How at-home cooking from coronavirus quarantine has screwed up the American agriculture industry

Originally published at:


On the one hand, it’ll probably return to normal eventually.

On the other hand, I do hope some of the more positive aspects (portion sizes, healthier foods) stick a little…

(A lot of it is surely related to working from home as well. No commute means time to cook…)


The food industry has gotten used to a Levittown approach to food production. Everything they do is uniform, equidistant, predictable, boring.

I look forward to a more creative, focused, healthier, fresher approach if any positive change comes from all this.


I do, too. But it may also come at added expense to consumers.


Speaking for myself, I think eating out less might be a good thing. :slight_smile:

Restaurants are reflecting a global increase in cost. Grocery stores here have increased their prices since May with no sign of coming down anytime soon. The increase will ripple into every restaurant and home in town making eating out and home cooking more expensive anyway.

Funny thing is that the pandemic hasn’t changed anything in the food supply chain mechanics. Distribution centers are still in the same places, trucks drive the same routes, grocery stores are in the same locations.

The spreadsheets just got more complicated.


Same here. Limiting my dining out to one or two days a week and doing more home cooking has only been healthier.

The problem is that this imposes a regressive cost on the poor, especially those who live in food deserts.

Then there’s the contribution to the continued assault on the middle class, a reversion to the time when having dinner at a table-service restaurant was a luxury reserved for the affluent. I remember reading a YA novel about an immigrant family in turn-of-the-20th NYC, where the daughter was shocked at the extravagance when her boyfriend took her to a restaurant – the first she’d ever been to in her entire life. As a child of the post-war economic anomaly, it really struck me and It sticks with me all those years later.

You make a good distinction. The infrastructure hasn’t changed, but (as the article discusses) the mechanics go deeper. The logistics mechanisms and algorithms are wonderful when they work, but are fragile under stress.


Over the past few years, our frequency of dining out has plummeted. A lot of that has to do with having children (and not accepting chicken nuggets as food), Mrs Peas’ dairy allergy and a few other factors, but mostly it’s this. I can’t stomach paying $75+ for something I can do far better at home. The exceptions are our local Chinese takeout, an otherwise unremarkable hidden gem with excellent food and the occasional experience in which the amount of prep items make it less economical to make at home (think Chipotle).

I’m fine with this. I have worked in the food supply chain industry for a couple decades and the margins restaurants and ethical farms are dealing with are horrifying, leading to starvation wages. Unless you happen to live in an extremely high-turnover area like Manhattan and can land a gig at a higher-end establishment, making a living wage is nearly impossible. The truth is that nearly all restaurants are buying from Sysco (or worse), which relies on exactly the type of commodities scales the article is talking about, which in turn edge out a small farm’s ability to even exist in the supply chain. Even “farm to table” restaurants are mostly full of shit and are dipping into the exact same pool as the local diner.

Above all, I hate to see farmland turned over to development, but the farms they’re talking about here are gigantic businesses with healthy protections like crop insurance, government subsidy programs and massive amounts of assets (10,000 acres, trucks, $500+ combine harvesters, etc.). These aren’t small mom and pop operations. In fact, they are one of the major reasons our food prices are artificially suppressed and the food supply chain is so vulnerable to instability.


I’d like to point out, you can get CSA memberships, or just toddle off to your local public or farmers market to support your local farmers and cut out most of the American agricultural industry entirely.

Surprisingly, locally grown fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey… all seem to be far less costly than in the local supermarkets.

The local organic free range chicken is much, much more expensive, and I really didn’t like the taste.

The local sausage guy has some awesome flavors available.

We still need a nice local beef or bison or ostrich guy.


As I’ve said elsewhere, we’re all going to have to get used to paying the real price for things. But as I said above, that burden isn’t going to be borne primarily by the wealthy and privileged.


If we actually learn anything from this, it may end up balancing out. Universal healthcare, a robust social safety network and actual worker protections represent a once in a generation opportunity to eliminate massive public and private costs while providing far better outcomes. The thousand little cuts of the 20th century have left us with just enough blood to get up each morning and get hooked back up to the extraction machine. It seems that COVID may have clued people in to the grift finally.

The most important part of the article:


The new style of advertising on this website is awful. I just got trapped in a glitchy home Depot advertisement. I’m on Android 10. Is anyone else experiencing these annoying ads?


Restaurants meals in the US are subsidised by staff wages. The prices on the menu are only reasonable because you’re allowed to make part of the cost discretionary. You end up paying more, but you get to walk out of the place feeling like a big shot.


All good points above, as a lifetime (yes even growing up) of almost never feeling secure enough to go out and spend $20 to have food made for me,the fact that the average USian spends half their food budget on eating at restaurants is mind blowing.

But yes I can’t wait for the farmes’s market tn come back. A partner gets a delightful CSA that’s pricey but so worth it. And we’ve spent a lot of time this summer improving their garden.
I wish everyone had access to those things. (This is the future anarchists want!)


The powers that be are aware and working on it. It should be showing just the relevant post on the BBS side put something is pulling down the whole page. It will go away (well unless you are reading from the main page to begin with)

1 Like

I find this astonishing…

half their food budgets? I don’t eat out at all, not even delivery pizza or a takeout burrito, and that was the way I lived before the Pandemic. But it took the Pandemic and the “we want haircuts/restaurant meals” crowd before I understood it. I think a lot of it people wanting to be served, not just the food, but having someone to boss around and assert dominance via the tipping function.

I’d like to see how many meals that 70% makes up, how much people are willing to pay for service and for work they could do themselves.


It was an astonishing figure for me, too, given how I live my life (maybe 1/4 of my total monthly food budget maximum goes to restaurants). But I think a lot of it can be written down to the lack of personal time afforded to most people in our late-stage capitalist economy. While it may seem trivial for a lot of us here to spend 10 minutes packing lunch for work or to spend 20 minutes cooking dinner, for people rushing from part-time job to side-gig and for techies on eternal crunch time and for single parents doing 1-hour commutes and for people who live in food deserts it’s just easier (or seems easier – the advertising industry puts lots of effort into that message) to buy a restaurant meal.

With people working from home or just being stuck there unemployed during the pandemic, it becomes a lot easier to carve out that time for preparing meals yourself.


Also the entertainment value. If you can afford to either eat out or go to a movie, well, you have to eat anyway, so…

And now with the pandemic people may have time to fill at home, so cooking becomes a way of entertaining one’s self, and again, you have to eat anyway, so…

(I guess I’m not really saying anything new here…)


Watch the republicans “fix” it with another 1-2 trillion dollars of ethanol corn subsidies.


Another factor is that cooking makes less sense economically for smaller households. I live alone, and unless I want to eat the same thing for every meal, I can’t buy small enough quantities of ingredients to go through them before they spoil. And the prep time to cook for one person is only marginally less than to cook for four, but you can’t take turns cooking to share the workload. That tips the scales towards eating takeout for me.


Eating out less frequently but better seems like a fair trade to make. And shaking up the agro-industrial complex is needed.