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A Taste of Walmart


David Ross
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I suppose the moment one reads the words "Walmart" on a discussion board about food and cooking the emotions start to boil over the edges of the saucepan. Walmart? Really? How on earth could the empire that epitomizes the unhealthy model of processed, sugar-loaded and chemically-enhanced foods find it's way into the vernacular of the serious home cook?

Certainly there are many, many negative reactions when one hears the words Walmart spoken in the context of the foods that line the aisles of America's Superstores. But should we be so quick to react so harshly? It's really similar to the discussion in the "Ruth's Chris Ain't All That Bad" topic here. Just because a steakhouse, or a grocer, is part of a vast National chain, should it be defined as being "bad?"

I'll be the first to admit that I shop at Walmart not only for the sake of convenience. However hard it may be for some of us to believe, Walmart does in fact sell a number of locally-made, organic, and dare I say it "upscale" products. I can choose to buy the Walmart generic branded heavy cream, or I have a choice of heavy cream from two locally-owned and operated dairies. I can buy Oscar Mayer bacon, or I can buy bacon, sausages and smoked meats from family-owned business in Pendleton, Oregon and Twin Falls, Idaho. Yesterday I bought a free-range, organic chicken, (and quite expensive at that), from a family farm in Washington.

I don't live in a city with a year-round farmer's market, and the one small upscale market is on the other side of town and doesn't offer the wealth of other merchandise I can find at Walmart. So while I vary my shopping based on what I may be cooking, I find no reason not to shop at Walmart. And, sans the dried morels, (from the specialty market), and the fresh chives, (from my garden), in the dish below, one can craft a delicious and good-quality meal from ingredients bought at Walmart. Yes, the chicken, the organic, free-range stock and local chardonnay used for the braise came from Walmart. The asparagus, the carrots and the English peas-Walmart. The lemon, apple cider vinegar and the local butter to make the sauce-Walmart.

Braised Chicken with Spring Vegetables-

Braised Chicken with Spring Vegetables.JPG

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Nice post, David. But, because of my coming of age in the late sixties and seventies, and the outrageous labor practices of Walmart, I will never give Sam and his fam a cent. Never. Just as I'll never eat eat at Cracker Barrel.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Walmart is a mixed blessing. They destroy small towns by building out of the city's tax range and out- compete the mom and pop stores that are the anchor of those towns.

Just when I'm really ready to hate them they expose the greed/fraud of chain pharmacies and charge $4 for a months worth of many critical generic drugs.

I think Walmart is both the best and worst outcome of free market economics.

Sent from my Droid using Tapatalk

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Just when I'm really ready to hate them they expose the greed/fraud of chain pharmacies and charge $4 for a months worth of many critical generic drugs.

They were successful in closing so many mom/pop grocery stores, that now they're gunning for the pharmacies. The thing of it is, now that so much of the competition is gone, WM is raising their prices on groceries; some articles have the percentage incrase as much as 60% on some items. Plus, they have squeezed out many brands. Often, there is only their 'Great Value' brand (which may or may not cost more than other brands) with a few very limited other brands to compete.

However, the lure of $4 prescriptions is a big one. When so many citizens, especially the elderly on fixed incomes, this is sure helping ends meet.

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They aren't hurting mom and pop pharmacies. Walgreens and their ilk took care of them.already.

Walmart is giving Walgreens a dose of it's own medicine. High time too, they have raked it in for too long by overcharging for dirt cheap generics.

Sent from my Droid using Tapatalk

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However, the lure of $4 prescriptions is a big one. When so many citizens, especially the elderly on fixed incomes, this is sure helping ends meet.

Until enough competition has been eliminated that they can jack up the prices to $10 per pill and get away with it.

Walmart is just taking a page from the (very) old A&P business playbook.

Eventually, someone will come up with a way to shave another few percent off cost, lower their margins and we'll wax nostalgic for Walmart the way we do about the now-defunct A&P.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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OK, I'll bite. I will admit to shopping at Walmart. One has been built on my way home from work and I stop in there almost every day. I will not buy their beef cuz I just do not like the look of it. There are a few exceptions: beef tongue and beef cheeks can be had for a very reasonable price and I do indulge in those cryovac products.

