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Peak food: How to prepare for a hungry, expensive future

by Berit Anderson

What should we have for dinner? It's an age-old question that, for much of the Western world at least, has never been easier to answer.

In urban and well-to-do areas, our grocery stores are a veritable banquet of agricultural progress, nestling perfectly yellowed Mexican bananas alongside pineapples, tomatillos, galangal, and radicchio. A diner in Seattle can choose between wild Japanese uni (sea urchin), Uzbek beef samsas (flakey hand pies seasoned with onion and cumin), wild Russian tsubugai (conch), and Filipino nilaga (a beef stew with ginger, greens, and cold-fermented salt fish), to name just a few.

At no other point in history has any single individual - much less such a broad cross-section of society - had access to this diversity of flavors, textures, ingredients, and preparations at such democratic prices.

This culinary wonderland that many urban dwellers inhabit is the product of thousands of years of innovation in genetic engineering, agriculture, food preservation, and cooking. And it's enabled by sprawling supply chains, low-wage workers, and a global subsidization of fossil fuels that has allowed for the low-cost transport of exotic ingredients from all over the world. The restaurant explosion is facilitated by well-paid employees in tech and business with a scarcity of time and an abundance of dollars.

Most urban dwellers don't think too much of it. In fact, they have grown to expect it.

But whatever your personal relationship to this bounty, I hope you've appreciated it. Because it's all downhill from here.

We've reached peak food.


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