Fast Food is Expensive, Not Cheap

Fast Food Is More Expensive Than You Think

An interesting article in the NY Times splashes water on the complaint that fast food is too cheap:

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

Interesting point.

The only thing I don’t like about the article is he lumps food into two categories: fast-food and non fast-food. Non fast-food can mean a lot of things, and the nutritional value between the two is negligible in many cases. You can feed a family of 4 with a bag of doritos, a 2L bottle of coke and a microwave pizza for a lot less than you’d spend at McDonalds, but they both do the same thing for your body: not that much.

Fast Food vs. Home Cooked Meals

A more useful comparison would the price of fast food vs. the price of healthy non fast-food. Under this light, the picture is not as clear. Raw food prices have been going up the last few years:


The fresh home-cooked meal still loses out to the value meal. And that’s not including the burden of preparation, which might be the biggest impediment of all.

Why Do People Buy Fast Food?

There are a few good studies that shed light on why people buy fast food. For instance, this study makes clear why people choose fast food over traditional meals. In a questionnaire given to frequent fast-fooders, the following reasons were given for a fast-food preference:

It’s quick: 92%

It’s easy to get to: 80%

It’s tasty: 69%

Among others. The relative price between fast-food and non fast-food is probably not a consideration given people’s choice environments.

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