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

50 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2013  

Andrea Carlson

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Economic Research Service (ERS)

Elizabeth Frazao

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Economic Research Service (ERS)

Date Written: May 1, 2012

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).

Keywords: Food prices, price metric, cost of food, price of healthy foods

Suggested Citation

Carlson, Andrea and Frazao, Elizabeth, Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends on How You Measure the Price (May 1, 2012). USDA-ERS Economic Information Bulletin No. 96. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2199553 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2199553

Andi Carlson (Contact Author)

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Economic Research Service (ERS) ( email )

355 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024-3221
United States
(202) 694-5072 (Phone)

Elizabeth Frazao

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Economic Research Service (ERS) ( email )

355 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024-3221
United States
202-694-5455 (Phone)

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