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Corporate America - Can it be stopped?


pork
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WalMart is currently the top employer in 35 states (from the nytimes, i can dig it up if you like). So 35 states of people are going to be buying convenience food for a long, long time until those of us with the luxury to do so start taking these companies to task.

This article?

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/07/weekinreview/07LOHR.html

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<<The point I was trying to make, was that food quality is a separate issue from the quality of the family dining experience. That observations about Wal-Mart should be separate from observations on the breakdown of the American Dining Tradition.>>

Busboy - The point I was trying to make is that I agree with you <smile>. Sorry if I didn't make my point clearly. Robyn

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So how do we convince the American public that they don't want junk?

Well first thing you have to do is realize that it's not all in peoples' heads - it's what their mouths get used to eating. My husband's family has spent a lot of years in North Carolina. The main seasoning they use is salt - lots of it - tons of it. I find a lot of the food (like canned ham) inedible. And when they eat food anywhere - they spend a solid 30 seconds with the salt shaker before even tasting what's in front of them.

My father-in-law has been in a nursing home here for about 2 years now. He complains about the lack of salt in things like beef - even though the nursing home is kosher - and koshered beef is plenty salty (he can't add more salt because he has congestive heart failure). So - after 2 years - he's been unable to re-educate his taste buds. With younger people like my nieces and nephews - it's even worse - because no one is trying to re-educate them.

And cheese - don't get me started on cheese. Now I love cheese - occasionally. It covers the basic fat and salt and smelly food groups :smile:. But when I go to restaurants and see cheese on fish - and not a single appetizer on the menu without cheese - well something is wrong. And all this Atkins diet mania has made things worse - people are pouring cheese on *everything* (can't have a slice of bread - but I'll have 6 ounces of cheese on my steak - that's the new TGIF Atkins diet menu item I heard about on CNBC today - steak smothered in cheese).

So what are we going to wind up with - people who are addicted to salt and cheese on everything? Doesn't sound like a recipe for fun eating. Robyn

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But again, it's all about choice.

Yes, and again, for some it's a choice between organic food and paying the bills.

Saying "it's about choice" is very nice, but can you really say that as long at it includes sneering at those who make what you consider to be inferior choices? Doesn't that imply a moral judgement, one that is possibly being made without all of the facts?

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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<<For those people buying groceries at Costco by choice, is the mozzarella adequate, maybe. Is it better than the home-made, definitely not. At the end of the day, the people buying mozzarella from Costco are not eating as well (and I mean tasting good) as they could if they bought the mozzarella from the italian grocery.>>

Sammy - there are a lot of us in the US who don't have Italian groceries. We might have perhaps one or two crummy "gourmet" grocery stores where the selection isn't terrific - and where most items have spent too much time on the shelf or in the refrigerator case - and the prices are outrageous. I'd rather support Costco (which has brought more "gourmet type" food to my town than any gourmet store ever did).

For what it's worth - I stopped going to one of my local gourmet stores after it failed to take recalled product out of its refrigerator case (I told them about the recall - but I guess they didn't pull the stuff because they couldn't get a refund from their distributor - you're not going to find that at Costco). Robyn

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Some people are good cooks - some aren't. Just because someone was a "stay at home" Mom in the 50's didn't make her a good cook (some like yours were - some like ours weren't).

I will be the first to admit that my upbringing was something bizarrely out of place for the 60's. I like to describe my family to my friends as a sort of dysfunctional "Cleaver Household" :laugh: But nevertheless, my parents traveled (still do, incessantly), and my Mom liked to cook the stuff she ate when she traveled. I still remember (and she still has the gear) when she mail ordered all of the escargot gear and sourced out the snails for some party she was having. I will be the first to admit liking garlic and butter more than many, but my first taste of escargot at age 10 just about sent me running for the bathroom. :wacko: But I can pretty much guarantee that I was the only kid in the Delta that night who had escargot on his plate ( I love escargot now, however). Humorously enough, I was in Galitoire's last year with my children doing the Friday lunch deal and I brought my children along for the first time. Someone at the table ordered escargot and my children both tried it, neither of them seemed very impressed (yuk, gross, you're sick, Dad were the general responses). Chips off of the old block, those little Mayhaws.

