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Schoenfeld, Clay (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 49, Number 8 (May 1948)

Bullis, Harry A.
A Badger expert speaks his mind,   pp. 22-23


Page 22


A BADGER
EXPERT
SP EA K S
HIS MIND
Ala"# 4.*s 13a&S '1 Y7, Chw40na
     a/ Mhe L3oa4d e!Qea~e'sa Mi11,
         ' "qeod Aesdpe/ in 1948."
  WHY IS THE price of food as high as it is with record crops
year after year? Why, after the wonderful wheat crops of 1946
and 1947, did wheat rise to over $3.00 per bushel this year? Why do
groceries that we could buy for less than a dollar before the war
cost us well over two dollars now? These are questions that the
American people are asking, and with good reason, for food prices
have gone up more than anything else that enters into the cost of
living.
   As the problem of aid to Europe assumes increasing urgency,
people are also asking, How much
wheat, can we safely export to
other countries?
   Food prices are high for three
main reasons: inflation, the world
food shortage, and the high food
consumption of the A m e r i c a n
people.
  Inflation comes when the money sup-
ply increases more rapidly than the
supply of things that money will buy.
The result is risink prices. A period of
inflation and rising prices has followed
every great war in the nation's history,
and the present period is no exception.
All prices have gone up, but food prices
most of all, largely because of the tre-
mendous export demand.
  Total food supplies in the world do
not equal food requirements. It is esti-
mated that, in spite of the millions
killed in the war, there are two hundred
million more people in the world than
there were in 1939, an increase of eight
per cent, according to a recent, report
of the Food and Agricultural organiza-
tion of the UN. World food production
meanwhile has decreased by seven per
cent. The importingnations, particularly
the European countries, are producing
a much smaller proportion of their
foodstuffs than they did before World
War II, and therefore require far
greater importations of food from the
exporting nations .....
  While our total food production here
  has been increasing, our population has
  been increasing also. Between 1939 and
1947 it went from 130,000,000 to 143,-
000,000. Meanwhile, the per capita con-
sumption of food in this country has
been increasing, especially the consump-
tion of the more expensive foods ...
The average per capita consumption
of meat increased 30 pounds between
1937 and 1947.
  These, then, are the main factors that
  have contributed to the upward trend
  in food prices: P o s t w a r inflation,
  e c o n o m i c chaos and unfavorable
  weather in Europe, and the increase in
  population and in per capita food con-
  sumption in our own country ....
  What makes the food bill for the
  average American family so high is
  that we want a lot of expensive food,
22
food, and particularly how much
especially meat. The meat bill of ,the
average family is probably several
times its bill for bread and all other
cereal products. In the United States,
because we are rich (compared to most
of the rest of the world), we can
afford to include in our daily diet many
foods that would be sheer luxuries in
most other countries. Conditions are
very different in Western Europe. Most
Europeans normally eat much more
wheat and other grains per capita than
we do. To them, bread is truly the staff
of life, partly because it is the food to
which they and their fathers have been
accustomed for centuries and partly be-
cause it is so very economical. Even
at its present high price, it is an eco-
nomical food. Where for us wheat foods
make up only a small part of each
dollar's worth of food, in Italy before
the war wheat comprised almost half
of all food. And there was very little
money available for anything.
  Now if we realize that many of the
countries of Western Europe are even
worse off than Italy was before the
war, we have a new idea of how im-
portant bread has become to them and
why it is that there is such an intense
demand for wheat in Europe. Like a
starving man who would spend all he
has for bread, hungry European coun-
tries are willing to spend their money
to buy wheat and flour. To these coun-
tries, whether they have dollar ex-
change or not, we have been extending
aid so that they can have enough food
to survive, even if they do so on less
than half of our 3,000 calories a day.
Most of the money that we have been
providing for European relief has gone
for food, and because wheat is one of
the most economical of foods, buying
has been concentrated on wheat and
wheat flour. Here, then, is the basic
explanation of the high price of wheat
today.
  With respect to meat, however, the
situation is different. The people of the
United States are large meat-eaters,
and even at the present high prices,
they are consuming all the available
supply. That makes meat-raising so
very profitable that the animal grower
looks around for every kind of feed
HARRY A. BULLIS, '17, is chairman of the
board of General Mills, Inc. But he is
more than that. He is also one of the
world's leading authorities on food-sup-
f lies, prices, exports, and imports. When
  arry Bullis talks about food, the UN asks
for a transcript, the US State Department
cocks an ear, the US Department of Agri-
culture quotes him-and the American
housewife would do well to listen. His
life story is not algeresque. He worked his
way through the UW by selling sewing
machines, earned a Phi Beta Kappa key
while he was at it. In the first World War
he served in Europe for 18 months, rose
to the rank of captain, and remained
after the Armistice to study at the Uni-
versity of London. He began working at
General Mills as an accountant and rose
to the very top. In 1919, while still in
uniform, he married his college sweet-
heart, Irma Alexander, "15, in Paris,
France, where she was serving with the
overseas branch of YWCA. He says, "It
was the bravest thing I did throughout
the war." Today, at the age of 58, he
heads one of the country's largest food
processing companies, has a private,
luxurious DC-3 in which he flies to con-
ferences at branch plants all over the
country. He is a past. president of the
Wisconsin Alumni Association.
that he can find to make a little more
meat. In recent years he has used a
good deal of wheat as feed. Of course,
when wheat is used as feed for animals,
its disappears as food   for human
beings. And as wheat gets scarcer, the
price goes higher.
  The Department of Agriculture is
predicting that the meat supply will
decrease so that annual consumption
per capita will be only 120 pounds,
which is 30 pounds less than it has been
for the past two years. If this occurs,
the price of meat may continue on such
a high level as to encourage the feed-
ing of wheat to animals ....
  It is fortunate for the people of'the
United States (and of the countries
dependent on us for food) that prices
in this country are now free to reflect
the relation of supply and demand.


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