The Secret Financial Life of Food: From Commodities Markets to Supermarkets

Overview

One morning while reading Barron's, Kara Newman took note of a casual bit of advice offered by famed commodities trader Jim Rogers. "Buy breakfast," he told investors, referring to the increasing value of pork belly and frozen orange juice futures. The statement inspired Newman to take a closer look at agricultural commodities, from the iconic pork belly to the obscure peppercorn and nutmeg. The results of her investigation, recorded in this fascinating history, show how contracts listed on the Chicago Mercantile...

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The Secret Financial Life of Food: From Commodities Markets to Supermarkets

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Overview

One morning while reading Barron's, Kara Newman took note of a casual bit of advice offered by famed commodities trader Jim Rogers. "Buy breakfast," he told investors, referring to the increasing value of pork belly and frozen orange juice futures. The statement inspired Newman to take a closer look at agricultural commodities, from the iconic pork belly to the obscure peppercorn and nutmeg. The results of her investigation, recorded in this fascinating history, show how contracts listed on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange can read like a menu and how market behavior can dictate global economic and culinary practice.

The Secret Financial Life of Food reveals the economic pathways that connect food to consumer, unlocking the mysteries behind culinary trends, grocery pricing, and restaurant dining. Newman travels back to the markets of ancient Rome and medieval Europe, where vendors first distinguished between "spot sales" and "sales for delivery." She retraces the storied spice routes of Asia and recounts the spice craze that prompted Christopher Columbus's journey to North America, linking these developments to modern-day India's bustling peppercorn market.

Newman centers her history on the transformation of corn into a ubiquitous commodity and uses oats, wheat, and rye to recast America's westward expansion and the Industrial Revolution. She discusses the effects of such mega-corporations as Starbucks and McDonalds on futures markets and considers burgeoning markets, particularly "super soybeans," which could scramble the landscape of food finance. The ingredients of American power and culture, and the making of the modern world, can be found in the history of food commodities exchange, and Newman connects this unconventional story to the how and why of what we eat.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - James Norton
The Secret Financial Life of Food is a refreshing and much-needed look from a different perspective: food as commodity. Kara Newman…tells the story of food as it is bought and sold in massive, standardized quantities; shipped and packaged efficiently; and transformed into the edible goodies that are the building blocks of the often rotund people that Americans have become…a neatly composed, thoughtful history of a vital but often overlooked sinew of American life. What commodities trading lacks in winsome sex appeal, it makes up for with sheer beefy importance.
Alan Bush

The Secret Financial Life of Food is of benefit to anyone who is involved in the food industry, including growers, processors, consumers, and even professionals in the culinary arts. It also has appeal for those of us who buy and sell commodity futures, helping us gain a better understanding of how the markets have evolved.

iStock Analyst

Those who are interested in the history of the "food" commodity markets will find many treats in Newman's book.

Booklist

Interesting, thought-provoking book for food aficionados.

Seeking Alpha - Brenda Jubin

Those who are interested in the history of the "food" commodity markets will find many treats in Newman's book.

Washington Post - James Norton

a refreshing and much-needed look from a different perspective: food as commodity.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Kara Newman is spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine and the author of two cocktail books, Cocktails for a Crowd and Spice & Ice. She is the former vice president of strategic research at Thomson Reuters and a former board member of the Culinary Historians of New York. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Saveur, and CFO Magazine.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Buy Breakfast 1. How Does Commodities Trading Work?2. The Spice Route 3. The Commodity That Built a Nation: Corn Futures4. Great Grains5. Butter-and-Egg Men6. The Mochaccino Market: Coffee, Sugar, and Cocoa7. Cattle Call8. This Little Piggy Made a Market: The Rise and Fall of Pork Bellies9. When Money Grows on Trees: Produce Futures10. Super Soybeans11. The Future of Food Futures? Contracts to ConsiderEpilogueNotesIndex

Columbia University Press

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