Paper v. Pepper

by Karen Topakian

Last week when our Sunday Chron newspaper didn’t arrive I walked around the corner to our favorite market, Bi-Rite, to buy a copy along with one red pepper that Peg needed for dinner. On my short walk back home, I looked at the sales receipt and noted that both items cost nearly the same amount of money. $2.64 for the pepper, $2.74 for the paper.

Yup. One good sized organic red pepper cost the same as the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

How could that be?

A lot of labor and resources go into producing a Sunday paper with its endless raft of advertisements plus the 15 sections that comprise the actual paper.

I know the pepper required resources, too. Land, water, soil, labor, fuel, transportation…

But is the labor of growing our food equal in value and cost to the labor that combines to write, edit, lay out, print and deliver the somewhat hefty Sunday paper?

Were they really equal in value or just equal in cost? And how is that determined? Is the price based on the true cost of production or what the market can bear?

Could one of my smart friends explain this to me? I’m stumped.


  1. Cousin Diane says:

    if I knew that the cost of the pepper was due to the living wages paid to the farm workers I’d be happy to pay it.

  2. Your blog was a great inspiration to our dinner table discussion. After having considered the different trajectories for these products, calculating labour, fuel, water, and CO2 emission, we discussed a few basic differences. The newspaper has advertisements, otherwise the price is higher. How much would a newspaper cost if it had no ads? Of course, also peppers can carry ads. Just imagine that our veggies would have tiny stickers with commercial messages “drink cocacola for a better taste”. That would make the pepper cheaper.
    The newspaper has the highest value at the moment you buy it. The next day it is not worth its price, it is just rubbish that you put in the paper bin. The pepper is still raw material at the moment you buy it. You can keep it for a while in the fridge and the cook will increase its value (unless she burns it in the oven). So with the pepper’s price you also pay for the promise of Peg’s lovely dinner.

  3. dolores garay says:

    HI! Here is an article that talks about how food subsidies benefit meat and corn producers, so veggies like the pepper are more expensive.

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