The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When did our daily bread take a wrong turn?

Gail_NK's picture
Gail_NK

When did our daily bread take a wrong turn?

Folks,

This forum has helped me turn my "meh" bread into yummy bread - and I've learned the true meaning of "stretch and fold!"

I recently wrote this piece for GoodFoodWorld.com and wanted to share it: http://www.goodfoodworld.com/2012/07/when-did-our-daily-bread-take-a-wrong-turn/

How did we get from people who ate 2 to 3 pounds of bread a day to people who eat 6 to 8 ounces daily?

Enjoy!

Gail N-K

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I don't know the entire answer, but I suspect there was an intermediate stage where people still ate a lot of bread but it was the fluffy, non-nutritive type.  When I was a teenager in the late 1960s, I visited some relatives in coal-mining country.  My aunt bought day-old Wonder bread by the sack-full.  My coal-miner uncle and cousins ate it at supper by the hand-full.  They literally grabbed three slices at a time in one hand and used it to sop up sauce from their plate as they ate with a fork in the other hand, they were that ravenous.  No delicately buttered single slices for them.  For myself, I grew up with a single buttered (actually margarine coated) slice of Wonder bread with supper.  After my invalid father died and my older sister married away, there were more flavorful (and expensive) options.  We sometimes had English muffins, and sometimes my mother would bring home challah from a bakery.  Often I skipped the bread completely.  I wasn't hungry enough to want to eat bread on top of meat, vegetables, and starch on the plate.  So, maybe prosperity is what killed large-scale individual bread consumption?  I'm sure my uncle and cousins would have been happy to eat nothing but meat, green beans, and potatoes if my aunt could have afforded enough of those things to fill them up without hand-fulls of Wonder bread.

Crider's picture
Crider

It was a pleasure to read. Odd thing is, I think those bakers, such as Hostess Brands who makes Wonder Bread, have reached a level of inefficiency which has priced them out of the market. Hostess declared chapter 11 bankruptcy back in January. At my closest supermarket, a typical loaf of Wonder Bread is priced at $4.29. A look at Costco's page on flour indicates that even at their single 50 lb. bag price level, a pound of Con Agra bread flour can be had for $0.32 a pound. I wonder how much cheaper Hostess can get flour for than that?

I think that the modern mega-huge baker's technology model has hit the wall. Could be the energy costs (especially transport), but the gain is horrendous. For $4.29 one can get a reasonably-filling junk meal at a fast-food restaurant.

Let's say I made my own bread, and all my food grown right on my little farm and the nearest market was ten miles away by horse. Not much of a chance I would have fresh vegetables in the winter, right? Except root crops and onions, etc. So, there's lots of bread, maybe pea soup, carrots and turnips. A bit of salt pork maybe. One could eat that every day until the asparagus finally came!

Now, it would be amazingly cheap to do that, if one wanted. How about a sack of Costco whole wheat flour for $0.34 a lb., bulk split peas for $0.47. Cheap eatin' I'd say! 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

is a very efficient bread making company - almost totally automated.  They buy their raw ingredients at a less price than any other bakery due to their huge volume discounts.  Yet they still went bankrupt  - for the 2nd time by the way.  It wasn't  a lack of efficiency or cost of raw materials that put them out of business.  Their customers they sold to put them out of business.  Yep, the grocery retailers did it to them.  The volume of sales their profits were built on were  destroyed by their customers adn the consumer eating less bread.

Their customers built totally automated bakeries too and bought raw ingredients at cheap prices and these retailers already had trucks going to their own storse where they could easily under cut Wonder's price on the self where thses same retailers completely controlled placement and pricing of every iten in the store.  Why buy Wonder at $4 a loaf, or even $3 when you can buy the exact same bread, only store brand, for half or a third of the price?  I can get Kroger, Albertson's, Safeway or any other major chain's  bread for a $1 a loaf when it is on sale. 

They are all heavily unionized so that wasn't the problem but a non union bakery on a much smaller scale still has a chance to make it if they don't have to rely on grocery stores for all of their customers.   Once all your customers are grocery stoores, all they have to do is cut you off, or raise your price or start making your bread and you are done.   Once you have built a customer base at their stores, once you are gone the stores can raise their prices on their bread to make a ton of money in your absence. 

