Heritage Of A Taco

Michael Sykuta —  9 March 2010

Thanks to Peter Klein over at O&M for bringing attention to this image created by a group of California design students showing the network of suppliers necessary to produce the taco enjoyed at their favorite local taco truck.

While the purpose of their picture is to illustrate the ecological footprint (“tacoshed”) of their favorite tacos, the image illustrates just how complex is the nature of the food supply system.  It also illustrates why agribusiness firms (and other suppliers to the food system) have comprised a larger share of the average food dollar over the past several decades (relative to the farm level), as supply chains have lengthened to various corners of the globe.

In light of the DOJ/USDA antitrust workshops that begin later this week in Ankeny, IA, this picture illustrates what many participants in the program will likely ignore: the US food system is intricately intertwined with international markets and linked together by the same (large) agribusinesses that are under attack by populist farmer groups. While that is not a defense against competition concerns, it does suggest the nature of competition is much more complex (and hence more complicated to understand) than the simple “big is bad” finger pointing promised by the composition of the DOJ’s “discussion” panels.

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