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Thread: Fast food vs Home made page

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    source99's Avatar
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    Fast food vs Home made

    2 Interesting viewpoints on the discussion. Interested in your thoughts?

    Article in favor of Home made food - http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/op...y-cheaper.html

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    Response about how Fast food really is cheaper.

    On Sunday, September 25, 2011 the New York Times published an article by Mark Bittman titled “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” In the article, the author implies that the obesity issue in the United States is due primarily to fast food restaurants and the way they market food to consumers. In addition, he contends that “junk” food is actually an addictive product, in the same way that tobacco is. He recommends a slew of government regulations and price controls to correct this issue, modeled in part on the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. In Bittman’s ideal world, market forces would not apply to the pricing and availability of food. Instead, the government would use regulations, tariffs and price controls to manipulate the food choices you make, whether you cook for yourself or eat out, and how much it will cost. This is necessary, according to Bittman, because regular folks can’t be trusted with making these seemingly mundane decisions on their own.

    To start, let me first reveal that I have a financial interest in fast food. My wife is associated with a national quick-serve restaurant chain. I’m a shareholder of McDonald’s and other fast-food companies. If you work in a job that has a pension (like a teacher, firefighter, or policeman), you are a shareholder of these businesses as well. Likewise, if you have any diversified stock market investments (a mutual fund held in an IRA or 401k, for example), you are also a shareholder. I mention this because it’s important to remember who the stakeholders actually are – not a faceless organization, but regular people who work regular jobs, pay their taxes, and are able to put a little away each year to help secure their future. It should be noted that Bittman himself has a financial interest in selling you on his books and website that describe healthful ways to cook at home. That sounds like an admirable business, but it did not go unnoticed that this conflict of interest for some reason went unmentioned in his article.

    There’s another group of stakeholders as well. You may not be aware, but nearly all fast food chains are franchised. This means that the individual stores are not owned by a parent corporation or stockholders, but by individual small business owners. Examples of franchised restaurants include McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and KFC. These restaurants are owned and managed by entrepreneurs who live and work in their communities, and give back to those communities in numerous ways that you won’t read about in the New York Times. They provide entry level, mid-level, and high level jobs to local employees that don’t require college degrees or advanced training to obtain. These are good jobs with real upside and growth potential, where store managers can make $70,000 a year or more including benefits. If one of your goals as a consumer is to support local business, your neighbors, and your community, one way you can do that is by patronizing your local fast food restaurant.

    Bittman’s main argument is that food cooked at home is cheaper and healthier than fast food. He implies that bad food choices are made at fast food restaurants, whereas good food choices are made in the supermarket. Really? Isn’t it possible that bad food choices could be made at the supermarket, and good food choices could be made at a fast food restaurant? Well, there are both good and bad food options at the supermarket, everyone knows that. But guess what, in addition to indulgent food, there are plenty of healthy food choices available at fast food restaurants as well. For years, McDonald’s, the subject of Bittman’s offensive, has offered healthy options like salads, grilled chicken, calorie-free drinks, yogurt, milk, oatmeal, and fruit. Fast food restaurants need to compete for consumer’s dollars, and one way they do that is by offering customers a wide variety of choices at a value price.

    The next argument presented is that fast food is significantly more expensive than food bought at the supermarket and cooked at home. Bittman tries to show this by comparing the price of a family meal at McDonald’s to the price of the raw ingredients of a meal made at home. In this analysis, he distorts both the cost of a fast food meal and the costs of a meal at home. You can probably guess which way. He claims the cost of a typical family meal at McDonalds is $28, whereas a healthy meal prepared at home costs only $14. The truth is that judicious ordering of value items at McDonalds will yield a smorgasbord of food for under $20. On this budget at a typical NJ location, you could purchase 4 McDouble cheeseburgers ($1 each), 4 small sodas ($1.19 each), 4 small fries ($1 each) and 20 chicken McNuggets ($4.99), a total of $18.99 including 7% sales tax. So his cost estimate is at least 40% higher than the true value that fast food can offer. But what about the meal at home for $14? Is that realistic? Let’s have a look.

