The Commodity Compromise

In life, one always has to choose between quantity and quality. If your goal is to obtain an item of the highest possible quality, then it doesn’t matter how much you get. Like a sample of uranium. When it’s quality you’re after, it doesn’t matter whether you end up with a microgram or a kilogram. The issue of its purity is not negotiable, so the amount is secondary. But when it’s quantity you seek, it doesn’t matter whether the end result is purity or perfidy, perfect or problematic.

America eats a commodity-based diet that is founded on soy, wheat and corn. Whenever you eat commodities (soy, wheat corn), you choose to eat something whose worth is measured in quantity rather than quality. It’s not the soy, the wheat, or the corn itself. It’s how we grow it, and the compromises made to generate the largest crop.

A company seeking to maximize profits can do so by charging more for its products, and that happens all the time. But there is another way to increase profits, and that is by reducing the cost of the raw materials imported to make those products. Lowering costs will also raise profits. The reason that there are so many items at the supermarket made with soy, wheat and corn is that these items can all be purchased below their actual cost. Pair this with billion dollar marketing budgets, and you’ve created a perfect strategy for a money-making machine.

Why are commodities available below cost? Commodities are subsidized by the federal government. The difference between their purchase price and their actual cost is transferred to other industries, like medical care and pharmaceutical industries, to name two. I have nothing against profits, but not at the expense of your health. For one thing, it causes suffering. For another, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. By age 65, which is when we all become eligible for Medicare, if you’re not already sick, that’s often when you begin to develop some of the really serious diseases caused by a lifetime of drive-up windows and cellophane-wrapped cakes and cookies. So first we pay by subsidizing the crop. And then we pay by underwriting the costs of the medical consequences. This is not a pretty (or sustainable) picture.

Why does “fast food” have such a negative effect on your health? “Fast” food is made almost entirely from commodities, like white flour, corn starch, sugar, soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil and other manufactured fats. “Fast food” is a product that cost much less to produce than its actual value. Some of the cost savings is transferred to the consumer (which is how you end up with a burger that cost just ninety-nine cents), and some of the savings is transferred to the marketing budget, and some to the president and other employees, but much is transferred — invisibly — to other, entirely unrelated industries.

When you choose commodity-based eating, you are choosing quantity over quality. And you get what you pay for. Because the items don’t actually cost less, their costs are simply shifted to other industries, like medical care, pharmaceuticals, and environmental costs. You actually pay for the privilege of eating commodities by spending those dollars elsewhere. And don’t kid yourself — the costs are sky high.

Heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, ADD, and a reduced quality of life are practically guaranteed. To be overweight is to be malnourished, to be fueled with poor quality items. It’s hard to look like, feel like, work like or be your best self when you don’t feel well. My recommendation? Eat food, and stay away from commodities.

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