I don't have relatives who raise chickens :smile:

Well, you're missing out. But to clarify, the people with the chickens aren't really relatives, just back to the land hippies in the 60's who ended up making a bunch of money and still like to keep chickens. And it is pretty amazing how much different they are from any other chicken I can find nowadays.

I'm not sure what the cause of the "fat" problem is

Well, I am. And I am certainly not a physician or a public health official but I believe that a culture where households contain 1 tv for every person, a couple of computers, and only God knows how many other electrical devices designed primarily for sedentary entertainment is bound to gain a little weight when coupled with a diet of fatty food and virtually no excercise.

Pretty much if you went to a doctor and said, " Hey Doc, I'm just not fat enough. How can I get really big and unhealthy in a pretty short period of time? I will do anything, please help me"

The Doc would say, "Son. You're excercising too much, your diet is entirely too low in fat and high carb foods, and I generally believe that you are burning way too many calories to gain the weight you so desire. What you should do is sit down on the couch, take a firm hold on the remote control and start eating plenty of chips, burgers, and doughnuts while washing it down with lots of soda. Pretty soon you will see those pounds start to appear". :laugh:

So we are back to the question-In a day and age where there are so many other things to do besides excercise and eat right, where we have so many other choices (and not all of them bad by any means, but many need to be moderated a bit, TV, Computer, Video, Burgers, Cokes, etc.) how do we convince people that they are better off both healthwise and economically (ultimately the two things are the same thing in my book), that they would live longer and healthier lives if they would shop well (wherever they choose and taste and budget lead them) and get out of the fast food joints that many people seem to frequent daily?

That is the question that I don't know the answer to. Maybe someone out there does.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Let's keep this to just food:

1. Tom and Jane can afford to shop wherever he/she wants.

2. While in Costco buying 100 rolls of toilet paper, Tom buys a color television, 3 inkjet cartridges, snow tires and a lawnmower. On the way out he thinks about dinner and picks up a gummy fresh bread, prepackaged mozzarella, frozen italian sausages, tasteless tomatoes, a box of pasta (actually a 5 pack), and prepackaged parmigiana cheese.

3. Jane buys the same things at Costco as Tom but stops on the way home at the italian grocery and buys fresh mozzarella, storemade sausage, has a wedge of parmigiana cut from a wheel, a box of pasta and picks up a seeded semolina bread from the Bronx.

Who eats better, Tom or Jane?

I wonder if you have ever shopped at Costco?

In my refrigerator right now is a package of Sausages by Amy - chicken andouille. Are these great sausages - no? Are they very good - yes (as an everyday lower in salt lower in fat alternative to the best sausage - which is unavailable where I live anyway). And they're a heck of a lot cheaper from Costco than through the Williams Sonoma catalogue (which also sells them - they're not available locally).

I also have a pack of red/yellow/orange peppers (6 for $6 - about half what local grocery stores charge) - a pack of red/yellow/orange mini peppers ($4 for lots - unavailable anywhere else here) - I do like peppers :smile: - a hunk of aged PR cheese (again half the price for what it's available elsewhere) - a lot of pine nuts ($12/pound - it would be hard for me to make fresh pesto that didn't cost more than caviar if I had to pay the $5 for 2 or 3 ounces which is charged elsewhere) - the remnants of a jar of peach mango salsa (great on grilled chicken) - etc.

Note that I live in north Florida - and if I wanted to detour on the way home to my nearest Italian grocery - I might not be home until the weekend :smile: .

By the way - where do you live? Perhaps you live in an area laden with good Italian grocery stores. You don't find many of them in most parts of the south. I used to shop at one occasionally when I lived in Miami - but it was almost an hour away from my house - assuming no traffic - it wasn't the kind of place I could stop by on my way home from work. Wasn't a question of money. Who wants to spend 2 hours on the road for a hunk of cheese?

