National / International News

Marketplace’s inflation calculator: some fishy prices

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-09-08 01:00

In 1989, the year Marketplace first went on the air, the average cost for a year of a private, four-year college was $11,474 for tuition, room and board. If those costs had risen only with inflation, the average price would be $22,045 these days. According to the College Board, the actual cost for the 2013–2014 academic year was $40,917. We plan to dig deeper into the cost of higher ed later this fall in our inflation series.

I am currently paying for two college tuitions, so I find the subject too grim to discuss right now. And when I am feeling down, there’s nothing like something on a bagel to cheer me up. Something like smoked salmon.

We are conditioned to assume that everything gets more expensive over time. However, that is not necessarily the case, which is why silky, red-orange fish comes to mind. When I was a kid, my family treated smoked salmon like it was caviar. Somebody would bring back from the deli just an eighth of a pound, which we would carefully apportion as morsels on the bagel like scraps of gold leaf. The cream cheese completely overwhelmed the salmon. These days the cream cheese has lost the battle. There is a place near me where you can get a fresh, toasted bagel with a good three-quarters-of-an-inch slab of smoked salmon for $6.50.

What has changed? In part, aquaculture. A fisheries economist tells me that more than half of the fish the world eats now is, essentially, farmed. In the last 25 years, countries from Scotland to Chile have taken to large-scale-farming the salmon that become smoked salmon. Fish farming can have an environmental cost, and done poorly the practice is unsustainable and can hurt the wild salmon fishery. Yet there is no doubt the practice has altered the wholesale and retail markets. For a time, prices dropped and smoked-salmon sandwiches got a lot thicker.

But the story of smoked salmon does not end there. There is salmon production and there is salmon consumption. Around the world people have developed a taste for the stuff, nowhere more so than in China with its burgeoning middle-class. All this demand could have put smoked salmon back into caviar class.

One man who knows is Saul Zabar, president of New York City’s legendary grocery Zabar’s. Saul figures he sells about 2,000 pounds of smoked salmon a week. That’s, literally, a ton. He sees the gradual shift from wild salmon to farmed helping to keep prices under control.

“The fact that we have farmed salmon has kept the product at a reasonable level so that it’s available to the people who are not wealthy,” said Zabar. “It’s kept it as a middle-class product, which is great. It’s enabled us to sell product to a wide variety of people, where if it had remained wild, it would be only available to people who have the means to buy it.”

Zabar couldn’t remember what he was charging for smoked salmon 25 years ago. However, I did find a New York Magazine from that year that mentioned a Zabar’s sale price: $15.95 a pound, Scotch salmon, pre-sliced. That’s like $30.65 today. And what is Saul actually charging today, routinely, no special sale? $23.95 a pound. In real terms, that’s a 22 percent decline in 25 years. 

Also interesting is why the price hasn’t come down further at Zabar’s. Saul told us his prices have to reflect not just the wholesale price of the salmon, but his other costs. He owns his famous building, so that’s not the problem. He does single out what he has to pay for health care for his employees. Now that’s a whole other kettle of fish where deflation has certainly not been the trend. 

Michael Palin to narrate Clangers

BBC - Mon, 2014-09-08 00:24
Comedian and presenter Michael Palin is to narrate a new series of classic children's TV programme, The Clangers.

VIDEO: Mentors tackling violent extremism

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 23:25
The BBC is given exclusive access to the government-appointed mentors who are trying to turn people away from violent extremism.

In pictures: Desert island Bestival

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 21:55
Annual music festival on the Isle of Wight

VIDEO: Third of siblings split in foster care

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 21:49
A third of children placed in foster care last year were separated from their siblings according to a leading charity.

In pictures: Deadly Kashmir floods

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 21:40
Floods in Indian-administered Kashmir

NI's economy 'remains on track'

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 21:30
The recovery of Northern Ireland's private sector has slowed down but "remains on track", according to data provided by the Ulster Bank.

Harvard Receives Largest-Ever Donation

NPR News - Sun, 2014-09-07 21:27

The $350 million gift pledged to Harvard University's School of Public Health will help bolster research in several key areas including global pandemics, officials said.

» E-Mail This

Henderson injury scare for England

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 21:25
England midfielder Jordan Henderson is a doubt for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland with an ankle injury picked up in training.

Gaza aid appeal raises almost £1m

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 21:25
More than £900,000 is raised in a month in Scotland for the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal to help those affected by the Gaza crisis.

VIDEO: The machine that could help Ashya

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 21:08
Five-year-old brain tumour patient Ashya King is being prepared to leave hospital in Spain for proton treatment in the Czech Republic.

Britain 'becoming like Downton Abbey'

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 20:42
The leader of Britain's trade union movement warns of a "Downton Abbey-style" society in which social mobility "has hit reverse".

Pro-Union figures step up campaign

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 20:37
Supporters of the Union step up their campaign with 10 days to go until the Scottish referendum - after a poll suggested a narrow lead for the Yes campaign.

Sibling bullying ups depression risk

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 20:00
Being bullied regularly by a brother or sister could put children at risk of depression when they are older, suggests a study.

Iraq secures area around key dam

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 19:29
Iraqi government forces say they have cleared Islamic State militants from an area around the Haditha dam, as the US widens its use of air strikes.

VIDEO: Waiter smashes beer-carrying record

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 19:25
A German waiter has broken a world record by carrying 27 full mugs of Bavarian beer.

Press's new regulator 'not a fake'

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 19:05
The chairman of the self-regulation body set up by some papers in the wake of the hacking scandal says he wants to show critics it is not "fake".

Japan's economy shrinks 7.1%

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 18:58
Japan's economy contracts more than initial estimates to 7.1% in the three months to June, revised from 6.8% reported in August.

VIDEO: Spinning armadillos defy gravity

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 17:52
How Disney is able to make any object spin

Cilla Black: Reliving the early years

BBC - Sun, 2014-09-07 17:36
The legend's early years hit the screen