Abundant Choices = Abundant Responsibility

by Tessa Chambers, University of Missouri student and Dow AgroSciences intern 

It’s 2016 and our choices are abundant. You want a phone? Do you want an iPhone, Android, Windows or even a non-smart phone? You want a car? Do you want a car designed for speed, one that has great gas mileage or a van to fit all the kiddos? Or maybeGettyImages110884775_small you need a 4-wheel drive truck with the power to pull a boat or trailer. No matter what you need or want, the consequent choices are endless.

What about when you go to the grocery store? You have the choice to buy organic, conventional, local, pre-prepared meals, meals-for-one, family size, low-fat, zero-calorie, GMO-free, budget brands, name brands, and the list goes on and on.

One hundred years ago, or even 50 years ago, most of these choices were not available. Many factors contribute to this, and one is higher household income. From 2009 to 2013, the average U.S. household income was $53,046 a year. In 1915, average income was $687 a year, which is comparable to $16,063 with inflation. Consumers have more buying power and our wants and needs will dictate what is available in the market.

We not only have more money available to spend, our food dollars are going further than ever before. Back in 1929, the USDA Economic Research Service calculated that Americans spent 23.4 percent of their disposable personal incomes on food. In 2014, this percentage decreased to just 9.7 percent.

We want choices, and the market has provided them. But we need the knowledge to make informed choices. No one wants to feel like they are stumbling along in the dark.

Our power to choose was not available to previous generations. We can be grateful for that, but with great power also comes great responsibility. As consumers, we have a responsibility to be informed and research what our food choices mean — to our families, to our environment and to our economy. And you can expect food companies and food labeling agencies to take responsibility for being transparent about what each choice means, too.

ChambersHeadShotTessa Chambers is a summer Public Affairs intern at Dow AgroSciences who has been passionate about agriculture and communicating her whole life. She is a Senior at the University of Missouri majoring in Science & Agricultural Journalism. Upon her graduation in December of 2016, she hopes to use her skills and talents to continue to tell the story of agriculture in whatever way she can.