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cheap calories

2007-04-24 19:24:51.386893+00 by Dan Lyke 9 comments

Every time I mention overpopulation, crasch delights in pointing out that food prices have declined over the past 40 years. And, as a percentage of a household's spending, I can't disagree. Michael Pollan looks at the new farm bill:

A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.

For reference, ours is a two person family that can go through 1 lb of spring mix in a dinner.

[ related topics: Politics Food Bay Area Sociology Michael Pollan ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: farm bill made: 2007-04-24 21:25:36.284235+00 by: andylyke

#Comment Re: farm bill distortions of the market made: 2007-04-24 21:31:30.181216+00 by: andylyke

Yes, and the reason that the gov't's policies favor corn is that it is a commodity over which ADM has a virtual monopoly and monopsony, and ADM along with Cargill and United Fruit - I mean Chiquita banana - are huge payers of graft in D.C. Screwing the Am. public is nothing to these thugs - they through their surrogates in State and CIA have arranged coups and assassinations throughout Central and South America, from WWII and before to the present. And we continue to pay for these depredations.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-25 16:50:39.933039+00 by: crasch

You'll get no argument from me that the farm bill is an abomination.

I eat a lot of spring mix too. A lb of washed spring mix costs me $4.00 at whole foods. According to this inflation calculator, $4.00 now was equivalent to $2.13 in 1985. However, according to Pollan, fresh produce has increased in real terms by 40%. So if Pollan is right, that lb of washed spring mix would have actually cost $2.13 - $2.13(0.40) = $1.38. I was 13 in 1985, so I wasn't paying for much of my own food yet. Does that seem like a plausible number to you?

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-25 16:59:25.785386+00 by: crasch

D'oh. Made a mistake in my calculations. The 1985 price would've been $1.52, assuming a 40% real increase since then.

x + 0.40x = 2.13


x = 1.52

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-25 17:09:39.102183+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

I don't really have any good data on this, and since "spring mix" is largely a new product in the supermarket and would have only been available direct from the farmer in 1985, a better comparison would probably be red leaf lettuce.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-25 17:20:50.831375+00 by: Dan Lyke

Here's an article from 1991 claiming that:

U.S. per capita consumption of fresh-market vegetables increased 5 percent during 1970 to 1980, and 22 percent during 1980 to 1990.

Which... well... makes me want to find Pollan's sources.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-25 18:26:45.896168+00 by: Dan Lyke

Here's broccoli prices rising from 1992 to 2002 from $24.88/cwt to $28.49/cwt in 1996 dollars, this market analysis of hydroponic lettuce shows lettuce prices as highly variable but roughly the same from 1972 to 2000, and I'll bet that the spreadsheet collection at the bottom of http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Vegetables/ could be squeezed to reveal all sorts of stuff.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-25 18:45:51.33819+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

Here we go: an XLS of "Vegetables, fresh market, including potatoes: U.S. monthly and annual Consumer Price Index, 1979-2006".

Fuck the stock market, I want an index fund based on that (at least for the last 7 years...)!

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-25 21:11:01.557929+00 by: ebradway

It's called stock in Whole Foods...