Having been to Italy several times in the last few years, I just cannot get over how differant their approach is to produce. Every time I see people manhandling lettuce or cukes one by one I just have to shake my head. You just do not handle produce in Europe without putting on gloves and the contrast stands out nowhere in the US better than Walmart. Americans just don't get it yet, but I am certain they will in time.

HC

Edited by HungryChris (log)
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HungryChris, you are more optimistic than I am about the American consumer. Europeans have been taught respect for ingredients since forever. Americans were taught to value cheap & plentiful, to worship abundance without respect for how it became so abundant.

Walmart serves a purpose: cheap abundance. The people demand it.

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I shop at Walmart because it is closest to me.

They were not selling groceries until after Albertsons closed the market down the road. Then the Walmart became a "Superstore" and it is handy because I can do one-stop shopping.

At one time there were two other markets here but they closed long before Walmart arrived in the area and I had to drive nearly four miles to the nearest Ralphs (now closed but not because of Walmart).

There were no mom & pop stores in my area. There was and is a convenience store/gas station that charges outlandish prices for the few groceries it does carry.

If I have bulky items, the checkers call for someone to assist in carry out and loading them and they do this routinely for seniors or disabled customers, one doesn't have to ask.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I have not spent much time in Walmart stores shopping for grocery. Too many other options available to me. Several years ago, I did check out a Walmart Neighborhood Market. It was ok. I didn't see anything notable about it. But I guess if it was really close to me, maybe I would shop there more? I had to drive buy several traditional grocery stores to get to it.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Walmart is a mixed blessing. They destroy small towns by building out of the city's tax range and out- compete the mom and pop stores that are the anchor of those towns.

I live in a small town. Believe me, it's not like those Mom and Pop stores are always somehow great and something to be preserved. Don't get me wrong - I like buying local and all that - but have you been to a grocery store in a small town with no competition? You're lucky if you can buy such exotic and crazy things like red bell peppers or any spice other than the most commonly used ones.

All the Mom & Pop groceries from my childhood were long ago put out of business not by WalMart, but by local chains. About 7 or 8 years ago, WalMart put in a grocery store, and I can say it's done nothing but increased the competition in a good way. They had such outlandish things like a fish counter and organic vegetables. Now suddenly the local chains are carrying Mexican and Oriental ingredients. In contrast, when I first moved back to town 10 years ago, you couldn't find fresh cilantro.

So for this small town, at least, WalMart's been fine. I don't agree with their business practices and a lot of their politics, but I cringe to think what the local stores would carry without the competition that some of the big boxes provide.

Edited by abadoozy (log)
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The quality and variety of the food items in Walmart or Kroger is inversely proportional to the distance to the nearest Whole Foods or Weaver Street Market (...community owned cooperative grocery store).

Before Walmart, the only seafood I could get locally (Hillsborough, population ~7k, 15 miles from Durham, pop ~100k) was frozen breaded fish sticks. Walmart started carrying farmed salmon, and frozen tilapia, shrimp, and occasionally other things like scallops and oysters, and the local Food Lion followed suit. When Weaver Street opened, they started carrying fresh NC/SC shrimp, flounder, scallops etc, and the quality of fresh produce stepped up a notch. Food Lion replaced some of their fresh produce space with a more extensive Mexican product selection.

Competition has been good.

Interestingly, the Kroger near the wealthiest part of Durham, Hope Valley, has the worst fresh produce. However, their wine selection is double what others have, and the prices are 1-2$ higher for the same brands.

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I shop at Walmart at least once a week, and at the big box store Sam's Club quarterly for large purchases of meat and nearly everything else necessary to run my household and feed my family and pets. I find the produce at Walmart to be superior to the Ma and Pa store in town, as are their prices. The local butcher is a fraud, so we buy our meats at Sam's as I stated above. The deli counter is not top-notch, but I don't expect them to cater to my tastes (Strip District in Pittsburgh, PA, anyone?)since they have a business to run and I am only one customer.

Our Walmart is clean, well-stocked, carries a wide array of items and boasts many long term employees who are friendly and helpful. I can't say any of those things about the Mom and Pop store. I studied Walmart's business model in grad school and, to my mind, Sam Walton(may he RIP) gets a bad rap. His stores employ hundreds of people in job poor areas and bring abundance to those same areas.

