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Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends on How You Measure the Price

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  • Carlson, Andrea
  • Frazao, Elizabeth

Abstract

Most Americans consume diets that do not meet Federal dietary recommendations. A common explanation is that healthier foods are more expensive than less healthy foods. To investigate this assumption, the authors compare prices of healthy and less healthy foods using three different price metrics: the price of food energy ($/calorie), the price of edible weight ($/100 edible grams), and the price of an average portion ($/average portion). They also calculate the cost of meeting the recommendations for each food group. For all metrics except the price of food energy, the authors find that healthy foods cost less than less healthy foods (defined for this study as foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations).

Suggested Citation

  • Carlson, Andrea & Frazao, Elizabeth, 2012. "Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends on How You Measure the Price," Economic Information Bulletin 142357, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uersib:142357
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.142357
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    File URL: http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/142357/files/eib96_1_.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carlson, Andrea & Lino, Mark & Juan, WenYen & Marcoe, Kristin & Bente, Lisa & Hiza, Hazel A. B. & Guenther, Patricia M. & Leibtag, Ephraim S., 2008. "Development of the CNPP Prices Database," CNPP Reports 45851, United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
    2. Stewart, Hayden & Blisard, Noel & Jolliffe, Dean, 2003. "Do Income Constraints Inhibit Spending on Fruits and Vegetables Among Low-Income Households?," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 28(3), pages 1-16, December.
    3. Todd, Jessica E. & Leibtag, Ephraim S. & Penberthy, Corttney, 2011. "Geographic Differences in the Relative Price of Healthy Foods," Economic Information Bulletin 117976, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. Derek Headey & Shenggen Fan, 2008. "Anatomy of a crisis: the causes and consequences of surging food prices," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 39(s1), pages 375-391, November.
    5. Frazao, Elizabeth & Meade, Birgit Gisela Saager & Regmi, Anita, 2008. "Converging Patterns in Global Food Consumption and Food Delivery Systems," Amber Waves:The Economics of Food, Farming, Natural Resources, and Rural America, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, pages 1-8, February.
    6. Carlson, Andrea & Lino, Mark & Fungwe, Thomas V., 2007. "The Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal Food Plans, 2007," CNPP Reports 45850, United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
    7. Carlson, Andrea & Stewart, Hayden, 2011. "A Wide Variety of Fruit and Vegetables Are Affordable for SNAP Recipients," Amber Waves:The Economics of Food, Farming, Natural Resources, and Rural America, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, pages 1-2.
    8. Stewart, Hayden & Hyman, Jeffrey & Buzby, Jean C. & Frazao, Elizabeth & Carlson, Andrea, 2011. "How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost?," Economic Information Bulletin 101280, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    9. Blisard, Noel & Smallwood, David & Lutz, Steve, 1999. "Food Cost Indexes for Low-Income Households and the General Population," Technical Bulletins 156813, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    10. Mancino, Lisa & Kuchler, Fred & Leibtag, Ephraim, 2008. "Getting consumers to eat more whole-grains: The role of policy, information, and food manufacturers," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 489-496, December.
    11. Golan, Elise H. & Stewart, Hayden & Kuchler, Fred & Dong, Diansheng, 2008. "Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet?," Amber Waves:The Economics of Food, Farming, Natural Resources, and Rural America, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, pages 1-8, November.
    12. James K. Binkley & Alla Golub, 2011. "Consumer demand for nutrition versus taste in four major food categories," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 42(1), pages 65-74, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ags:jlofdr:274599 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Gregory, Christian & Ver Ploeg, Michele & Andrews, Margaret & Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, 2013. "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation Leads to Modest Changes in Diet Quality," Economic Research Report 262225, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    3. Volpe, Richard & Okrent, Abigail, 2012. "Assessing the Healthfulness of Consumers' Grocery Purchases," Economic Information Bulletin 262129, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. Carlson, Andrea & Dong, Diansheng & Lino, Mark, 2014. "Association between Total Diet Cost and Diet Quality Is Limited," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 39(1), pages 1-22, April.
    5. Gillespie, Jeffrey & Hatzenbuehler, Patrick & O'Neil, Carol & Lin, Bo & Niu, Huizhen, 2015. "The Impact of Neighborhood Income on the Cost of Energy-Dense and Nutrient-Dense Foods in Supermarkets," Journal of Food Distribution Research, Food Distribution Research Society, vol. 46(3), pages 1-23, November.
    6. Rafael Moreira Claro & Vargas Hernandez & Joel Alberto & Satoru Shimokawa & Euna Han & Sharada Keats & Steve Wiggins, 2015. "The Rising Cost of a Healthy Diet – Changing Relative prices of Foods in High- Income and Emerging Economies," Working Papers id:7250, eSocialSciences.
    7. He, Xi & Lopez, Rigoberto A. & Boehm, Rebecca L., 2018. "Medicaid Expansion and Sugar Consumption in Carbonated Soft Drinks," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 273909, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

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