One of the many benefits of the U.S. food system is a safe, nutritious, and consistent food supply. However, the same system also creates significant environmental, public health, and other costs that generally are not captured in the retail price of food. These include greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, air pollution, the transfer of antibiotic resistance from food animals to humans, diet-related chronic disease risk, and other environmental and human health consequences.
Although some of these costs and benefits are reflected in the market price of food, many others are incurred by society at large. A better understanding of the costs and benefits of the food system would help decision makers, researchers, and practitioners make informed business and management decisions that would expand the benefits of the U.S. food system even further.
The IOM and the National Research Council held a public workshop April 23-24, 2012, to explore the external costs of food, the methodologies for quantifying those costs, and the limitations of the methodologies. This document summarizes the workshop.