Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Foods that will Win the War"

During WWI, America and Canada were exporting as much wheat as possible to our starving European allies. The U.S. Food Administration campaigned to reduce domestic waste and consumption. "Waste in your kitchen means starvation in some other kitchen across the sea". In 1918 it published a book called "Foods that will Win the War". I adjusted some of its figures for today's population:

"A slice of bread contains a bit less than three-fourths of an ounce of flour.
If each of America's 20,000,000 homes (112,000,000 homes today) wastes one slice per day, the country is throwing away daily over
14,000,000 ounces of flour (78,000,000 ounces now) —over 875,000 pounds (4,900,000 pounds), or enough flour for over a
million one-pound loaves a day (5.6 million loaves now). For a full year at this rate there would be a
waste of over 319,000,000 pounds of flour (1,786,400,000 pounds) —1,500,000 barrels (8,400,000 barrels)—enough flour
to make 365,000,000 loaves (2,044,000,000).
As it takes four and one-half bushels of wheat to make a barrel of ordinary
flour, this waste would represent the flour from over 7,000,000 bushels (39,200,000 bushels) of
wheat. Fourteen and nine-tenths bushels of wheat on the average are raised per
acre. It would take the product of some 470,000 acres (2,632,000 acres) just to provide a single
slice of bread to be wasted daily in every home."

Average yield-per-acre has increased to about 50 bushels today, largely due to agricultural methods that are unsustainable in the long run. Nevertheless, it would still "take the product" of some 784,000 acres "just to provide a single slice of bread to be wasted daily" in every American home.

When something as unimportant as a slice of bread is multiplied by our enormous population, it staggers the imagination.


Anonymous said...

It really gets spooky when you read about The Ug99 fungus, called stem rust.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

great post - the maths make it so clear

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

I just read a post you made on the .308 thread on BCUK, and that lead me back here. I had forgotten just how much I like your blog. I hope you'll keep it up next year. In the meantime - a very cool Yule to you and yours.
All the best

Leonid said...

Sobering. The little things I do or don't seem insignificant when I think of myself as one in the big collective, but I'm always doing my part to make better or worse such collective statistics.