For what it's worth - I do the opposite of what you imply. When I'm in Costco shopping for stuff I like there - I will pick up twice as much bread as I need (good dense crunchy stuff which my local grocery stores don't sell either) - because I'm too lazy to stop at another place on the way home. Robyn

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I also have a pack of red/yellow/orange peppers (6 for $6 - about half what local grocery stores charge) - a pack of red/yellow/orange mini peppers ($4 for lots - unavailable anywhere else here) - I do like peppers :smile:

Robyn, I am with you on the peppers. I don't see how a grocery can charge what they do for peppers (and here in South La, at least for part of the year, many of them are locally grown) at the grocery store when other outlets can sell them for so much less. I do not think that a store of any size would use them for a loss leader, as frankly, red, yellow, purple, etc., bell peppers are not something any stores sell a ton of anyway, if you use shelf space as a judging criteria.

And I love em too :laugh:

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Quite a bit of this thread seems, IMHO, to focus on individual buying patterns, patterns related to both price & quality. This is interesting if we're atomized individuals but there may be a bit more to these issues.

A couple of more interesting themes, again IMHO, that have emerged center on "conspicuous consumption" and "the Good Life."

Jack Boulware's "Revenge of the Leisure Class" provides an engaged update of Thorstein Veblen's concept of conspicuous consumption.

As far as the Good Life, Heather points to this when she notes managing choices between the amount of money she spends on food & how this relates to her ability to raise her children more actively than if she were employed outside the home full-time. I think this notion of the Good Life--e.g., answering for one's self (& acting upon this answer) as to what type of life is most worth living--plays a significant role in consumption patterns. Priscilla also pointed to this when she noted the conflux of self-identity & consumption.

Edit: Perhaps the best place to start for a discussion of the Good Life is Charles Taylor's The Ethics of Authenticity. A fuller treatment can be found in Taylor's Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity.

Edited by MatthewB (log)
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How has the american consumer become such a fucking braindead arsehole?

How do we educate our "Santa Fe Baguette" -eating brethren that this is not the way to live!

Why do these people do it?  They are programmed by this gadget to buy all this crap, and to take another four hours of brainwashing the next day! 

There's a great Neil Young song called "Piece of Crap" that I love.

From the movie "Repo Man": As two guys are sitting in their car for a long time waiting, watching the hustle bustle of people going about their day, one turns to the other and says "Ordinary fucking people, I hate 'em."

A classic!

These are the same people that work at the grocery check out and STILL don't recognize half the stuff I buy. Holding up an artichoke, or endive "what's this again?"

(I did get raddichio for the price of red cabbage once though!)

Pork, I feel your pain.

Most people just don't don't give a shit.

There are people who live as if they had blinders on, not wanting to learn, explore, feel, smell, taste, laugh or cry because it's DIFFERENT. Sadly because of these apathetic assholes, our natural resources will soon be destroyed. It's that pig attitude of "I want a green lawn and I don't care if my dog or kid or your kid gets cancer, I'm using my Chemlawn." Or, "I don't care if workers are exploited, I want my Nike's. They don't want make waves. They want to blend in.

We don't.

I will try very hard not to be ad hominem and personal.

All I will say is that the average person who checks out or bags my groceries at Publix is an immigrant - a high school or college student taking advantage of the educational opportunities offered to Publix employees - or a person with a definite handicap (some are deaf and have speech difficulties - some have Down's syndrome - etc.). They are unfailingly courteous and competent - and if some of them have never seen a fennel bulb before (it's only a seasonal item here) - I will gladly tell them what it is so they'll know next time they see one.

I don't know what your background is. My husband and I are retired lawyers. But he spent time doing things like working on the Ford Motor Company assembly line -and I spent time doing things like working as a secretary - so we could get through school. Workers - the people who serve you - are always entitled to be treated with dignity (although they don't always get it) - not derision. Robyn

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and one other question i have for you i guess heather - and all of those positing that sams club/walmart meat is what you can afford buying in bulk.

when you think about the actual quality of the meat that you buy, where it came from, the hormones and antibiotics used in it's "manufacturing" does it seem worth it to feed to your family to save a few extra bucks?

i'm not trying to sound combative - or stand on any sort of moral soapbox - i jsut have a tough time reconciling buying shady meat and dairy especially, as my health is the most important thing to me. and to me the way most mass-produced "affordable" meats, dairy and poultry are made, it's polluted, and not something i will eat, or feed to my family.

especially when you consider the links between factory made milk and ear infections in kids, the lowered nutrition, the chances of food poisoning from listeria infected meat....

to me buying quality product is a health decision, not any sort of snob factor thing.

