In 1959 the average American family paid $989 for a year’s supply of food. In 1972 the family paid $1311.That was a price increase of nearly one-third.
Everyone agrees that the cost of feeding a family has risen sharply. But there is less agreement when reasons for the rise are being discussed. Who is really responsible?
Many blame the farmers who produce the vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, and cheese that stores offer for sale. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the farmer’s share of the $1311 spent by the family in 1972 was $521.This was thirty-one percent more than the farmer had received in 1959.But farmers tend to blame others for the sharp rise in food prices. They particularly blame those who process the farm products after the products leave the farm. These include truck drivers, meat packers, manufac- turers of packages and other food containers, and the owners of stores where food is sold. They are among the “middlemen” who stand between the farmer and the people who buy and eat the food. Are middlemen the ones to blame for rising food prices?
Of the $1311 family food bill in 1972, middlemen received $790, which was thirty-three per cent more than they had received in 1959. It appears that the middleman’s profit has increased more than the farmer's. But according to economists at the First National City Bank, the profit for meat packers and food stores amounted to less than one percent. During the same period all other manufacturers were making a profit of more than five per cent. By comparison with other members of the economic system, both farmers and middlemen have profited surprisingly little from the rise in food prices.
Who then is actually responsible for the size of the bill a housewife must pay before she carries the food home from the store? The economists at First National City Bank blame the housewife herself for the jump in food prices. They say that food costs more now because women don't want to spend much time in the kitchen.
Economists remind us that many modern housewives have jobs outside the home. They earn money that helps to pay the family food bills. The housewife naturally has less time and energy for cooking after a day's work! She wants to buy many kinds of food that can be put on her family's table easily and quickly.
“If the housewife wants all of these,” the economists say, “that is her privilege, but she must be prepared to pay for the services of those who make her work easier.
It appears that the answer to the question of rising prices is not a simple one. Producers, consumers, and middlemen all share the responsibility for the sharp rise in food costs.