chapter  4
27 Pages

Cheap Food, Hunger and Obesity

We have all heard the stat: ‘The American farmer feeds X people.’ Based upon what I have recently read and heard, the number today seems to be between 125 and 150 people. A popular figure used to tout American exceptionalism in the area of cheap food, the statistic was employed heavily during the Cold War. I recently stumbled upon an advertisement for the American farmer in a 1963 issue of Life magazine.1 Paid for by the Chicago Board of Trade and entitled ‘Red China’s Greatest Weakness’, the advertisement compares the American farmer, who at the time ‘feeds himself and 29 other persons’, with farmers from China and Russia, who are reported as feeding three and seven people, respectively. The advertisement then proclaims that the American farmer ‘puts on our tables the best and cheapest food in the world’ (Life Magazine, 1963, pR2).