Societal effects of food

What are the societal effects of the food we eat? Now it’s possible to calculate it with a new model made by True Price and Wageningen Economic Research, on behalf of the ministry of Economic Affairs. We held a symposium on January 12th to present the results of a research project that shows positive and negative societal effects of food in a transparent and comparable way.

We can differentiate 37 impact categories for food, divided over six ‘capitals’: financial, produced, intellectual, natural, social and human. With financial, produced and intellectual capital there are mostly positive effects of food, such as employment, contributing to the economy and knowledge production. With natural capital we see mostly negative environment impacts. With social capital we take into account animal welfare for example, and positive and negative health impacts with human capital. The researchers can determine the average effects of food, but also zoom in on specific products. Furthermore, they can show the scores per product in relation to the average.

WUR-researcher Willy Baltussen and director of True Price, Adrian de Groot Ruiz, presented the first results of the model with very Dutch products: potato, green bean, milk and minced meat. The results showed that the societal effects of the potato and the green bean were very similar. Baltussen: “Both (products) deliver average financial positive effects (contribution to the economy, lower natural negative effects (which have little influence on the environment) and a lot of positive effects on health). Milk has more natural negative effects (water, air, climate), more social negative effects (underpayment of farmers due to low prices). The human capital scores of milk are both positive (nutrition) and negative (fat). Minced meat has a similar score to milk.”

“The goal of the model is to give insight to governments and nutrition companies to the positive and negative impacts of nutrition, so that the positive effects can be increased and the negative impacts can be diminished’, says Adrian de Groot Ruiz of True Price. “The outcomes make it possible to have a discussion with stakeholders in the food sector. For example, about underpayment of African cocoa farmers for the production of chocolate, but also about low wages of Dutch dairy- and pig farmers.”