mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Friday, November 23, 2007

a reflection on turkey prices...

So I was looking at Lilek's blog yesterday, and noticed he posted a 50 year old grocery store ad from Thanksgiving (scroll towards the bottom). He found it interesting that what's served at Thanksgiving hasn't really changed much in the last 50 years.

What I found more interesting, being the cheap-ass that I am, was that the prices for turkey actually was higher 50 years ago - I could have sworn I saw my local Weis supermarket advertising turkey for 37¢ a pound last week, while the cheapest price 50 years ago was 45¢.

Now, maybe turkey isn't the best gauge of changing food prices - it is usually heavily advertised, and is probably a loss-leader for grocery stores - they figure they will sell it cheap to draw you into the store and buy a huge cartload of other food to go with the turkey for your holiday feast.

I don't see many other prices on the ad - the only other thing that stands out for me is 29¢ cans of sweet potatoes. I have no idea what the going price for sweet potatoes in cans are, but I'd venture around a $1. So in 50 years, canned sweet potato prices have gone up by 400%.

Which isn't too bad when you think about it. I mean, I'd be thrilled if gas prices or stamp prices were only 4x what they were 50 years ago - heck, gas prices are pretty much 4x what they were 10 years ago right now.

I think this tells us a lot about how cheap food is in our country. People don't realize that the cost of a lot of other things goes up quite a bit, while food prices generally stay pretty constant. And the fact is, for the average family, food is probably a very small part of their overall budget. I know it is for me - I probably 10 times what I spend on food in a month on mortgage payments and other household expenses, and a large chunk of my income on gas, car insurance, car payments, and other things to make sure that I can get to work (and to the grocery store).

People will often talk about how great organic farming is, or how small farmers are better than big evil corporate farms. But my guess is that if there were more organic farms, food would be considerably more expensive - and there would probably be a whole lot more people struggling to make sure they had enough food for their families. (Penn and Teller had an excellent episode of Bull$hit that looked at the trouble we would have feeding the world if we didn't use chemicals and genetically engineered food).

I think pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetic engineering, and those big evil corporations have done more to feed Americans than anything else - and have made turkey prices lower now than they were 50 years ago.


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