As a wholesaler to grocery stores, we were always punished if we did a bad or a good job for them.  If our products didn't sell on their shelves, they threw those products out and replaced them products that would sell - most of which you weren't supplying.   If you did a really good job and the products you were supplying were flying off the retailers shelf, the retail chain would then take the product direct from the manufacturer into their own warehouse, cutting you completely out of the supply chain entirely and you lost everything.  We used to joke that if we just barely average in sales, not too little to get thrown out and not too good to have it taken away by a direct MFG to retailer deal, we would be the best we could be financially for ourselves.  It takes a special knack, care and talent to make sure you were successful in that business atmosphere.

plamumba's picture
plamumba

I am astonished that Wonder Bread is priced that high.  Costco sells decent bread, good bread, at a price that good or better (I'm thinking of the LaBrea Bakery stuff and some of the other bread baked in house).  Maybe that is why they went bankrupt (one can hope that in any case).  (I'm still astonished that people consider Ben and Jerry's gum and additive laced concoctions to be as good or better than Hagen Das.)

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Incidentally, my husband and I each eat 2 to 3 ounces of bread a day.  That's two slices each of my sourdough 100% whole grain bread.  It is all we can afford to eat without exceeding our total calorie allotment for the day.  The decline of hard physical labor is probably another factor in the reduction of average bread consumption.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

if you are working hard physically you can eat just about any amount of anything.   You don't usually see fat athletes if you discount those supposed to be fat like football linemen, adn they eat calories like there is no tomorrrow.  If you walk 4 miles a day in 1 hr:15 min you can eat more bread about 6 slices at 1 1/ 2 oz each (2 a meal)  - no worries.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

I walk briskly for an hour each day.  My husband walks for two hours.  We still can't eat very much compared to how we ate when we were younger and worked for a living, and were more active overall.  I'm only allowed 1600 calories.  If I wasn't walking, I would have to eat only 1400 calories.  Two slices will have to do us.  *sad smile*

copyu's picture
copyu

 

1870...

Why then? 

Iron (or steel) and porcelain 'rolling mills' were developed for the grain-milling process at about that time. By 1880, the healthy 'stone-ground flour' that our great (or 'great-great-grandparents'—depending on your age!) ALWAYS used to eat was almost supplanted by "truly white wheat flour", which was an impossible dream before then, even for the richest citizens of the nations of Europe, who wanted really white bread, for some strange reasons of their own...

Sifting out the bran, germ and so on, to make 'white flour' was only partially successful. The steel and porcelain rollers managed to remove about 30 (or so) vital nutrients from the grains and made the flour less subject to deterioration—oxidizing and rancidity, infestation by pests, etc...

Cheers,

Adam

PS: It strikes me as a bit 'ironic' that white rice appeared in Asia within a decade or so of the introduction of white flour to Europe...copyu

 

 

suave's picture
suave

Please, do yourself a favor, and get a couple of books, one - on history of milling, another - on practice of milling.

Gail_NK's picture
Gail_NK

Dear Suave,

I'd like very much to get a couple of books on the history and/or practice of milling. Do you have a recommended reading list?

That's an area that has some gaps in my library...

Thanks,

Gail N-K

copyu's picture
copyu

Really nice rude response. I like it!

Enjoy life!

Adam

suave's picture
suave

Rude?  It's a kind and helpful advice.

copyu's picture
copyu

I owe you a huge apology, then!

I'm very sorry to have mis-read your intentions. Please accept my humble apologies and reflexive response.

Adam

kimemerson's picture
kimemerson

Have a gander. I just read this recently and I believe it will help answer the question. White Bread

Gail_NK's picture
Gail_NK

Thanks! I've found this book, and intend to read it carefully. I also ate fluffy white bread (Bunny Bread in my town) that my mother bought by the bag - actually "day old" 7 loaves for $1 back in the late 1950s/early 60s. Amazing how you could pull off the crust and roll it into a marble-sized ball to pop in your mouth.

Was there really ever any food value to it?

Thanks for all your comments/input - much appreciated!

G.