Why Are Salads More Expensive Than Burgers?

Is it just me or are healthy meals (salads mostly) starting to get more expensive than cholesterol-coated hamburgers?

In Makati, for example, finding a salad that go for less than a normal rice meal can be more stressful than you day’s workload. There’s this kiosk in The Galleon (Paseo de Roxas) where for around Php70, you get three chicken wings and a cup of rice. But when you scoot over to the nearby Wendy’s stall, you need to pay double that price for a salad. I mean, what’s up with that? Shouldn’t veggies and all things organic be, uh, cheaper? They’re practically the cheapest to nurture–no vitamins, no feeds or whatever. These are also the most viable goods in the Philippines.

Wendy’s used to be my go-to place for a salad lunch. That was, of course, months ago. Back when their prices haven’t taken the great big swell. A Big Chicken Caesar Salad go for Php145 these days. It’s Php2 more expensive than their Big Classic (with Cheese) meal–Php143. The latter already comes with fries and soda! With that, I don’t even wonder why younger people are dying of heart diseases.

A New York Times article published way back in 2007 (see they’ve been troubled by this years ago too!) explaining why this (sort of) imbalance persists. This, however, discusses the American farm bill. But I do think this somehow still applies to us since we’re practically patterning our lives after them Americans.

That’s because the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow. 

Locally, dealers may be factoring in labor and transportation costs into the equation, making them more expensive. Add to that the fact that our weather can be a little moody too. While one cannot really argue on that matter, it just sucks for people striving to eat healthy and turn their lifestyles around. How can you friggin’ do that when a BigMac is cheaper than a salad at Wendy’s?!

As a rule, processed foods are more “energy dense” than fresh foods: they contain less water and fiber but more added fat and sugar, which makes them both less filling and more fattening. These particular calories also happen to be the least healthful ones in the marketplace, which is why we call the foods that contain them “junk.” Drewnowski  concluded that the rules of the food game in America are organized in such a way that if you are eating on a budget, the most rational economic strategy is to eat badly — and get fat.

We’re eating based on how thick our wallets are. I mean, even in food there is that great social divide?! Sheesh. I just hope more people eat with their well-being in mind (while minutely considering the limits of their daily budget, of course). Then again, if you can buy two heart attack-inducing burgers and only one salad for the similar cost, I get it why many people would go for the former.

I can only think of two alternatives–ride on the lard bandwagon or grow my own greens in my nonexistent garden/backyard/pots right? 😀 Kidding aside, I do bring my own veggies to work when my free time permits. I peel, dice and slice carrots. Liv calls me a rabbit when I walk into the pantry carrying my mini carrot container. Talk about being resourceful (and a cheapo)! Haha! 🙂




Photo credit: Image: Piyachok Thawornmat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • paul

    check out the documentary food matters. theres a part in it about what you wrote and about and yun nga, burgers/fast food are mass produced most of the time with little regard to quality, hence cheaper.. while everything healthy and grown properly takes time and more money is spent..

    • Alright, I’ll try to see that docu. Thanks for the tip Paul! 🙂