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Outmoded and antiquated business models killed off the Mom & Pops. Wal-mart just hastened their demise.

For all the self righteous hatred that the well off like to heap on Wal-mart, the chain is actually one of the reasons why the poor in the US are able to afford a relatively higher standard of living. Walmart's economies of scale and logistics have brought prices down across nearly every category that they sell.

The posters on this board mostly belong to a niche market and some allow this personal world view to cloud their view of how other people should live their lives. Ask a real poor person whether they'd rather have local goods sold at a family store or replacement mass produced goods sold for 30% less and they'll choose the cheap goods nearly every time.

People barely able to feed their families do not care if the chicken they buy is organic and given plenty of room to roam while it is being raised. They just want their children not to go to bed hungry.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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The thing about Walmart in my opinion is that like so many things, it is hard to see the problems from very close up. You would be hard pressed to find a Walmart store, or any other large chain for that matter, that doesn't have some good and decent employees and serve the poor in someway (cheap prices, etc). These days it is necessary to survive in the business world to be seen as a do gooder.

The problem is that Walmart has put itself in a position where few have a choice. I have a friend from a small town in Kentucky, and he shopped at the local Walmart because there was nowhere else to shop. And don't get me wrong. I appreciate that they are starting to offer products from local producers, and more "gourmet" products, and I even know someone who helped them pioneer an effort to promote green lighting technology, all good stuff. But in these communities they ultimately have a monopoly.

As for the cheap prices, which is good for the poor... It is true that cheap food is better than expensive food, all else equal. But since when is all else equal? They way they get those cheap goods is by buying them from farms and factories with poor conditions, hours, etc, or products dependent on subsidized corn, which itself is an ultimately inefficient and unhealthy practice. We do get goods for cheap, but at great expense to our own health and others livelihoods. We are effectively trading our need for cheap goods for the workers need fore a good wage.

I can't claim to have any solutions to this problem, and there are definitely places where little can be done but to shop at Walmart. All I guess I can say at this point is that I dislike the system, and try to support companies whose practices I like better.

Edited by rebecca (log)
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Outmoded and antiquated business models killed off the Mom & Pops. Wal-mart just hastened their demise.

...Ask a real poor person whether they'd rather have local goods sold at a family store or replacement mass produced goods sold for 30% less and they'll choose the cheap goods nearly every time.

People barely able to feed their families do not care if the chicken they buy is organic and given plenty of room to roam while it is being raised. They just want their children not to go to bed hungry.

Absolutely. Poor people spend a disproportionate amount of their income on foodstuffs. Walmart found a niche and filled it like a cornucopia.

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We have 2 stores from a local chain in this town--they are dirty, food is out of date, the selection is awful and the staff is surly.(Other than that , they are really nice. :wink: ) The other store is Sav-a-lot, which sells pretty much only generics, and has a 10 foot produce section.

Walmart is 25 miles away--the next closest option is about 80 miles away. I shop mainly at the Sav-a-lot, but I pretty much have to hit the WalMart for anything except the most basic items.

Lucky me--I have a big garden, local beef in the freezer, and my own eggs.

sparrowgrass
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Hi,

Every meat item has been injected with a 12% solution of phosphates, saline and whatever. The burger is ammoniated. That says it all.

Tim

Hi. Do you have a citation for that information, Tim? I'd be interested to read it.

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I'm lucky that the closest WM is so far away that I'm never tempted to step into that hell. It's an unorganized store with no structure, no sense of why what is where, there's total clutter on the shelves, the employees, if you can find one, don't seem to have a clue where what is (and looking around I'm not surprised). It's by far the worst store I can think of here. And pretty much for that reason I avoid WM when ever possible, I think the last time I shopped at one was on Hawaii or up in Oregon, as I did not know where other stores might be. I've seen things (people) at walmart here that made me wonder on what planet I landed.

Last time I went there was for fishing gear, since it was the only store with a large selection (luckily that changed) but the guy working those aisles had no clue about the things he was selling, LOL.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I also don't recall any nice food aisles there, frozen stuff, junk food, but nothing fresh at all. That might have changed, I'll never know. I'm surprised somebody upthread could buy beef tongue and organic chicken there, I'd not expect to see that, but it's great I think. Maybe the bosses realize that not everything has to be made in China or come from some gigantic plastic farm? That would be nice.

