Speaking in Germany, the Prince of Wales said the “aggressive search for cheaper food” should be replaced by more sustainable production worldwide.
He said farmers were being “driven into the ground” by low prices, which had led to some “worrying shortcuts”.
He also warned low-quality food could lead to “unaffordable” future costs.
The prince said rising costs of dealing with type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related conditions, coupled with practices which damage the environment, meant cheap food production was “not cheap at all”.
“The only reason it appears cheap in the shops is because the costs either fall somewhere else, or they are being stored up for the future,” he said.
“The recent horsemeat scandals are surely just one example, revealing a disturbing situation where even the biggest retailers seem not to know where their supplies are coming from.”
He said responsible farming methods are considered a “niche market”, and questioned why the system rewards those whose methods have “dire and damaging effects” on the environment.
“That [cost] then has to be paid for over and over again elsewhere – chiefly, in all probability, by our unfortunate children and grandchildren, whose welfare I happen to care about,” he said.
Speaking at a conference on regional food security at Langenburg Castle in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, the prince also warned farming had become an “unrewarding profession” which young people did not want to enter.
He said: “In the UK, I have been warning of this for some time and recently set up apprenticeship schemes to try to alleviate the problem. But the fact remains that at the moment the average age of British farmers is 58 and rising.”