Food Economics

THE problem of securing proper nutriment for the family hoard, and securing it at a minimum cost, is one of constantly growing importance, not only because of the rise in prices of all classes of foodstuffs, but because more and more we are coming to realize that a healthy body is man’s greatest asset. How, then, to satisfy the physical needs, and furnish a ration that shall be palatable, digestible, liberal in quantity, and still come within the purchasing power of the family, is a most important problem of economy.

Aside from the inherent value of the more watery foods, such as fruits, vegetables, etc., due to their richness in mineral salts, vitamines, and essential oils, it must be considered that the economic value of a food depends largely upon its capacity for producing energy; hence the need of a practical knowledge of food values. When one realizes that the market price of a food is no indication of its food value, the importance of such knowledge is more keenly appreciated. The most expensive food is not necessarily the most nutritious. True economy contemplates not only the cheapness of the food purchased, but also its adaptation.

It aims at supplying a diet that furnishes all the elements of nutrition at a minimum cost, with due recognition of the esthetic qualities. The ideal is found in many of the simple foods at hand every day, as for instance the grains and the grain products, including whole meal bread, corn meal, natural rice, macaroni, etc. ; also in legumes, as dried peas, beans, lentils, etc. ; in the immature green vegetables, as corn, peas, string beans, and the like. Add to these the various dairy products,— milk, cream, eggs, etc., and there is a large variety from which to choose a diet of non-irritating and easily digested foods, which take the lead as a source of nourishment, both from the economic and also from the health point of view.

By comparison of the chemical analyses of various foods bought for a particular sum, this truth becomes self-evident. We find that 50 cents spent for round steak (lean), at 30 cents a pound, gives food to the value of 1,116 food units; 50 cents invested in salmon trout, at 40 cents a pound, buys 481 units ; spent for oysters, at 6o cents a quart, it yields only 383 units. The same amount for potatoes, at 5 cents a pound, obtains 3,100 units; spent for corn meal, at 8 cents a pound, it obtains 10,346 units; the same for wheat flour, at 9 cents a pound, buys 9,213 units; and in the form of well baked bread, ready for use, 5,700 units. In the face of these figures, may we not well stop, and consider what we shall buy for the family board?

Protein, being the most costly of the food elements, is the one often lacking in inexpensive meals, although generally used to excess by those who can afford it. Skim milk, with its products, is one of the cheapest sources of protein at the present time. Practically all of the protein, sugar, and mineral contained in milk, is found in that part which remains after the cream has been removed. When made into cottage cheese, each gallon of such milk should furnish about one and a half pounds of cottage cheese. In each pound of cottage cheese there is about one fifth pound of protein, nearly all of which is digestible. According to the Bulletin of the Los Angeles Department of Health, June, 1917, cottage cheese is much cheaper than most meats in furnishing protein; for we are told that as a source of protein, one pound of cottage cheese equals :

1.27 pounds of sirloin steak 1.09 pounds of round steak

1.31 pounds leg of lamb 1.52 pounds of fowl

1.37 pounds breast of veal 1.58 pounds loin of pork

For supplying excessive amounts of protein, the soy bean takes the lead among vegetable foods, containing about twice the per cent found in round steak. Peas, all beans, and lentils likewise are very high in protein ; also most of the nuts. These heavy foods should be used with caution, especially during the spring and summer months, when well baked cereal breads and green garden products constitute the ideal diet.

That the use of meat is poor economy is shown by the fact that the practice of raising and feeding animals for human food is extravagant, both in the amount of land needed for pasturage, and in the labor required for herding, stabling, care, transportation, etc. As a comparison between the productive power of land under pasturage and under the plow, the following statistics and comment from an eminent authority are given :

100 acres devoted to sheep raising would support 42 men : proportion, 1 100 acres devoted to dairy farming would support 53 men: proportion, 1 1/4 100 acres devoted to wheat would support 250 men : proportion, 6 100 acres devoted to potatoes would support 683 men: proportion, 16

Mr. Powell states further: “If only 20,000,000 of the 35,000,000 acres now devoted to grazing in the British Isles were brought under wheat, then at a moderate estimate the wheat so produced would support 40,000,000 people. The British Isles could there-fore produce sufficient food to support the whole population, if the latter were vegetarians instead of flesh eaters.”