The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

ABC News: Wheat Prices Rise

strattor's picture
strattor

ABC News: Wheat Prices Rise

Just wanted to point out this short piece that aired recently on ABC World News:

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/story?id=4318523

It's good to see some press about this really big problem. If you haven't seen the price jump at your local bakery, you will within weeks.

On a personal note, they interviewed the owner of the bakery I work at for the story. You can see my hands dusting the bench at -1:50 minutes! Hollywood, here I come!

Darkstar's picture
Darkstar

Strattor,

Congrats!   You are now a hand model!

swtgran's picture
swtgran

I had read wheat prices would really be going up, so I bought 150 lbs. of white wheat berries last fall.  Would that be considered purchasing wheat futures :)  I just didn't realize how fast I would go through them.  I figured they would last at least a year, but I am not sure they will.

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Anyone who thinks ethanol is more environmentally friendly than regular gasoline is mistaken.  I really think growing corn for fuel is not the solution to any of our problems.  Less wheat for bread and other food is only one of the problems.

Rosalie

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I have certainly noticed a jump in the price of flour.  In two months, the price of Wheat Montana's increased by 50%.  I agree with Rosalie--ethanol is not the solution.  In Mexico, the poor have been rioting because they can no longer afford the corn tortillas which are the staple of their diet. 

SOL

barneyl's picture
barneyl

It's not really ethanol which is the problem to be fair. Brazil gets by pretty well using huge ammounts of the stuff generated from sugar cane and I don't see any riots due to the price of that.

The real issue is that in the US it's used as a method of propping up the farming industry as much as it is a way of developing an alternative to oil. If people were serious about the whole alternative thing they's be looking at using the non grain leftovers from cerial crops to make the ethanol or turning to something like switchgrass which will grow just about anywhere and packs in five times the energy of corn.

pumpkinpapa's picture
pumpkinpapa

I heard this on CBC radio here in Canada and from other grain farmers I know. Basically all grain prices will rise because all can be used in bio-fuels. So bakeries have been closing, breweries are affected as hop prices are climbing as well. There was a bakery in Ottawa that almost closed because of the impact of biofuels, see this link

One spokesperson from the US cited that if the entire grain harvest in the continental USA went to bio-fuels it would only make up 16% of the US demand for gasoline.

So, everything made with grains, and corn is in almost everything will see higher prices. Add this to higher fuel costs already, the possibility of another drought this season, and the prospect of black stem rust affecting certain wheat varieties we get a big eye opener again and again.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I received a letter from King Arthur warning about the rising prices of flour. I wrote back suggesting they might consider selling larger quantities for those of us that have grown past the 3 Lb sample bag of medium rye. Also finding a local wholesale source is going to be important in the future.

Eric

edh's picture
edh

Oh help, it's been one of my favorite justifications for this obsessions; at least it doesn't cost much, now it will?

I was surprised to see this thread, though pleased to be able to read more; before coming to TFL this morning, I'd been reading the following article on the CBC site:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourview/2008/02/wheat_shortage_sends_bread_pas.html

 Thanks for the ABC link.

edh

holds99's picture
holds99

Strattor,

Thanks for your posting and the link to the article about increased cost of wheat .  It doesn't bode well for us home bakers or the baking industry in general.  The ethenol pitch from the Agri-corporations and the Administation is the result of a huge lobbying effort, along with tons of money from the major players---corporations like Archer Daniel Midlands, Con-Agra, etc. to politicians supporting their special interests.  From what I can determine ethenol is a wash---it costs about as much to make a gallon of ethenol as it sells for (after corporate profit is added in, of course).  But that's par for the course with our bought and paid for Congress.  Ya gotta love that pork.

Anyway, it sounds like you're on your way to Tinseltown.  Keep in mind that Brad Pitt started out with cameo roles.  Just don't forget your old friends on TFL after you hit the BIG TIME (smile). 

HO

strattor's picture
strattor

More bad news comes as Hard Spring Wheat prices jumped 22 percent yesterday. That means the price increases for bakers and consumers will be rising for a long time. A long, long time.