    Bittman’s meal at home for $14 includes milk ($1.49), salt and pepper (5 cents), olive oil (55 cents), bread (75 cents), potatoes ($2.98), lemon (50 cents), chicken ($5.96) and lettuce ($1.50). He calls the meal “chicken, potatoes and salad for four”. Really? His salad is chopped lettuce and olive oil. Have you ever eaten a salad like that? That certainly wouldn’t pass for a salad at a restaurant. Restaurant salads usually include croutons, onions, cheese, olives, and tomatoes. And a plain baked potato? He offers no condiments for that, either. The chicken includes no gravy or dressing. Does this sound like a realistic meal? Bittman also excludes the necessary costs of producing this meal, namely energy (gas and electricity), soap and cleaning products, cookware, and spoilage costs. And of course, he values your labor at $0. Here’s the truth: the real cost of this meal at home is $20, and that’s If you cook it yourself and clean up as well. Let’s also not forgot that a healthy meal including salad, a baked potato, and grilled chicken can easily be purchased at a fast-food restaurant (Wendy’s comes to mind). And they’ll even include some condiments to make it enjoyable.

    Perhaps Bittman’s most audacious contention is that “junk” food is an addictive product, just like cigarettes. This “addictive substance” label is important for his cause, because it’s the justification for the solutions he proposes. But there’s a small problem standing in his way: There has never been an accepted academic study published that shows that fast-food is addictive. This is in contrast to tobacco, which has been shown time and again to be a highly addictive substance in numerous scientific studies. Is there even a worthwhile comparison here?

    What is Bittman really after? Plenty, as it turns out. He has two main goals for the industry, as follows:

    First, Bittman proposes that fast-food advertising become government regulated. He implies that fast-food companies, instead of advertising their product, should be required to provide disincentive advertising, just like tobacco companies in their campaigns against childhood smoking. He also demands that fast food advertising be exempt from freedom of speech laws. In his view, such speech shouldn’t be free because it is really “behavior manipulation of addictive substances.” Interestingly, he fails to provide any direct support for this claim. The best he can do is an oblique reference to a study that compares “junk” food to addictive substances. Importantly, this study does not conclude that “junk” food is addictive. Is that a surprise to anyone?

    Second, Bittman wants “junk” food makers to be “forced to pay the true costs of production”. What this means is that in Bittman’s view, the retail price of “junk” food needs to skyrocket. This could be done with taxes, above market wages for food service personnel or a myriad of other market controls imposed by the government. This is an interesting view, given that Bittman’s initial proposition was that fast food was already significantly more expensive than cooking at home. Perhaps he’s acutely aware that it isn’t. The argument here is apparently that capitalism is working too well. The value that fast food provides is allowing even low-wage workers the freedom to enjoy some down time and a meal out with their families. His proposal would put a firm stop to that.

    The author is silent on how this program would be imposed and regulated, but it would obviously have to be done by a government body. My suspicion is that the implementation would be so bloated and unpalatable sounding that he’s afraid to mention it until he gets more support for his cause. Can you imagine what such a government body would look like? How would they define “junk” food? Would politicians be able to secure carve-outs to protect manufacturers in their home districts? How would the costs (both direct and indirect) be accounted for? Who would be accountable? Would minors be prevented from purchasing “unhealthy” foods? And given the recession, could there possibly be a worse time to stymie business growth with unnecessary regulation and government interference in the free market?

    Bittman obviously has an agenda. It’s that regular folks can’t make even simple choices about what to eat on their own. He feels the best answer is for government to force better choices on people through regulation and market interference. This time, he makes his case by going after McDonald’s and other fast food providers. But make no mistake, regulating fast food isn’t the end for Bittman, it’s merely the first step of an entire salvo of government food regulations. And wouldn’t you know, this plan would create a real boon for Bittman and his business interests. Just something to think about!

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    Are you the author of the response?

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    No. A close friend is. She preferred not to be named.

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    the value menu at McDonalds is certainly cheap fast food
    What's shocking tho is how much cheaper it is when compared against even the rest of McDonalds own offerings
    Comparing their cheapest & second cheapest "chicken" burger is stunning ($4~ for a McChicken, $1.39 for a Jr Chicken)
    Anyone foolish enough to pay for the 'full sized" burger gets less than 25% more meat protein for nearly 3x the price (and neither burger comes with tomatoes)

    And really, McDonalds is only cheaper than raw ingredients if your lazy, cannot cook or must shop for only a single meal at a time. With various cuts of boneless chicken available for less than $5/LB ($11/KG) a single dollar gets you far more protein from pan fried chicken than it would with even the cheapest fast food.

    IMO the problem is people paying for convenience (in more ways than one)
    Walk into a grocery store and purchase three russet potatoes and it'll likely cost more than a 5 or 10lb bag of russet potatoes would
    Buy one liter of milk? That'll be $2.... but four liters of milk? $3.89
    Pick the wrong store and a half pound of butter is less than a buck cheaper than the full pound...

