Kara Newman began her career as a financial writer. The inspiration for her new book, The Secret Financial Life of Food, began with two little words in the financial newsweekly Barron’s. Jim Rogers, a noted commodities expert, gave the following advice: “Buy breakfast.” He was talking about pork belly futures (which no longer trade) and frozen orange juice futures. That one little comment snapped into focus the point that agricultural commodities aren’t abstract financial concepts – at heart, they’re about food. Pork bellies become the bacon on your plate; frozen orange juice becomes the OJ in your glass. In the end, it’s all about food.
The ups and downs of the commodities market – in Chicago and elsewhere - influence what we eat and what we pay for food. Many farmers study commodities prices to decide what and how much to plant. Chain restaurants use them to manage costs – if the price of beef is expected to spike, does it make sense to raise menu prices, or find an ingredient substitution? Commodities prices set a baseline for prices at supermarkets and greenmarkets alike -- and most people don't even realize it.
Kara Newman is a spirits and cocktail writer based in New York. She is the Spirits Editor for Wine Enthusiast and her work appears in The New York Times, Saveur, The San Francisco Chronicle, Arrive, and Sommelier Journal, among other publications. Previously, she was vice president of Strategic Research at Thomson Reuters.
Recorded live Monday, April 22, 2013 at Kendall College.