The true cost of our food

Andrew Hansen, News Writer

What brand you choose to buy isn’t just a choice of what’s tasty, as our food choices today shape the world we will live in tomorrow.

Melissa Weyland, regional pool manager of farmer-owned Organic Valley, hosted a virtual presentation titled “The True Cost of Our Food” last week Wednesday, which discussed the impact of everyday dinner decisions.

The presentation aimed to educate students about where their food comes from, its dietary value, its environmental footprint and its overall impact on health, community, tradition and pleasure.

Weyland, who spent 12 years in the food and agriculture industry, covered topics such as food labeling, marketing, regulations and the varying methods used to produce the foods with special emphasis on organic foods.

“What brand you choose to buy isn’t just a choice of what’s tasty,” she said. “It’s a vote of whether or not you support the means by which that product was created.”

The presentation noted that brand-name products use cheaper, calorie-heavy additives as a substitute for farm-fresh ingredients, she noted.

For example, margarine, often sold as a butter substitute, merely contains milk in addition to a long list of other ingredients, Weyland said.

“Brands like ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ are made from refined vegetable oil, water, flavoring and coloring,” Weyland said. “When you buy Organic Valley butter, you’re getting pasteurized milk and salt.”

In addition, Weyland stressed the importance of buying local food to support farmers, citing a quote from food system analyst Ken Meter that stated: “If each U.S. resident bought $5 of food directly from some farm each week, farmers would earn $83 billion.”

According to an IBM poll cited in Weyland’s presentation, 81% of respondents worldwide belong to one of two shopper groups prioritizing different values.

The first group is value-based consumers, who represent 41% of respondents and want convenience and products that simplify their lives, Weyland explained. The second group is purpose-based consumers, who represent 40% of respondents and seek products and services aligned with their personal values.

Of the two groups, Weyland said she falls into the latter category of purpose-based consumers.

“I believe in spending more on the things I believe in,” Weyland said. “Around 40% of consumers look for products and brands that align with their lifestyle and with health and wellness benefits. These consumers will pay a premium for these products.”

To learn more about Organic Valley or organic food options in Wisconsin, visit