As the weather cools and we head into autumn, food is top of mind for Americans. Folks will get out the slow cooker to prepare savory roasts and stews for cooler fall nights. They’ll simmer up the perfect chili to tailgate at the big football game. And, of course, it won’t be long until it’s time to plan for the bountiful Thanksgiving feast.
Speaking of giving thanks, it’s also good time to pause and take a moment to consider just how great a deal we are all getting on food.
It’s nothing new. Thanks to the productivity of farmers, American consumers have been getting a bargain at the supermarket for decades. We Americans, on average, spend less than 10 percent of our income on food. That’s a smaller percentage of income on food than our counterparts in any other developed country, and smaller than most emerging countries.
It’s also a smaller percentage than our parents and grandparents spent on food. In 1960, Americans spent close to 18 percent of their income on food, compared to just under 10 percent today.
So what’s behind this great deal? A big factor, economists say, is overall productivity of American farmers. Year after year, they have been able to increase production and offer a dizzying variety of foods to meet consumers’ changing demands, while still improving their protection of the environment.
It's not magic. It comes from generations of farmers who are continually adapting new technology; who find ways to meeting consumers’ ever-widening demand for food diversity and who are willing to work very hard to get the job done.
This year’s food bargains are especially pronounced because of lower prices for meats, cheese, milk and other staples of the American diet. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that during 2016 U.S. consumers will enjoy the longest stretch of low food prices in more than 50 years.
Meat, cheese, milk and eggs are plentiful because through innovation, technologies and efficiency, farmers have been able to do more with fewer resources.
It all adds up to a great deal for American consumers. So while you’re basting that perfect pork loin, mixing up that super-secret chili recipe or dreaming about turkey and stuffing, take a minute to remember the folks who bring you such a good deal on food. It’s truly world class.By Dirck Steimel/ Dirck is Iowa Farm Bureau News Services Manager and Spokesman editor.