But since the store is a good 20+ min away from me, and there are two targets and who knows how many supermarkets on the way, I'll never know.

It's nice that they made many things affordable to people with little income, but the practices they use(d) to get there are not something I'll ever support.

Just my take of the place of course, and I doubt they miss me :-)

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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It is the Walmart "superstores" that are exactly like other chain supermarkets with full produce and meat sections, dairy, deli and groceries.

The regular prices are certainly less than at Vons and the specials are much better. For people who are dependent on food support programs, they sometimes offer specials that allow them to purchase more for less when using their EBT cards, sometimes two for one on store brand cereals and canned foods.

There are a lot of military families in this area and they find it is more economical to shop at Walmart than at the base commissary.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I had never been in a Walmart until over the holidays when I was looking for frozen, peeled, and deveined shrimp ( a common item where I hail from originally) and nobody, not Whole Foods, nobody, had them...except...Walmart. I ran in and got them and ran out. And they were cheap.

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Certainly there are a wide range of opinions and emotions regarding Walmart. Yet focusing on the issue of the products in the grocery section, and more specifically local, organic, seasonal or "upscale" products-do you have a sense that those products are merely placed in the store as a tactical movement? In other words, are the free-range, organic chickens placed next to the Tyson chickens merely to create the appearance that Walmart offers higher-quality products? Or, do you sense that the expensive chicken actually sells? I certainly don't have scientific data to support either side of the argument, but it seems to me that Walmart realizes that there are people who frequent their stores who want more upscale types of food products,(.e. healthy, sustainable products, including humanely raised animals).

I also sense that, by association, while the free-range chicken costs about $8 bucks as opposed to the factory chicken at $4 bucks, the "budget" shopper may become more educated on the merits of the spendy chicken and choose to buy the fancy bird.

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For rural and peri-urban shoppers in the Deep South, Wal Mart grocery shopping is a fact of life. In so many cases, those stores didn't kill any mom & pop stores--they appeared in response to population shifts in the SunBelt and in brand-new bedroom exurbs. It's less than a mile to WallyWorld from my house; three miles to Winn Dixie (terrible produce), four to a local independent (also with terrible produce), and 18 miles to the nearest Whole Foods. I often joke with a friend who lives on a farm in rural southwestern Louisiana--she's exactly 45 minutes in opposite directions from two different WalMarts, which might be the 21st century definition of the middle of nowhere.

Sure I buy produce at WalMart--my store carries thin haricots verts (albeit in a cellophane bag), bok choy, Napa cabbage, multiple kinds of lettuce, mangoes, mung bean sprouts, locally grown strawberries & citrus in season, sugar snap & snow peas, fresh ginger, whole pineapples, and other items not stocked at my local independent or at the "Dixie". Just tonight, I grilled two pizzas, topped with (homegrown) tomatoes & basil, (WalMart) Belgioso fresh mozzarella, (WalMart) Polly-O ricotta, and a little bit of (WalMart) Locatelli pecorino romano cheese. Prior to WalMart opening around 9 years ago, I can assure you that no source for fresh mozarella or Locatelli existed in my town of ~5,000.

On the other hand, I DO NOT buy Wal Mart's meat, under any circumstances. No thanks; I'll eat beans for supper every night before I buy the "solution-enhanced" factory farmed blech sold in those foam trays.

But hey, I live within shouting distance of a Monsanto plant that cranks out RoundUp by the trainload, so maybe y'all would consider me an irredeemable soul anyway, even if I didn't shop at WalMart.

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I hate Walmart-for all the above mentioned reasons, but do find myself shopping there once a month, just for the variety and oddball items I can't get at the local chain. We won't buy meat there either. I also dislike their attitude, I feel they could care less if I'm there or not. I can't imagine them offering to carry out my heavy items and I love the look on the last checkers face as she struggled with my reusable bags, the disgust wasn't even hidden. I totally agree with the selection of basic items, at the local store you can get, for instance a can of green beans from Green Giant, Del Monte, Libby's and a few more. At Walmart I have a choice of Great Value and one more-their choice and the next time you go in it'll be a different one. Can't stand that everything in there is made in China too.

Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality. Clifton Fadiman

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