We've been thinking a lot about food lately as we try and get our food budget back under $300/month after we cut the eating out budget. So far we're at about $370, which isn't too bad, but it's not quite where we'd like it to be. Seeing as we cut the dining out budget from $300 down to $100 the extra $70 was kind of to be expected and is still a net improvement. Having said that, we're hopefully on track to getting that number much closer to $300 this month.
While we were shopping in the United States awhile back, we noticed the dramatic difference in the price of cheese. A $5 block of cheese here would fit nicely in the palm of your hand, while I could have used the block from the US as a dumbbell. So my wife asked me, why it was so darn expensive in Canada. OK, maybe she was just pondering the thought out loud, but I figured I'd look into it anyhow.
Turns out the main component of cheese is milk! Hard to believe I know. I knew this of course, but I was surprised by the amount of milk that is needed. Some estimates say 10 lbs of milk to make 1 lb of cheese. Wow! So, with milk being such a large component, it's easy to see why it's the cost of milk that forces the price of the cheese up.
So, why is the price of milk so high here in Canada? It's because of the Quotas in Canada. I remember my uncle talking about buying and selling quotas and it just made my head spin. If they produced too much milk, that was just too bad, you could only sell based on the quotas that you purchased. This system has been in place for over 30 years and is unlikely to go away anytime soon. As bad as the system is for the economy as a whole, the average dairy farmer has over $750,000 in milk quotas.
I found most of the information here if anyone is interested.
Not that I'm suggesting a trip to the US every time you need milk and cheese. I'm sure that would throw the gas bill out of whack. Although if you are there you may want to pick some up.