farm worker rights and industrial agriculture’s role in casting the food movement as elitist. In the interview, Dean asked Pollan about the arguments from opponents of fair wages, who claim that increased farm worker pay will result in higher food prices.
“That argument has been used to thwart all kinds of reform in the food industry,” Pollan replied. “If we clean up our act, in any way, we’re going to have to pay more at the register. There’s a kernel of truth. If you raised the price of wages to people in the food industry to, say, $15 an hour in fast food, no doubt it would add to prices — although the claims of how much it would add to prices are exaggerated. However, those people would be able to afford more. That’s why we need to pay people more so they can afford it. There’s a virtuous circle of paying people more so that they can afford better stuff.” Read full piece on Truthout and on Moyers and Co.
Below is Part 1 of an interview of Pollan on Bill Moyers Journal, which aired in 2008. Part 2 will follow in a separate post.