Maybe now is a good time to start investing in wheat futures. 

holds99's picture
holds99

Great minds think alike :-)    I swear I was telling my wife the same thing (re: buying wheat futures) after reading the article you posted the link to and the Wall Street Journal.  Copper, wheat, corn...and WATER.  Water will be big in the not too distant future and some of the more astute corps. are laying the groundwork now for securing water rights.  Here in Florida we're in a fight with Georgia, Alabama and S.C. over water rights.  Here in St. Johns County the interlopers from Orlando are trying to divert some of the St. Johns River here to supply their needs.  Orlando should just stop issuing building permits and their problem would be solved. Hey, it's the stuff revolutions are made of.

HO

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I picked up three 5# bags of KA bread flour at the local box store today and was glad to see the price hadn't increased: $2.72 a bag. Good deal, considering I came across a display of breads from Le Brea Bakery in a local grocery store which were priced at $5 a loaf and up (Le Brea's presence here floored me, as I live in the boonies with a county population of about 3,000).

We here in the Great Lakes are aware of the water issues in the southern and western states. Some years ago, when the Mississippi was running low, some bozos wanted to divert water from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi. Good thing they were turned away as the following year the river flooded.

 

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

LindyD, wish I could find KA flour at that price! Here on Whidbey Island, WA. a 5lb bag sells for $5.29, with 10lb Stone Buhr $5.10. Too bad I prefer the King Arthur! A.

holds99's picture
holds99

Lindy, 

Do you know the origin of La Brea's breads, i.e. where they're baked?  Nancy Silverton started that bakery years ago in Los Angeles and I think I read that she sold her interest a few years back.  Just wondering if they're shipping it into your area (Great Lakes) from L.A. or if they've set up regional baking facilities?  Do you know if it's frozen or fresh?  Anyway, that's pretty amazing about La Brea. 

There seems to be a demand here in FL for artisan breads but the stuff they're calling artisan bread is pretty pathetic.  Publix is a major supermarket chain here in FL and they have a sizable bakery operation in their stores.  I usually talk to Eileen, the baking manager, at the local Publix when I'm in the store shopping because she knows I'm interested in baking do some home baking.  Anyway, I was asking Eileen about their "artisan offerings".  Well, it turns out they come in par-baked and frozen from Publix distribution center near Jacksonville.  Then the local supermarket just thaws them out and bakes them off.  Probably made and par baked in China, frozen and shipped in.  I'll do some more sleuthing and see if the baguette boxes have Chinese markings   :-)

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Actually, Howard, I did a doubletake when I saw the display, thinking, "gee, that name sounds familiar." So when I got back to my office I Googled Le Brea and wound up at their website. From what I read there, La Brea opened a plant in New Jersey where the breads are baked to 80 percent, then shipped to their retailers who do the final baking on site. If you dig around their site, you'll find the info.

The local grocer in question, a place called Glen's Markets, has a number of stores throughout Northern Michigan so I'm guessing they've placed the Le Brea display in all their stores.

I thought of buying a loaf, but didn't want to pay over five bucks for a 14-ounce loaf with questionable freshness. The bread is tightly wrapped and taped, so you can't even check it for fragrance.

At least it's a New Jersey connection, not a Chinese one!
holds99's picture
holds99

Lindy,

Thanks so much for the information.  I'll take a look at La Brea's site.  Nancy Silverton is/was married to Mark Peel who opened La Campanile restaurant in L.A.  I think the original La Brea bakery was next-door to the restaurant.  Before I retired I spent a lot of time in L.A.  Anyway, I saw Nancy a number of years ago on Julia Child's cooking show and she said she spent a half year experimenting with sourdough  and baking before opening La Brea.  My impression was that the magnatude of the process and the volume of the starter/pre-ferments required really got to be a problem and she reached a point where she either had to make a major investment in expanding the capacity of her operation or cash in.  So, apparently she cashed in.  I'm really surprised that she sort of dropped out of sight.  She was the Diva of sourdough.  I became a convert, so to speak.  I bought her book, BREADS FROM THE LA BREA BAKERY, made her grape starter (would have bought a T shirt but she wasn't offering them at the time :-)  Nancy's starter is rather involved but, in my opinion, well worth the effort.  I'm still using the reincarnation of the original batch. 

