A Note about Food Prices

I just did an interesting experiment on food prices. While trolling through a series of old ads from the Philadelphia Inquirer I found one from 1951 A&P advertising Thanksgiving turkeys for 73 cents per pound. It caught my eye because that’s far more than the 39 cents per pound the local FreshGrocer is advertising for Thanksgiving turkeys in 2011. I must also assume that to some extent both are loss-leaders for the stores, designed to encourage a lot of other shopping. I track these loss leaders to compare with the prices at the Oakmont Farmers Market, because sometimes the loss leader becomes the “normal” price in the minds of customers, since they don’t realize the store is losing money on the item.

So I decided to find out what .73 translated into in 2011 dollars. I used this calculator: http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm to arrive at $6.40 per pound in 2011, based on inflation of 3.68%.

On the other side, .39 in 2011 translates into 4 cents per pound in 1951.

WOW. That demonstrates just how much industrial farming has decreased the cost of food over 60 years. Which is good for prices, but as we know, the externals are probably killing us through a variety of routes direct and indirect. Externals include unexamined and overlooked costs such as loss of turkey subspecies biodiversity, environmental costs of CAFOs, moral costs of raising meat in a manner that creates a life that is nasty, brutish and short, etc. It’s not sustainable and nasty to the turkeys.

But it also puts into perspective the value of the turkeys that Axel Linde and his family produce, using methods similar (probably?) to the methods used in 1951. He charges $3.85 a pound for pastured, hormone-and-antibiotic-free birds, almost half the comparable price of the loss-leader of 1951. And the turkeys taste really good.

What a bargain!

-Janet Chrzan