Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wheat and bread

Just a few interesting news and facts about wheat and bread:
  • Monsanto acquired Agradis Inc. last year and partnered with the Danish Novozymes to offer enzyme and microbial solutions (Bacillus subtilis and B. stearothermophilus) for wheat, specifically meant to degrade starch after baking and to make for a more tender bread. It is probably a spray or seed treatment, not a GM wheat, but I could not figure it out. The Canadian bakery Weston already offers this type of tender bread, which allows wheat or multigrain bread to have both the nutrients of whole grain and the same texture as white Wonder bread.
pagnotte di Altamura
  • 2 years ago, some French bakeries started using 100% durum (hard) wheat to bake baguette. Hard wheat is, well, hard, and requires twice as much power to mill (under 200 microns) as the soft wheat traditionally used for bread. Durum wheat is used mostly for pasta and semolina or couscous. A 14% gluten variety is currently being used. The result is a baguette that keeps longer. Which in my opinion was totally unnecessary, the whole point of purchasing a baguette is to eat it all on the way between the bakery and home…
    The dough requires more water, as much water as flour, compared to the usual 60-65% of water for soft wheat flour. Some traditional Italian bread still uses twice milled durum wheat flour (pane di Altamura, Puglia.)
  • Every day, one billion persons eat yeast from the French Lesaffre (Red Star), which is used to bake one bread out of three worldwide, in 280 countries.

Boring historical statistics about the cost of bread in Paris, France:

In 1800, bread cost 0.45 cents of a French franc / kg and the average worker salary is 2 francs per day, which can purchase 16 baguettes.
In 1850, bread cost 0.40 cents / kg and the average worker salary is 3 francs per day, which can purchase 28 baguettes.
In 1900 (10 hour workday,) bread cost 0.50 cents / kg and the average worker salary is 5 francs per day, which can purchase 40 baguettes. 1919 introduced the 8 hour workday 6 days a week, 1936 introduced the 40 hour week.
In 1950 (inflation,) bread cost 35 francs / kg and the minimal salary is 90 francs per day, which can purchase 10 baguettes.
In 1970, the minimal salary is 493 francs a month, or 1,040 baguettes at 0.57 francs each. One baguette cost 10.45 minutes of work.
In 1980, the minimal salary is 2392 francs a month, or 1,432 baguettes at 1.67 francs each. One baguette cost 7.26 minutes of work.
In 1990, the minimal salary is 5.286 francs a month, or 1,683 baguettes at 3.14 francs each. One baguette cost 6.28 minutes of work.
In 1997, the minimal salary is 6.664 francs a month, or 1,678 baguettes at 3.97 francs each.
In 1998, one baguette cost 6.04 minutes of work.
In 2000 (35 hour week,) bread cost 2.80 euros / kg and the minimal salary is 45 euros per day, which can purchase 64 baguettes.
In 2008, the minimal salary is 1309 euros a month, or 1,636 baguettes at 0.80 euros each.
In 2010, bread cost 4 euros / kg and the minimal salary is 65 euros per day, which can purchase 65 baguettes. One baguette cost 5.85 minutes of work.
In 2011, the minimal salary is 1365,03 euros a month, or 1,436 baguettes at 0.90 euros each.
Out of these €0.90, 19% is for the ingredients, 53% for salaries and charges, 11% misc costs (taxes, packaging, transportation, ROI), 11% for energy and rent, 6% profit.

The price of bread used to be regulated until 1978, it has been a free market since then.
If regulated, the baguette (about half a pound in bakeries, 250 grams in stores) would cost €1,25 in 2011 instead of €0.90. (€1 = FF6.56)

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