How the supermarket helped America win the Cold War

By Stephen J. Dubner; Produced by Matt Hickey
Freakonomics Radio
Resource type:

This podcast explores US agricultural policy through a Cold War lens, discussing the ‘Farms Race’ between the US and the Soviet Union. The US hoped the science and technological innovations that led to greater agricultural efficiency and productivity - and cheap food prices -  would demonstrate the benefits of capitalism. And the supermarket, a physical display of abundance made possible by capitalism and innovation, would help curtail the spread of communism. As a result of these government policies, investments and subsidies driven by Cold War politics and fears, farmers were incentivised to produce more and more staple crops which led to a surplus of wheat, corn, and soy. This not only influenced the design of the food pyramid but also led to the development of large scale livestock production and cheap meat.

The podcast argues that US populations – and countries around the world that modelled their food systems after the US – are suffering the health, economic and environmental consequences of these policies. An interesting perspective on how government policy and investment can influence food production and consumption patterns, impacting everyone from farm to fork – for better or worse.

This resource presents evidence or data but has not been peer reviewed