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Mythbusting: Cheap Food Does Not Equal Higher Quality of Life

For decades, the federal government has watched idly while a few gigantic companies grabbed ever-greater control of the food industry. As big players gobble smaller ones, they concentrate power at the top of the food chain -- and apply relentless pressure to cut costs, giving rise to many of the things I hate about the food system. Workers, farmers, the environment, animals, public health -- all get abused so that mega-retailers like Walmart, meat producers like Smithfield, and corn processors like Cargill can keep costs down while profitably selling cheap food.

Well, in a sharp break from its predecessors, the Obama Justice Department is actually acknowledging the problem and contemplating actually doing something about it. The DOJ has been holding public meetings to let players in the food system air out thier views on the issue.

I will be very surprised -- and very pleasantly so -- if anything substantial comes of the exercise. But it's fascinating to watch it play out.

Over on Eclectic Edibles, blogger Shwankie found an interesting tidbit while watching the C-Span feed of recent hearings in D.C. Apparently, a representative from the Food Marketing Institute got to mouthing the food industry's main defense of consolidation: that it benefits U.S. consumers by allowing us to spend less on food as a percentage of income than the citizens of any other country in the world.

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