    Edit: your friend's response makes no mention of the lemon, olive oil, milk, salt & pepper or bread when talking of how meager, flavorless & lacking in condiments the homemade meal is...
    That right there is a salad dressing, seasoning & gravy for the roasted chicken (milk + pan drippings) and croutons for the salad, with at least a half loaf remaing for whatever else.
    Last edited by Fury; 09-28-2011 at 04:06 PM.

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    I'm actually a pretty darned liberal progressive, but I'd rather see government affect change in this area by getting rid of a lot of the farm subsidies that make crap food cheap. I don't believe the free market handles everything for the best, but this is one place where I think it should be let to do its thing.

    Most people aren't that stupid. They don't think a McNugget is health food. We don't need the nanny state saving them from themselves. It's a bit of a bourgeois conceit that poor folk just don't know no better.

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    I hope she gets paid well to spin that.

    There are a lot of logical fallacies there, such as that even the lowest quality ingredients you can buy in a grocery store are much higher quality than the "food product" in FF. I mean, look at the ingredient lists at those places.

    The macro econ arguments are all crap.

    She also infers an arugument for higher taxes when it easily could be interpreted as ending farm subsidizes and going after false advertising and other already illegal acts.

    It actually reads very much like something a tobacco exec would write.

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    There has been untold harm done by the government's recommendations, at least here in the US, about what we should or should not be eating. Yet they just won't quit: NYC Mayor Bloomberg: 'Government

    I understand why the recommendations came about (the McGovern committee etc), I understand the politics involved (Iowa/corn/presidential electoral BS) but what I don't understand is why anyone thought that the government needed to be making recommendations in the first place. Hadn't we survived through every sort of calamity in every kind of environment for some 100's of 1,000's of years w/o them?

    I don't want the advice, the subsidies or the meals tax regime changed. I want them out, Out, OUT, once and for all. As far as the junk food "controversy" is concerned it is not about healthier food per se, it is about justifying the need to tax this class of food. There will be an insatiable need for new revenue sources as the new health care provisions start to kick in in coming years. The tobacco analogy is apt in that if it so damn bad why isn't it outlawed? Follow the money, in this case the tax revenue it generates.
    Wheat is the new tobacco. Spread the word.

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    First of all, unless they are toddlers, a family of four probably spends more than $28 on food at a fast food place. Sometimes you have to look for the "bargain corner menu" And the entire ordering system is designed to make you feel cheap if you only get the value meals. (try getting just a salad and water, and it seems to bother people.) Would you like fries with that? "well no, I like my arteries and want to keep them"

    I never got sick eating a home cooked meal. I can't say the same for restaurant food. When I buy beef, I know what I'm getting. When I buy a hamburger at a fast food place, it could be soy, bugs, wheat, other fake meat, or just full of e-coli. Now, I could buy ecoli at a grocery store, but I know when I cook my food at home, I've stored it correctly and I'm not picking my nose, or worse, and then not washing my hands.

    I don't think fast food should go away, I think it should be a treat, not an everyday thing.

    And I can walk into any grocery store and buy a meal ready to eat that is healthy and tasty and better for me than most fast food crap. And cheaper. And I don't need Uncle Sam, or Nanny State Big Brother to tell me how to eat. The government lost all credibility when it kept changing its mind about basic nutrition and at the same time fed school children crap and called it food.

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    I could eat a diet healthier than the great majority of people in America for FAR cheaper than anyone could eat at fast food. Let me give you some numbers here. At my local sam's club a 25 pound bag of rice is about 15 bucks....I think there is even a 50 pound bag for about 20 bucks too. I can also get 5 pounds of veggies for 6.50 at sam's. At my local walmart I can stock up on boneless skinless chicken breast for 1.38 a pound when it is reduced. I also can get (when it is in stock at least) a pound of flavored ground turkey for a dollar at walmart. Bannanas are 50 cents a pound as well. Eggs are about 1.89 for 18. So lets say I buy a 25 pound bag of rice for 15 bucks, 10 pounds of veggies for 13 bucks, 10 pounds of bananas for 5 bucks (obviously they are going to go bad before you eat them all so lets say you buy them every few days), 20 pounds of reduced chicken for roughly 38 bucks and 20 pounds of ground turkey for 20 bucks. Lets also add on 180 eggs for about 20 bucks. That comes out to about 110 bucks and I bet you could survive on that amount of food for months. How long would 110 bucks last you at fast food places? Even if you were being extremely conservative with how you spent your money at fast food you would still be spending AT LEAST 10 bucks a day (if all you ate was fast food for the whole day). So I could eat relatively healthy for months for 110 bucks or I could eat like shit for a week and a half.

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