How much flax seed could $150k buy?

Jan 24, 2020

So some mornings while I’m getting my bird set up in her cage before I catch my bus, I apologize to her that I have leave for work, but that I’ll be spending the whole day picking flax for her to eat. Oh, by the way, flax seed is Sophia’s favorite food—brown flax that is, not that golden shit.

It’s a silly little joke: Claiming that I’m spending all my time, energy, and income on buying seeds for a bird who eats less than two tablespoons per day. But I live alone so I take what I can get.

But yesterday afternoon I thought to myself: how much flax seed could I actually buy on a year’s salary?

Retail

Well, there’s a retail store in Noe Valley that sells brown flax seed at $1.99 per lb. That’s usually where I get my flax seed from. Assuming I have a typical tech company annual salary of $150k (I don’t), that works out to roughly 68,392 lbs of flax. About 34.2 tons! That’s a lot of flax.

What does 34.2 tons of flax look like exactly? Well, it seems that according to a quick internet search, a tandem axle dump truck can typically haul 15 to 20 cubic yards, and anywhere between 12 and 16 tons of payload, dependent on truck specifications and local laws[1]. Looking up the number of pounds of flax seed per cubic yard, I find it to be 854.93 lbs/yd3[2].

That means 68,392 lbs of flax is almost exactly 80 cubic yards, and if each dump truck can hold, say, 16 cubic yards of material, then it follows that I’d need exactly five full axle dump trucks to haul it all. And in case you were wondering, I did double check: the dump trucks would not be over their recommended weight capacity. Mind you these are tandem axle dump trucks — those are the big ones. For reference, the 1-800-GOT-JUNK dump trucks only have a single axle.

But how long would all that seed last my little Sophia? If I go with 1½ tablespoons per day, that works out to roughly 2,279,733 days, or 6,246 years. That also means that I could instead feed 2,279,733 pigeons in a single day. According to OvoControl, a company that develops a humane bird feed that is essentially pigeon birth control to help combat overpopulation, the number of feral pigeons in New York City “exceeds one million”[3]. So, with that much seed, I could reasonably feed every single feral pigeon in New York City twice over, and maybe still have some seed left over.

Wholesale

Of course, if I were serious about this, I would be crazy to pay retail price for that much seed. If I were smart I’d go through an industrial supplier or wholesaler—that’s the not crazy thing to do. And I’m not crazy.

So at around 7pm on a Friday night, I found myself searching “industrial suppliers brown flax” on Google. I eventually discovered the website for the Flax Council of Canada where they have a list of something like ten industrial flax suppliers.

I chose the first flax supplier on the list, because I’m not exactly an expert in comparison shopping industrial suppliers of ancient grains and seeds. It was a company headquartered in Chicago named Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM). I guess they won because they were fortunate enough to have a name starting with the letter A. They seemed pretty legit, so I was poking around their site hoping to find anything on prices for bulk quantities of brown flax seed, but of course it wasn’t listed. I did, however, find a handy “Contact us” button…

To whom it may concern,

My message is mostly just a retelling of everything described above but in a little less detail, so I’ve omitted it for brevity’s sake. At the end of the message, I posed the question:

So I was wondering: how much ADM brown flax seed could $150k USD buy?

Thanks!

While I was at it, I also sent an email to the second supplier in the list: CanMar Foods (I guess maybe I am comparison shopping now). For what it’s worth, their logo was a lot better and their website was significantly more inviting; they even had this tagline on their wholesale inquiry page:

Your 𝒻𝓁𝒶𝓍 needs. Made to Order.

How could I not?

Two-month Update

Neither wholesaler ever ended up getting back to me. So sad.


  1. https://www.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_average_VOLUME_of_dump_truck ↩︎

  2. https://www.aqua-calc.com/page/density-table/substance/whole-blank-flax-blank-seed-coma-and-blank-upc-column--blank-078742141602 ↩︎

  3. https://www.ovocontrol.com/pigeon-facts-figures ↩︎