The most recent mass case of listeria which killed a bunch of people (if I am remembering correctly) came from D'Artagnan/Hudson valley products (foie gras pates and the like). It wasn't exactly low end stuff. Robyn

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Pretty much if you went to a doctor and said, " Hey Doc, I'm just not fat enough. How can I get really big and unhealthy in a pretty short period of time? I will do anything, please help me"

The Doc would say, "Son. You're excercising too much, your diet is entirely too low in fat and high carb foods, and I generally believe that you are burning way too many calories to gain the weight you so desire. What you should do is sit down on the couch, take a firm hold on the remote control and start eating plenty of chips, burgers, and doughnuts while washing it down with lots of soda. Pretty soon you will see those pounds start to appear".

I remember that episode of The Simpsons. Classic.

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In several posts in this fascnating thread (it is stuff like this that makes egullet a very interesting place to visit) I have refferred to people sitting on couches with a remote in one hand and a megagiantgallono'glug in the other.

It would seem that my little word picture would have been just as accurate had I described a guy sitting on his car seat with a Egg McMuffin in his hand a a megagiantgallono' glug in the cupholder.

Need more evidence. Read this fine piece by Lisa Grace Lednicer of Newhouse News Service

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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The most recent mass case of listeria which killed a bunch of people (if I am remembering correctly) came from D'Artagnan/Hudson valley products (foie gras pates and the like). It wasn't exactly low end stuff. Robyn

do you know how those products were processed?

my beef (pardon the pun) is not with any specific product. My concern is how the product got from whatever animal it came from and onto my plate.

if that process involves forced animal containment and overcrowding , antibiotics, hormones, unnatural diets, assembly line meat packing plants where cross-contamination can occur, cross-country logisitics (increasing the disease vector) and the use of underskilled, underpaid, oftentimes illegal workers, then it's not something i can/will financially support.

apply this thinking to whatever you want to apply it too, and suffice to say, in this day and age, it definitely limits my choices - whether it be fast food, grocery store food, or even restaurant food.

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I will probably be flamed for saying this, but I am a staunch supporter of Walmart. If it weren't for Walmart, I couldn't support my family. If I'm going to get the same exact box of cereal at Walmart for $2 as opposed to $5 at the local supermarket, I don't have a moral dilemma about it. I buy the Walmart box, along with some other stuff and save for stuff like dental work or maybe a new dryer.

Walmart was once a small store too. The difference is, Sam Walton busted his balls to beat the competition in price, instead of keeping the price high like his competitors. He figured that the increased volume would cover the difference. He was right. He also worked with American manufacturers to increase efficiency and keep costs down.

Unfortunately American manufacturers can't keep up with the competition and so it's off to China we go. Is that a bad thing? It really depends on your perspective.

I have very little patience for that little Italian store that overcharges for milk. If it's premium milk, where the milk is handsqueezed from the teats of alfalfa fed, massaged cows, then fine. But very basic economics tells us that they shouldn't expect a lot of customers for said expensive milk if it's the same as what you can get at any other store. If the price is high enough, they will drive themselves out of business.

There are a lot of little stores that do it right. These will probably become part of the "big business" that you guys rail against next. I go to a video store that has most of the popular videos for $1 a night. They are near a Blockbuster, yet they have expanded in recent years. Also, a chain that I think does it right is Trader Joe's. However, they are almost as ruthless about prices as Walmart. My Korean supermarket keeps prices really, really low, and they offer superior service and products.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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What I find interesting about this thread is we would not have been able to have this debate about organics, non-organics, farm vs factory meat, etc. not too many years ago because these choices did not exist in any meaningful way.

And while small retailers and suppliers certainly were on the leading edge of providing some alternatives, it was only when large companies got behind them that anything like broad choices were available to the average consumer.

