Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bread Botheration

A very fascinating discussion of le probleme du pain over at Marginal Revolution.

Tom Slee sums up the contents:

"The number of different and (to this reader) all perfectly plausible contributors to the difference between French and American bread is astounding. A quick scan suggests:

- Taste differences are compensated for by non-taste factors (kitchen life, variety, lack of riots)
- Distribution mechanisms (supermarket vs. patisseries or boulangeries)
- Input quality (water, flour, butter, other ingredients)
- Baker quality
- Consumer expectations (soft bread) and information
- Regulations (USDA, FDA, price controls)
- Identity issues (tradition and heritage)
- Geography (commuting distances, city design)
- Consumption environment (the Eiffel Tower effect, novelty, atmosphere)
- Reputation effects
- Competition for consumers vs. corporate purchases
- Flawed premise: French bread isn't better (Germany is better, US is better, average vs. marginal differences)

When such a simple question can provoke so many possibilities, it is surprising that economists can ever actually agree on anything."

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