How The Food Industry Is Stacked Against Those Who Love Food

From Foodies to Farmers: here is one thing we have learned about our food system.

Posted on Jan 21, 2016 by Jack McCann
Tags: newsletter article member news

Foodies at Heart

When we started our farm, I was a really computer guy/business consultant by day and a foodie by night. We started this a hobby farm for us -- It had to be only a hobby farm because I traveled to California every week for work... there was no way to be a 'real' farmer... yet. 

You see, we started our farm because  we just wanted really good food.

  • Food raised on pasture.  
  • Food that was organic.  
  • Food that was like the kind which nourished my grandfather when he was a kid.   

We wanted food like that for our family and we couldn't find it anywhere. 

We had no idea about how the food industry we were about to become a part of worked. No idea how much of my food dollar was invested in the FOOD and how much was spent on the bureaucracy of the industrialized food system itself. 

We wanted to share the amazing differences we discovered in our food, so we turned our hobby farm into TC Farm. 

We view TC Farm as a cooperative of others who also care about their food. We figured out what it would cost to raise and deliver the food we loved so we could share it with others.  We didn't compare prices in the store, or run market surveys or hire a logistics consultant.  

What we learned

The industry is stacked against those of us who enjoy food. That's the main thing we learned. Every step of the way the industry marks up our food a fixed percentage. And the next person in line marks up their percentage. There is almost no consideration of the true cost to handle and distribute that product.

So lets imagine a farmer wants to raise a better product for you and invests $1 extra into the chicken you'll have for dinner. The middle-man will mark up that extra $1 and maybe charge $1.30 more to the grocery... then the grocery will in turn mark up that $1.30 and charge an extra $1.76 for the final product. No additional cost was incurred along the way for the middle man or the grocery, but the end product just wound up costing an extra $1.76 instead of the $1 it actually cost to make a better product. 

The result is a negative feedback loop -- where every penny invested into the food is compounded and winds up costing the consumer more than the value it creates. This effect makes the higher quality foods cost more than they actually would if the system was set up with a level playing field. 

This isn't the case in every grocery or every product, but this is representative of the industry. This effect (along with other ways higher quality is penalized in the system) is what I believe is the root cause of the low quality food generally available in our country. I never understood why my neighbor told me it was a great investment to put estrogen implants into his feedlot steers because it saved him four cents per pound of beef until I realized that four cents compounds to mean a lot more at the butcher counter. 

Why we are different

We don't worry about our 'mark up'.

We think: 'What can we do to lower delivery and logistic costs?'

We think: 'How can we increase the care provided to our animals?'

We think: 'What can better serve our fellow members?'

We invest more in food and less on marketing and logistics because we came to this as a consumer searching for better food to feed our family rather than as a producer looking for a higher margin marketing opportunity. 

So when you see that 'organic' chicken, pork or beef in the store and sometimes it seems cheaper, think of this graph and you'll know why ours is a better value.

When you look at every dollar you spend at TC Farm, you'll know that most of that is invested in the food itself.

We've continually been reducing our prices and today rolled out a new discount program for our members, up to 8% off!

Here is my best guess on how the graph looks when we compare TC Farm to a typical butcher counter:

What do you think?  

What TC Farm product is the most noticeably different? What part of being a member do you enjoy the most? This is your chance to give people on the fence a chance to peek behind the curtain and get the real skinny on your experience as a member... 

Comments (2)

  1. Jenn:
    Jan 22, 2016 at 09:03 AM

    I believe that the bacon, alone, puts True Cost Farm far and above the rest. I also find that I'm eating less red meat because I'm savoring every morsel that I get from my delivery. It's no longer acceptable to purchase sub-par meet from the grocery store because of the flavor alone. There truly IS a difference in the quality! And I'm loving the recipes and the new sous chef idea. Plus, you help me keeps better focus on what I'm eating, so thank you for all of the hard work and effort you put in to True Cost. This member thinks it's totally worth the slightly higher cost for the huge gains in value!

  2. Jack McCann:
    Jan 22, 2016 at 02:22 PM

    Thanks for the kind words! I can relate -- once we knew what better was, we couldn't go back. I'd rather eat less higher quality food than lots of unfulfilling calories. Thank YOU for the support!

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