Championing cheaper food isn’t as straightforward as it might first appear. On the one hand, surely anything that eases the pressure on our wallets is a welcome thing, right? To a certain extent, yes, but it’s important to remember that buying a cheap item of food from your supermarket isn’t an isolated event – you pay your money to that supermarket who then choose to set a price to pay their suppliers. How much we’re prepared to fork out has a knock on effect that can make or break some providers. So when exactly does good value go too far?
This question has been especially pertinent recently, with the media coverage surrounding the milk price war most of the major supermarket chains are engaged in. You may or may not have noticed, but that 4 pint carton of milk that (if you’re anything like me) buy every other day has gone down in price a bit recently. Something that has hovered around the £1.20-£1-40 mark for the last couple of years is now only £1. In fact, a lot of supermarket essentials appear to only be £1 these days – loaves of bread and punnets of fruit being the most obvious ones. But the milk is the one getting the most attention, for the very good reason that as a nation, we get through a heck of a lot of it. And it’s because of this huge consumption that we rely on dairy farmers staying in business. The supermarkets have insisted that the price cuts won’t be passed on to farmers, but surely this isn’t sustainable in the long term?
There is also the question of public perception – if the cost of milk is reduced, then customers could get used to paying a certain price for their pints. Even if it’s supermarkets who are taking the hit right now, who’s to say how they will respond to customer’s increasing demand for cheaper milk in the future? As detailed in the above article, milk isn’t an easy product to get from the cows to the shelves – it requires skill and resources that come at a cost and we should really be prepared to pay for this.
Of course, being cost-conscious isn’t a bad thing. Keeping tabs and taking responsibility for our food spending is something we should all be doing, but we also have another responsibility as consumers. Although buying ‘ethically produced’ products is something that usually comes with a high price tag, that’s not to say those of us on a budget shouldn’t take an interest is where our everyday food comes from. By all means, if you enjoy paying less for your milk and think it has an impact on your overall food outlay then keep on buying it from the supermarkets. But, if we are as powerful as the supermarkets seem to think we are, perhaps now is the time to object to this potentially damaging move by buying elsewhere. Paying an extra 40p a couple of times a week might make a small difference to your food budget, but it could a massive difference to those dairy farmers who are feeling the pinch, just like the rest of us.