July 18, 2014

The Price (and Cost) of Cheeseburgers

The average cheeseburger price in the US is $4.49, but what is the cost of one? Mark Bittman explains the difference between the two and the implications in this interesting New York Times column: (via Khoi Vinh)

Almost everything produced has externalities. Wind turbines, for example, kill birds, make noise and may spin off ice. But cheeseburgers are the coal of the food world, with externalities in spades; in fact it’s unlikely that producers of cheeseburgers bear the full cost of any aspect of making them. If we acknowledge how much burgers really cost us we might either consume fewer, or force producers to pick up more of the charges or — ideally — both.

Our calculation of the external costs of burgers ranges from 68 cents to $2.90 per burger, including only costs that are relatively easy to calculate.

Related archive item: The American Grocery Bill — notice the inverse correlation in the chart I’ve put together in that piece. It was partly inspired from a show I had watched on the Discovery channel: The change in food expenses and that in healthcare spending were plotted on the same graph, which resulted in an almost perfect X” shape — one down, the other up.

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