Thursday, July 24, 2008

Inflation at the market

As long as I'm on the subject of prices, let me continue that thread.

I've been watching prices at the supermarkets, and trying to track how rapidly the cost of food is inflating.

For myself, I've noticed that sustainably harvested fresh seafood is pretty much unaffordable. I look at the items with the green stripe on their price tags longingly each week. Fresh local milk - not even the organic kind - is now over $1.50 a quart.

I noticed a loaf of good quality industrial bread (or whatever you call bread that does not come from a local bakery) at over $5.00 for a 1 1/2 pound loaf. Since I only buy bread when it's too hot in the evenings to bake, or when I want a locally produced baguette or the like, the price of flour is of more interest to me, and I've already mentioned that I can no longer afford the much traveled King Arthur brand.

I have to confess that I do usually keep a bag of two of frozen vegetables in the freezer in case I get caught between crops in the garden and visits to Imwalle's for produce. I note that the price of frozen food has certainly skyrocketed. This makes sense, too, in that frozen food requires not just the cost of transport, but constant energy inputs to keep it frozen. (I was trying to explain to somebody the other day why canning involves less energy for preservation than freezing, and they just didn't get it. With canning all the energy inputs are up front.)

Some increases in food prices really do reflect an increase in environmental costs; others do not. One of my concerns, though, is that as prices continue to rise, more people will be forced to make choices on the basis of price alone, not on taste, nutritional value, or sustainability. Let's hope that more local foods are a better value by comparison; and that folks retreat from the overpackaging trends of late (that amazing 100 calorie phenomenon, for example) as they learn to pinch their food pennies.

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