Monday, March 3, 2008

Sizing Up the Price of a NY Bagel

I guess, this post is more about family breakfast than family dinner, but as any New Yorker knows bagels are considered fine fare at any time of day.

It's in the news all over that food prices are going up. According to the most recent USDA forecast, Consumer Price Index on food has risen 0.4 percent in the last 2 months, and 4.3 percent over the past year. The cost of grain is affecting bread and meat prices; the cost of milk, of course, affects the price of milk and cheese. So the staples of the American family diet are taking a hit.

In New York, the cost crunch is felt in the bagel. Recently, a 100 lb bag of flour has doubled to $40, as reported in the daily paper, am.newyork. Quoting Ed Usset, a grain market specialist, the article states
"North Dakota flour is bagel flour...(h)igh-gluten, high-protein flour for bagels. That crop is essentially sold out, and we're only half-way through the marketing year."
Out of bagel flour, he says! Egads! Retail bagels are pushing a $1 in some Manhattan shops, and even a "discount" place like the Park Slope Food Coop has raised its bagel prices. The price of a bagel there (from Terrace Bagels) has risen from a ridiculously low $0.38 to a distinctly more pricey $0.58 in just a few weeks. (That's $7 a dozen, folks.) Can a New York mom really stop buying bagels? It is the perfect, portable stroller food, as any mom of a toddler knows. It is the lunch box option of choice for many city kids. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack--I've served bagels at any time of day as a quick bite, or with all the fixings for a full-fledged meal.

Maybe the bagel bakeries will respond by shrinking the colossal size that the NY bagel has attained in recent years. The bagels have grown from a modest few inch diameter* in the olden days to a puffy, gargantuan size. The new bagels are the definition of carb-overload. We should use this recession and bagel flour shortage as a call to deflate the size of the NY bagel. This would reduce costs for the baker, lower the retail price for the customer, and help improve public health with a widespread reduction in calorie consumption. This could be a win-win for New Yorkers.

Breakfast burning a hole in city pockets, Metro, 01.30.08
Bagel Prices Ballooning Across New York, the gothamist. 02.01.08
Was Life Better When Bagels Were Smaller? NYT, 12.31.03. A classic by Ed Levine.

*"Bagels used to weigh 2 to 3 ounces, with about 200 calories, writes New York University nutrition researcher Lisa Young in her book 'The Portion Teller.'


  1. Apparently wheat prices are way up for a few reasons: Energy legislation is making it advantageous for American farmers to grow corn for ethanol. Thus less wheat is being planted. Adverse weather around the world and a drought in Australia and other places has reduced the wheat crop. Very sad. Perhaps I should have a corn bagel?

  2. Dave, You're totally right! I started this blog piece about ethanol actually, but it got so long, I split off the bagel portion and posted that first. Corn bagels...sounds like a franken-food that we may unfortunately see soon. Yuck! Check the label of your next Lender's buy.


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