Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter: Enjoy the Cheap Eggs and Food!

The chart above shows the real, inflation-adjusted wholesale prices of eggs (in 2009 dollars), annually back to 1890. The wholesale price we're paying today for eggs (about 82 cents) is about 1/12 of the price 100 years ago ($10.50 in 1908 in today's dollars), a decline of 92% compared to the price American consumers paid in the early 1900s.

And it's not just egg prices that have fallen over the last 100 years. Grocery prices in general fell in real price by 82% between 1919 and 2007, measured in the number of hours worked (9.5 to 1.7 hours, another way to adjust for inflation) to purchase a 12-item basket of groceries, according to the Dallas Fed (see graph below).

And food (both at home and away from home) as a share of disposable income has never been more affordable, see the chart below using USDA data through 2007. Food expenditures as a percent of income were in double-digits for the entire 20th century, and were above 20% for most of the 1929-1952 period. It's only since 2000 that spending on food has fallen below 10% of disposable income, and it's been 9.8% for 2005, 2006 and 2007.


At 4/12/2009 10:26 AM, Blogger Dave Narby said...

Unfortunately the quality of said eggs has declined in nutritive value over time due to factory farming methods (chickens are not egg laying machines).

For a fair comparison, you should compare historical prices to premium eggs such as Eggland's which have higher levels of vitamin E and Omega fatty acids.

At 4/12/2009 11:27 AM, Blogger vanderleun said...

Oh, niggle, niggle, niggle. Quit carping Narby. Try not to pretend to miss the point so you can have a moment of preening.

As for "fair comparison" a moment's reflection might, just might, tell you that the wide choice you enjoy today did not exist at the beginning of the time surveyed.

At 4/12/2009 12:21 PM, Blogger QT said...


Eggs are an excellent source of protein and contain most of the recognised vitamins with the exception of vitamin C. The egg is a good source of all the B vitamins, plus the fat-soluble vitamin A. It also provides useful amounts of vitamin D, as well as some vitamin E.

Don't know what activist source you are reading but the nutritional analysis seems to confirm that eggs are extremely nutrious.

Maybe you could provide links to comprehensive long term scientific studies to support your theory.

If all of our food is getting less nutrious, how is it that rickets, pellagra, scurvy and other nutrious deficiencies are virtually unheard of in the U.S. today although they were quite prevalent 70 years ago?

At 4/12/2009 4:24 PM, Blogger Jeff Herron said...

What's interesting tom e is that each of these graphs seem to show that declining real prices seem to have flattened out around 2000 -- and gas has started to go back up. In other words, it appears that we may be at a bottom, based on these data.

I'm happy that food is not 20+% of my expenses. of course, back when that was the case, people weren't paying 25-30% of their income in taxes either -- so I guess it all evens out.

At 4/12/2009 8:10 PM, Blogger Jack McHugh said...

No wonder so many people are down on capitalism these days - think of all the money ag industry interests could be making without all that messy competition driving productivity growth!

At 4/12/2009 11:25 PM, Blogger QT said...


One also has to consider that family income has risen substantially since in 1890.

At 4/13/2009 9:23 AM, Blogger spencer said...

The modern mixed economy really works well.


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