History of Food Prices (in Charts)

In real terms, staple food prices have dropped significantly owing mainly to the mechanization of farming methods, and the introduction of better fertilizers, pesticides and economies of scale. Beginning around 1800, costs really started to drop as energy inputs (petroleum) replaced manual labour and animal-powered transportation. The chart below shows real wheat prices in the UK going back to 1300.

Over the past 100 years, wages around the world have risen much faster than food prices. We are far more ‘food-rich’ than our ancestors. The chart below compares the change in wages to the change in food prices since 1901 in the United States.

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