I think it is safe to assume that if and when consumers start demanding that ALL their meat, eggs, dairy, fruit and vegetables be produced without pesticides, hormones, free range, etc., food companies large and small will find a way to do it.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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What I find interesting about this thread is we would not have been able to have this debate about organics, non-organics, farm vs factory meat, etc. not too many years ago because these choices did not exist in any meaningful way.

And while small retailers and suppliers certainly were on the leading edge of providing some alternatives, it was only when large companies got behind them that anything like broad choices were available to the average consumer.

I think it is safe to assume that if and when consumers start demanding that ALL their meat, eggs, dairy, fruit and vegetables be produced without pesticides, hormones, free range, etc., food companies large and small will find a way to do it.

Excellent thoughts.

I think that the debate over genetically altered foodstuffs proves you right. No matter where one stands on this issue, it is clear that it is on the front burner with many consumers and producers of foodstuffs and this debate is not limited just to the western world. The W.H.O. apparently is spending lots of resources looking into the pros and cons, although in my view it seems like it is difficult to tell what the effects are in the short term. This is a debate that (given continuing scientific advances) will continue for the rest of our lifetimes, at least.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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...typically this comes from sides of beef at my butchers.  not already packaged and shipped to them for their display cases.

And, again, unless your butcher is doing all killing, hanging, and cutting on-site, which is highly unlikely, your "minimally processed" happy meat has been through the same killing facility as plenty of "factory farmed" unhappy germy meat.

Granted, the risk of E. coli 0157:H7 contamination is lower if you're buying meat that was shipped to the butcher as a whole carcass as opposed to box beef, but it's by no means eliminated - it's still Russian roulette, but your odds of survival are a little better.

to me the way most mass-produced "affordable" meats, dairy and poultry are made

The vast majority of the meat you consider to be "factory-farmed" was actually raised by small producers on family farms - the ConAgras of this world are the middle/end of the process. Small farmers generally don't have the luxury of picking and choosing who their customers are going to be because of time constraints. When you need money, you need to sell animals, and it's a lot less difficult from a producer standpoint to go ahead and sell them into the corporate stockyard-to-feedlot-to-freezer chain than it is to establish your own direct marketing.

Supporting artisanal producers directly is all well and good. However, the only people I know who've been successful as artisanal producers (in both beef and dairy) already had a heck of a lot of money to spend on promotion, advertising, facilities, etc. Sure, they're technically family farmers, but they don't need the money nearly as badly as the folks who are raising 5-10 calves a year to sell at the stockyard for supplemental income.

Just don't make the mistake of assuming that you're striking a blow against evil corporate whatever when you choose not to buy "affordable" meat - in the end you're hurting plenty of family farmers too.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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my motivations are primarily for my health. i don't do well with hormone and antibiotic treated meats. that meat, dairy and poultry is easy to come by.

again, i'm not sure why y'all seem to feel the need to try to dismantle the logic behind my choices. they are my choices after all - and like i said - i have done my research and have reached a happy medium that suits me.

you can eat whatever you want to eat - i just may not be joining you on that.

and i could spend my time rebutting every point you make with graphic data, but again - why should i? i'll save that for the vegetarians to do.

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<snip> it was only when large companies got behind them that anything like broad choices were available to the average consumer.

I think it is safe to assume that if and when consumers start demanding that ALL their meat, eggs, dairy, fruit and vegetables be produced without pesticides, hormones, free range, etc., food companies large and small will find a way to do it.<snip>

Excellent point, fresco.

Apparently vegetarians are not popular on these boards, yet I can't help but say that thanks to their pressure, McDonald's finally has a decent, if somewhat dry, veggie burger that is reasonably priced. Also, they now have a line of pretty decent salads, which are great esp when you're at the airport and need to grab something quick.

Businesses have no choice but to cave into consumer demands. Frankly, I don't understand where you guys are coming from because in my eyes, we have more choice than ever before.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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Frankly, I don't understand where you guys are coming from because in my eyes, we have more choice than ever before.

We do have more choices but most are lousy. Kind of like 100 tv channels, 95 of them worthless.

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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