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Paying for Food

 
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Mats
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Jul, 2008 10:50 am    Post subject: Paying for Food Reply with quote

For most of my life I have spent much time searching for the lowest possible cost for all goods that I want or need. I began to think about this approach last week when I went shopping in a newly opened store in our neighbourhood which sells only foods produced in our province. I bought a small bag of local peanuts which cost more than double than the same nuts grown in China and shipped here. I felt a bit of a fool at the time; I was not behaving as a "rational man" (basis of economic models). Then I read about the farm producing these nuts.
It was run by a couple who wanted a lifestyle similar to my own. It made me think "Why should I expect this couple to live as peasants to produce cheap food for me?" - that is immoral. I'm not ready to abandon "market economies" but I am ready to pay "fair wages".



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David
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Jul, 2008 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My initial instinct is often to go for the cheapest goods available but my wife usually reminds me "You only get what you pay for". This week I have bought a pair of Italian shoes for about triple the price I could have paid for an almost identical pair made in Indonesia. The cheap pair would probably have fallen apart after a year but the expensive ones will probably last a decade. It's easier when buying food though, the cheapest supermarket bread or chickens, or imported strawberries, for example, are just vile.
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Mats
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Jul, 2008 1:32 pm    Post subject: Even though Reply with quote

David, if foods are of the same quality and the cheaper product is only cheaper because the labour portion of the cost is so low (being produced in the Third World), would you ever choose the more expensive version because you believe all people should be as well off as you are????



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ejm
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Jul, 2008 9:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Even though Reply with quote

MEF wrote:
I'm not ready to abandon "market economies" but I am ready to pay "fair wages".


This is an interesting slant on this, MEF. I have been wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth about the fact that local produce is pretty much twice the price of imported produce. And local organic produce is considerably higher in price.

I'm not entirely convinced that the prices are being set to "what is fair" rather than "what the market will bear". I still think that more people would embrace the idea of buying organic produce (which can only be good for the environment) if they felt it was affordable. At this point, local produce is pretty much a luxury item.

I overheard the following at our local weekly farmers' market just beside a stall where they were selling bunches of 4or5 radishes - beautiful looking radishes - for $3 a bunch (the vegetable stores about two blocks away were selling bunches of 10or15 Ontario radishes - beautiful looking radishes - for $1.50 a bunch).

"How are things going?"
"Slow! I guess it's because it's cloudy today."


Not wanting to antagonize them, I chose not to start a riot by suggesting that if they lowered their prices to a little closer to cost rather than charging what they think a few rich people might pay, they would sell everything at their stall and probably make the same amount of money, promote goodwill, and guarantee that the next week their stall would be mobbed with people begging to buy their wares.

I don't know how much they have to pay for their licences - it must be considerably lower than rent for a retail space, but if they sell out week after week, even by selling at slightly lower prices, might they not be making a fair wage?

Or am I just being naive?



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Lawless in Lotusland
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PostPosted: Tue 15 Jul, 2008 12:17 am    Post subject: Re: Even though Reply with quote

MEF wrote:
I'm not ready to abandon "market economies" but I am ready to pay "fair wages".


I'm with MEF on the ethics of things. But it's quite challenging to know how to purchase ethically. I'm more and more uncomfortable buying cheap stuff from China or other places where the labour conditions and wages are deplorable. But there are some countries that have made considerable improvements in their labour conditions - as consumers how can we tell?

It's getting a bit easier to make ethical investments - most investment companies are now paying attention to this, rather than dismissing the would-be ethical investors as nut-cases. About ten years ago, I insisted to my partner that we change our investment counsellor because she was patronizing and dismissive of these concerns. And surprise, surprise, it's turning out that the investors are not taking a bath on ethical investments as many predicted!

Consumer pressure appears to work.... do we really think Tiffany (and some others) would refuse to deal with Myanmar gems if the customers were not making noises? (But I don't want to be unfair... perhaps the board of this company did this independently of world pressure?) And would some clothing companies have started inspecting foreign plants if concerned teenagers and young adults and others had not started writing letters?

EJM wrote:
I'm not entirely convinced that the prices are being set to "what is fair" rather than "what the market will bear"


Yes, this is a bit dodgy, isn't it? You go to someone who looks quite counter-culture and they are selling lovely veggies. Does this mean they are competent and ethical business persons? Does it mean they are selling at a fair price?

We have some farmers' markets that are good and affordable -- the Saturday markets in several locations in and around our city in Lotus Land, for example. Other "farmers markets" are outrageously expensive and I really wonder whether the extra money is going to any local or other farmers!

Well, no real answers here... but I really appreciate this discussion started by MEF.



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edit: Discussion about this "Paying for Food" topic continues in the thread entitled
What Do We Owe? -ejm



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Mats
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PostPosted: Tue 15 Jul, 2008 5:56 pm    Post subject: Store that got me thinking Reply with quote

Here is the website of the store that got me thinking http://www.culinarium.ca/


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edit: Discussion about this "Paying for Food" topic continues in the thread entitled
What Do We Owe? -ejm



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