How much should a loaf of bread cost?

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Posted Oct 4 2015 by Dave Darby of Lowimpact.org
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You can now get white sliced bread in supermarkets for around 50p a loaf; or you can get hand-baked, organic loaves from independent bakers for around £3.50. We can also bake our own bread. What’s the best option, do you think?

Have a look at this (for non-UK readers, the Daily Mail is a rag full of celebrity gossip and corporate propaganda). These ‘supermarket price wars’ are great for ordinary people, because they get cheap bread, right? But it also involves:

  1. imported grain grown in environmentally-damaging monocultures, soaked in pesticides

  2. bread with virtually no nutritional value (see here)

  3. corporate control of our food supply

  4. putting small, organic farmers out of business

  5. a gargantuan, mechanised food system that doesn’t employ many people, so it puts lots of other people out of work too

wheat

Is this the best way to get our wheat?

The corporate meat industry also involves cruelty as well as all the above; and dairy farming – the article above also says: ‘Last month supermarket price wars were having a devastating impact on dairy farmers, as the cost of a pint of milk was reduced to just 22p.’ 22p!!! What will the farmer get per pint at that price? Almost nothing, which means that small dairy farmers will go out of business, the dairy industry (and every other industry) will consolidate in the hands of giant agribusiness, with associated job losses, strenghtening of the corporate sector, environmental damage and bad food.

Is this what we want to support? No, of course not. So what’s the alternative? I suggest that either:

  1. we pay £3.50 for a real loaf of bread

  2. we make your own bread, or

  3. we start a revolution to overthrow the corporate system, so that wages, rents and prices are fair

Let’s leave 3 aside for now – but only for now. Let’s talk more about it another time. For now, let’s concentrate on the price of bread.

bread

What do you think is the nutritional value of this bread?

I joined a radical politics reading group last year in London, and had a conversation with an academic running the group, who was outraged that anyone should charge £3.50 for a loaf, and told me that she shopped in Tesco, because it’s cheaper and because she wants to support low-paid Tesco workers. Her approach supports the corporate system and hurts workers, and I didn’t go back to her reading group. In the absence of an immediate revolution, then all we can do is try to change things incrementally – which means not giving the corporate sector our money, which means buying things from non-corporate businesses, or producing things ourselves.

For me, the ideal end point of this is that no-one buys from supermarkets / the corporate sector any more; everyone is either self-employed, or works for a small, ideally co-operative business, providing things for their local community. Wages (as well as prices) are higher, so that workers can afford to buy from other local businesses too. Everyone’s happy – especially ex-corporate workers who now actually enjoy their work and get paid reasonably.

Two questions. First – is there another way to do it? And secondly – if not, how do we start that process? The difficulty is that there are lots of people on low wages who can’t afford it. I suggest that the start point is with the middle classes – support your local baker and pay £3.50 for a loaf. If it means cutting out one city break to Barcelona or Prague per year, so be it (actually, that’s a bonus, as it will reduce your carbon emissions too).

pig

Is animal cruelty a reasonable price to pay for cheap meat?

While I’m at it, am I allowed to address the working class too, or is that patronising and out of bounds? My family live in a place very near to the bottom of the social deprivation index, but where lots of money is spent on trainers, booze, fags and flat-screen TVs, but not organic food. It might be good if that changed, and of course that would provide more local job opportunities too. And anyone, whatever their financial situation, can get bread for less than even 55p per loaf by ordering a sack of wholemeal flour and baking their own. More info here.

I’m genuinely interested in people’s responses to this. Have I missed something? What else can we do (and that includes ideas on starting the revolution)?