Yep, at $5+ a loaf you should at least be able to smell the loaf.  Sort of makes one think there's a major, virtually untapped, market out there for local bakeries.  Everything seems to come back, one way or the other, eventually...except the Edsel automobile. 

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

This is just my thoughts about the untapped market for local bakeries. After reading
Bart & Mark's thread on wages and working conditions it seems to me that for the amount of labor & time, costs of labor & equipment, cost of real estate it would be pretty hard to turn a profit and enjoy what you do for a living. The food industry is notorious for being highly competitive, with demands for excellent quality and long hard hours. I love to cook and bake and have often been told I am working in the wrong field, but I haven't got the determination, guts and stamina for that now. Maybe when I was in my 20-30's..but that's gone by the wayside ; )

holds99's picture
holds99

Paddyscake,

Years ago, during school, I worked in the kitchen of a restaurant.  It is a very tough business with long hours, low pay and very few breaks.  When I was allowed to take a break it was for 10 min.  I'm sure nothing has changed much in the intervening years.  I read somewhere that the failure rate among restarants is something like half of them fail within 2 years after opening.  I think there's lots of variables in the equation.  The worse part for the food service industry is finding and holding onto good help.  Around here the low-end employees come and go like the wind.  I have an acquantance who owns a high-end metal roofing company.  He installs expensive metal roofs on commercial buildings.  He only hires Mexican laborers as intallation crews.  I asked him why and he told me they're reliable, they're good at what they do, they work hard, and if they can't make it to work they'll send their brother or cousin to take their place so they don't lose their job.  The migrants are the ones, at least down here, who are doing the vast majority of the manual labor, cutting lawns, washing dishes, framing houses, etc.  We better think long and hard about this immigration problem and not throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. As for me I'm sticking to home baking.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

suave's picture
suave

I actually went ahead and bought a loaf of their French bread, it was pretty good, and I wouldn't hesitate to buy it again, although I had her book at home at the time and was amused looking at pale yellow loaf and reading about how she likes her bread to be baked to "burnt sienna" crust.

suave's picture
suave

КА bread flour used to be $2.12 at local Walmart, now Meijer at $2.69 (slightly up from $2.52 it used to be) is a better deal.  I was also quite surpised when I saw LaBrea's in local Kroger, as I too live in the sticks.  It is even cheaper here at 2.50-3.50 a loaf.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

That's pretty steep, AnnieT.  The local grocery store's price is around $3.50 for the same  5# bag of KA, so I guess there are advantages to box stores.  I imagine transportation plays a part in the price.  I'm in Northern Michigan and I-75 runs through the middle of the tip of the mitt.

JERSK's picture
JERSK

  It seems that King Arthur's retail store flours have remained about the same in price, but their wholesale has almost doubled in the last few months. It's going for close to $40.00 for a 50 lb bag, up from about $25.00 a few months ago and $10-$12 about 3 years ago.

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I just paid $4.59 for 5# King Arthur All purpose flour here in Northeast Ohio. It's never been that high.                                                                                                   weavershouse

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Since I have my own little bread-baking business at home, I order my KA flour in bulk through a local store.  They have always been, hands down, the cheapest source.  Three weeks ago, I bought several 50 lb. bags of flour for $25 each and I was surprised that the price had gone up that much.  Yesterday, the same bags were $42 each.  On my way home, I decided to swing by Martin's Grocery Store and found the same flour (10-5 lb bags) for a total of $25.  I'll be ordering from them for the time being.  FYI, I called KA and affirmed my suspicion that the flour they sell as their Artisan is the same flour also sold as unbleached all-purpose.

SOL

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

In the store this morning KA ( all types) was $5.79 per 5lb bag. Oh well, guess it goes along with our $3.57 a gallon regular gas! A.

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

It all goes together.  Part of the "solution" to gas prices is ethanol, so farmers are planting corn instead of wheat.  And then there's the cost of transporting everything from here to there.  We need to back up and look at this situation differently.

Rosalie