That's the title of a new article in Food Policy written by Josh Maples, Darrell Peel, and me. The paper will ultimately be part of a special issue on technology and supply chains.
Here is part of the lead in.
We discuss the nature and causes of different market structure in the beef and pork industries.
And, we discuss the impacts of various technologies on the industries. Here's a segment on effects of pharmaceutical innovations in the cattle industry.
Kudos to Bailey Norwood and Susan Murray at Oklahoma State who have keep the Food Demand Survey (FooDS) alive and well. In the August 2017 edition of FooDS, they asked a series of questions related to consumers knowledge about food. The results are fascinating.
First, they sought to weigh in on the claim that went viral last month: that 7% of consumers thought chocolate milk came from brown cows. In this month's FooDS, they found only 1.6% of the American public held this belief when given various options for how chocolate milk is made.
Read the whole report for more interesting findings, such as:
- 23% of respondents thought gluten as a preservative or additive to make bread whiter;
- 79% correctly knew how soy milk is made;
- 18% think the sun revolves around the earth (yes, you read that right);
- 95%+ correctly identified broccoli as a vegetable and beef as coming from cows;
- only 28% correctly knew that Trump likes his steaks well done (a plurality thought he likes it medium rare);
- 15% thought I was the secretary of agriculture (no I didn't put them up to this; Sonny Perdue was picked by 37% of respondents and Michael Pollan by 29%)
- 99% of respondents said they took their answers to the previous questions seriously.
Last week I gave a short talk at a Town Hall held at the National Academy of Science Building in Washington, D.C. in relation to the Science Breakthroughs 2030 project aimed at identifying strategies for food and agricultural research.
You can see all the presentations here. Or, if you just want to see my comments and provocations entitled "Importance of Understanding Behavioral Responses to Food and Health Policies", the video is embedded below.
I've been a bit surprised at the number of comments and questions I continue to receive about this article I wrote for the New York Times almost a year ago.
Here are the opening sentences from the piece:
Common questions I tend to get are "who are these large farms" and "do large farms use more or less fertilizer or chemicals than small farms?" On the first question, I simply rely on USDA's classification of farms based on gross sales (which is where the above 80% from 8% originates). The second types of questions are much more difficult to answer as there isn't great data easily accessible on the matter.
However, I recently ran across this USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) publication that reports farm expenses for different sized farms (again, where size is determined by gross sales). These data are part of the Economic Research Service (ERS), Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). Using the 2016 data in this publications, I created the following charts to help provide some perspective on how relatively small, medium, and large farms allocate their spending.
Here are relatively small farms.
The spending of relatively medium-sized farms is illustrated below.
Finally, here are graphics on spending by the largest farms.
A few comments on the comparisons are in order. First, as indicated by the share of spending on livestock, poultry, and feed, there are different types of farms across size categories, so it's a bit like comparing apples to oranges. The largest farms are most likely dairies, feedlots, or hog/poultry operations. The proportion of crop output (as a share of total output) is likely higher for small and medium sized farms. What we'd like to compare are small crop farms to large crop farms, but that data wasn't easily obtainable.
The figures show that three categories of spending (as a share of total spending) fall as farms sizes increase: farm improvement and construction, tractors and trucks, and taxes and interest. This relates to some of what I argued in the NYT piece:
On two of the issues which people worry about the most - chemicals and fertilizers - these expenses tend to increase (again, as a share of total expenses) as size goes from small to medium than falls when going from medium to large. However, some of this change is almost certainly due to the different mix of crops vs. livestock in the different size categories, so it's difficult to draw much of a conclusion from these data.
Finally, I'll note the small sized categories of farm (less than $10,000 in gross sales) lose money on average. Why? Because, by definition, they're bringing in less than $10,000 in revenue, but they're spending $13,755. These farms need to generate at least $3,755 in additional annual value per farm to the farm owners, to their patrons, or to their neighbors that isn't reflected in market price for their activities to yield a net benefit to society.