You Care About Where Your Food Comes From. Shouldn’t You Care About Who Grew and Picked It?

April 3, 2015 | | Vox |

Today probably started with a cup of coffee and perhaps an egg, a piece of fruit, or some form of breakfast meat or meat-type product. Whether you ate at home or picked up something on the way to work, you weren't just consuming calories. In selecting each item you were, intentionally or not, taking a side in the ethical wrangling and consumer activism implanted in the American food system. (...)

While fair-trade products attempt to eradicate poverty abroad, consumers don't have much of a choice to support a living wage in this country. Organic and environmentally sustainable certifications lead consumers to supposedly wholesome products, but they hold no guarantees about the wholesomeness of the companies that produce those goods. Sitting down to a farm-to-table meal at a chic restaurant might feel like a principled splurge, but it could be brought to you on the backs of poorly paid staff at the farms and tables.

In fact, perhaps more than with any other purchase, that's probably the case: the food industry is the worst paid, and features some of the worst working conditions, of any employment sector. The industry is also huge. Every year it rakes in hundreds of billions of dollars, very little of which trickles down to ordinary workers. A report from public policy think tank Demos recently named food service, a huge component of the food industry, "the most unequal sector in the American economy."