Debuting at The True Cost of American Food Conference last week in San Francisco, A Tale of Two Chickens is a short film which illustrates how we are paying a high price for food in hidden ways and why we need true cost accounting in our food and farming systems.

While the shelf price of intensively produced chicken is now cheaper, pound for pound, than bread, this film shows that the hidden costs are far greater.

Created with the Lexicon of Food, the Sustainable Food Trust hopes this film will help people to visualise the problem of food system externalities by comparing the stories of two chickens from two different production systems. One chicken, reared on pasture and organically grown feed, has minimal external impacts and in fact can generate actual benefits. While the other chicken, produced in a factory farm, is associated with many negative impacts which create hidden costs, such as the spread of antibiotic resistance, poor working conditions for staff and the pollution of air, soil and water.

But these hidden costs are not paid by the producer, they are paid by taxpayers and society as a whole. When we buy a cheap chicken we actually pay for it twice, once at the checkout and again through taxes that go towards the subsequent environmental and health care costs. When you add up all these hidden costs, cheaper chicken is not so cheap after all.

But what can we do? The film highlights 6 things that can be done to change this destructive system.

  1. Buy sustainably produced food
  2. Ensure there is access to good food for all
  3. Tax fertiliser and pesticides to discourage their overuse
  4. Incentivise people to eat better
  5. Support local businesses
  6. Treat workers fairly

By calling for these changes, we hope to see a shift towards the creation of a food system that is better for people and the planet.

The message of food’s hidden costs applies to almost all foods and needs to be spread, so please join us in telling people the tale of two chickens.

Photograph: USDA

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