Industries in Depth

The true cost of food is three times what Americans pay for it

A table full of foods of every kind.

Human health was the greatest driver of hidden food costs by far at $1.1 trillion. Image: Unsplash/Christopher Williams

Niall McCarthy
Data Journalist, Statista
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Industries in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Agriculture, Food and Beverage is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Agriculture, Food and Beverage

  • The cost of food and the expense to human health/ the environment has been released by the Rockefeller Foundation.
  • Whilst the current national expenditure is around $1.1 trillion, the true cost of food is predicted to be closer to $3.2 trillion.
  • That's when you include the human health implications, like cancer and diabetes, as well as the cost on the environment and biodiversity.

The Rockefeller Foundation has released a new report which has found that Americans are only paying a third of their food's true value. The research states that total U.S. food expenditure comes to an estimated $1.1 trillion each year, including production, processing and retail and wholesale costs while excluding post-retail costs like food service, preparation and disposal. The level of expenditure rises dramatically when hidden factors absent from the retail price are brought into the equation. Such costs include human health complications, biodiversity loss, enviornmental impact and the effects of the economy. Collectively, they add an estimated $2.1 trillion, bringing the true cost of food to $3.2 trillion annually.

Human health was the greatest driver of hidden food costs by far at $1.1 trillion. Taking direct medical costs attributable to diet and productivity loss into account, obesity resulted in $359 billion in costs while further health complications like hypertension, cancer and diabetes added up to a further $600 billion. The report states that "understanding the true cost of the food we consume is a first and necessary step towards remaking the incentive structure that drives our food system today and, ultimately, transforming it". It also adds that the problem "disproportionately burdens people of color who are more likely to suffer from diet-related diseases, have less access to water and sanitation, and often work in food production jobs for less than a living wage".

Have you read?
The true cost of food is three times what Americans pay for it.
Human health was the greatest driver of hidden food costs by far at $1.1 trillion. Image: Statista
Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Industries in DepthFood and WaterHealth and Healthcare Systems
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

The energy transition could shift the global power centre. This expert explains why

Liam Coleman

June 4, 2024

1:50

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum