In this household we’re not big on chucking things out. Somehow all those TV programmes about decluttering have passed us by. Perhaps we ought to get a TV so we can watch them? There again, I’m not sure where we’d put it.
Still it can be fascinating what you find. We found a list of prices for food purchased back in 1971. It wasn’t a shopping list or anything, it was something somebody had cut out of a newspaper. They probably thought it would be interesting to read in a few years’ time and they were right.
So what I did was get some more prices, 2018 prices this time, because that’s when I did the exercise. I had a talk to give or something and thought it would be a useful illustration. But I didn’t just compare the prices, I looked at the rate of inflation in the intervening years and worked out the price the item should have been, if the price had ‘stayed the same allowing for inflation.’
So if we take a large wrapped loaf, it was £0.10 back in 1971. Allowing for inflation it should now be £1.47 but was only £1.05. So effectively it was only 71% of the price it ‘should be.’
After all, if the price has fallen relative to what it used to be you can be sure that somebody, almost certainly the producer, is getting a lower return for producing it.
You can immediately see the trends. Those sectors of farming which have ‘become more efficient,’ or who have ‘worked closely with their retain partners’ are the ones who have been comprehensively screwed over. The price of pork is between a third and a fifth of what it should be. When you look round, the small pig producers have long disappeared, the industry is now composed of a comparatively small number of very large (and efficient) concerns who are pushing the frontiers of automation.
One thing that did interest me was that frozen chicken has only dropped to 69% of its proper value. I thought it would be lower. But then I remembered that unlike pork producers who are trapped in a long cycle, chicken producers work on a very short cycle. All the birds in a shed will go, the shed with be sterilised and filled with new birds. Depending upon the weight the buyer (normally the retailer) wants, the birds can be ready in ten weeks. The problem for the retailers is that they overplayed their hand. They pushed the price down and down until the producers just didn’t put any more birds in the sheds. What’s the point of buying them to lose money on them? So now a lot will not buy birds until they have a contracted price to sell them at. And there are so few companies doing this, they’re big enough to be able to afford legal teams who can keep even major supermarkets reasonably honest.
The price of dairy products is interesting. Cheese and butter are manufactured products. Once you’ve made them you can sell them anywhere in the world. You are not dependent on the UK retailer. But with the liquid milk market, the supermarkets set out to dominate it. They’ve driven the price down so that in in 1974, 94% of milk was delivered to the doorstep, now it is less than 11 per cent. The results are obvious, butter and cheese have held their prices, and the price of liquid milk has collapsed.
It’s the same with beef and lamb. It’s not that they’re expensive, it’s just that they haven’t suffered the price collapse of other meats. When you buy them, you spend the same proportion of your income on them as your parents did back in their day.
So there you have it. If you want to know why the environment has changed, or what farming isn’t the same as it used to be, just look at the figures.
Look on the bright side, now you can afford to buy a book for less than the price of a coffee to read with it!
As a reviewer commented, “Webster is the best new fantasy writer in 20 years. His series has realistic characters, interesting and rapidly evolving plots and wit. He also displays an exceptional knowledge of ancient warfare, farming, sleazy lawyers, dodgy accountants, field and kitchen cookery and and even of high fashion houses! His female characters are the sort of girls both you and your wife would enjoy meeting.. I have all his books and will buy all his future books as soon as I hear they are out.”