Butcher

Shoppers encounter empty shelves at an East Bloc butcher shop during the Cold War. Americans today spend less than 10 percent of disposable income on food.

In Nebraska, the Czech and Slovak Educational Center and Cultural Museum gives an unvarnished depiction of everyday life behind the Iron Curtain.

Black-and-white photos show butcher shops and grocery stores with one common feature: empty shelves. One image captures a long line of customers gathered outside a particular store, but they aren’t there for the new iPhone.

The store, believed to be in the former Czechoslovakia, had received a shipment of meat.

In the United States, thankfulness on this particular day takes a personal turn for most people. Many will give thanks for health, family or perhaps a job or better financial situation.

Each one of us, before sitting down to carve the turkey, should give a unified nod of appreciation to the American farmer. It’s the farmer, and in a broader sense an efficient food production and distribution system, that keeps the shelves stocked for the majority of Americans.

The average cost of a typical Thanksgiving meal was $48.91 for a table that seats 10 people, according to an annual survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation. That’s an increase of just 1 cent from the previous year. Turkey prices are actually down 4 percent from last year.

Don’t kid yourself, this country has a hunger problem, one that can’t be ignored. But, unlike those communist countries, it’s not a food availability problem. It’s a economic opportunity problem.

The farmers in the United States hold up their end of the bargain, providing low-cost food in abundant quantities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that Americans spend less than 10 percent of their disposable income on food, a percentage that has remained unchanged in 20 years.

In China and Mexico, food purchases take up more than 25 percent of disposable income. The percentage is around 30 percent in India and more than 50 percent in Kenya. In the United States, can you imagine the outcry if a quarter to a half of the nation’s income went to feeding ourselves?

The availability of affordable food is an easily overlooked blessing with benefits that extend far beyond your dinner table. From Paris in 1789 to Egypt in 2011, history has shown that empty stomachs play as much of a role as philosophical ideals in revolutions that topple governments.

Yet today, farmers are a pawn in a trade war and take blame for climate change, an idiotic suggestion considering that agriculture has been around for about 6,000 years.

One doesn’t have to look far to find things that are wrong with our country right now. But to find what’s right, just look at your table. Or, look at the photographs of those empty shelves in countries where the population never had it as good as we do.