A Note on Farm Share and Subgroups

As we say in the COMPARABLE checklist, the story is often somewhere in the edges. Take this chart of the proportion of a food dollar which goes to the farmer vs. post-farm activities. At first it seems to show declining farm revenue as the the market bill (which includes everything from transportation to preparation) climbs:

In other words, in 1993, more than 18 cents of every dollar you spent on food went to the farmer. By 2008, that amount was 15.8.  And while those numbers seem small, it represents a 15% or so drop, which is no small change.

But once you look at the subgroups it becomes clear the story is not quite that simple:

For food you buy at the supermarket and prepare at home, there has been no shift in where the money goes to. Food at home has a farm share of 24.6 in 1993, and a share of 24.3 today.

Food prepared at restaurants and other “away from home” locations, though,  has a sinking farm share, moving from 10.5 down to less than half of that (4.7).  So what we are likely looking at here is an increase in the cost of eating out. The linked report sees much of this as being related to a shift from limited-service restaurants (McDonald’s, Papa Gino’s) to full service (Olive Garden, Outback, etc). Add to that the increasing cost of labor, and you get the sort of pattern we see above.

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