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Gourmet's Wal-Mart article


moosnsqrl
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Just received the June Gourmet today and there is a terrifying article about Wal*Mart and its effect on our food supply. If you don't want to be limited to eating only what the lowest common food denominators who make up their customer base like or are willing/able to pay for, it's time to wake up and take action.

I had already noticed my local grocer was no longer carrying Horizon Organic dairy products and I think this explains why. Horizon has succumbed to the lure of Bentonville and all of their product is being gobbled up -- at artificially low prices as only Wal*Mart's hideous vendor strong-arming can manufacture. And Horizon is apparently under investigation, according to the article, for really stretching the limits of the definition of pasture-fed as defined by USDA's standards.

This reinforces my worst fears about Wal*Mart, lack of biodiversity and the potential ways the new, national, federal-government-controlled organic standards could backfire.

The homogenization of our lives continues... :sad:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I can give you many examples of how hydroponics have helped me.. :biggrin:

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Doesn't bother me in the least.

SB  :wacko:

I guess I just have little faith in (any) government(s) "standards".

Wal-Mart is more responsive to its consumers than the government is to its taxpayers.

SB :hmmm:

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If you don't want to be limited to eating only what the lowest common food denominators who make up their customer base like or are willing/able to pay for, it's time to wake up and take action. 

That comes across as incredibly harsh. [emphasis mine]

And I suspect that the "can afford" side of the equation is greater than the "like" . I was struck by this last night when I ran into the local Food Lion to pick up bread and oranges. FL is marketed to a lower income customer than, say, Whole Foods. I was struck by the lack of variety in the produce section and the dearth of low-fat and reduced calorie choices in the aisles.

The comments about their transparent stocking process were very interesting. I'd like to hear what other eG participants thought about that.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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However, here in Israel we are growing foods hydroponically and they are organic.

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It seems that "largely unproven" is the money part of that quote.

I don't get the Wal-mart phobia that seems to have infested the country. If you don't like Wal-mart, don't go. I shop big box stores for things (mostly non food) where they save me a ton of money like paper towels, TP, napkins, detergent etc.

There are literally thousands of options for food procurement in this country, anyone who wants to put in a little effort can find almost anything they want, especially if they look online and Wal-mart can't do anything about that even if they wanted to.

I never hear people say what they want "somebody" to "do" about Wal-mart. Should the government shut them down? Here in Maryland, the legislature passed a law that requires employers with more than 10,000 employees (Walmart's the only one in MD) to either pay for full insurance for all of them or pay the state to do it. Result? Wal-mart has cancelled plans to build 2 distribution centers in rural communities in the state doing away with almost a thousand potential jobs. Good work. And why only hate Wal-mart? Why not hate K-mart and Target and Costco too? And why just retailers? There are big industry leaders in all areas. Let's put the government in charge of everything and it will all run like the DMV! :biggrin:

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If you live in a rural area, WalMart is a life saver! I used to lived on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Before the WalMart opened in Ellsworth, the nearest place to get cheap underwear, paper towels, a coffeemaker was Bangor--almost a 2 hour drive.

The island grocers really cut down their selection in the winter. During the summer, there were plently of truck farms to buy vegetables from, but in the winter, the island grocers only carried head lettuce. WalMart may not have had the most gourmet selection, but at least I could buy leaf lettuce in January.

S. Cue

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Wal-mart has cancelled plans to build 2 distribution centers in rural communities in the state doing away with almost a thousand potential jobs.  Good work.

Some communities have turned anti-Wal-Mart because a lot of the Wal-Mart employees don't earn enough money to make ends meet so they end up turning to government services (Food Stamps, Medicare, etc) to make up for Wal-Mart's poor wages and lack of health benefits.

Isn't it great that Wal-Mart is employing almost a thousand people but if it also drains state and local government coffers, is this really such a "good thing"? Some communities have decided it isn't.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Somehow Target and Costco have been given a pass on such scrutiny. And yet, the aforementioned dread Horizon milk is found at Costco, a company whose buyers are certainly ruthless on their price point and supply demands. I would imagine Target's are no different.

Are Target's employees paid more than Wal-Mart's? And do they all, even part-timers, have company-paid health insurance?

A lot of the anti-Wal-Mart agitation is classism. I fail to see how shopping at Target or Costco is more pure or noble than shopping at Wal-Mart.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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Did any of you read the article? I don't shop at Wal*Mart; you're right -- my decision. The point is that they are controlling literally what suppliers are supplying. They will stock only X number of things. Period. Since they represent this huge % of most of their suppliers sales, and they are very controlling in how and when they order, accept delivery, etc., some suppliers are simply halting production of other goods -- to anyone, not just Wal*Mart -- to accomodate their demands.

It's like concern over biodiversity only on a macro level. If everyone is growing only one kind of corn, raising only one kind of cow, etc, we are at much higher risk for something along the lines of the Irish potato famine to occur, and this type of practice pushes us into that danger zone.

Levi's (one of 'Merica's great companies, remember them?) started to offshore production to cowtow to Wal*Mart's insistance that they continue to drop prices. I guess all of the people who were working for Levi Strauss in the US could have gone to MD to get low-paying jobs at Wal*Mart, if only the state gov't hadn't intervened. :hmmm:

No, I don't want the government to take over everything. But Wal*Mart has time and again low-balled prices in areas until the local businesses are driven out. And they are FAR more aggressive in doing so than anyone in retail history that I am aware of. And it is off-topic for eGullet, since it pertains to more than food, but there is another interesting article about their general practices here:

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Somehow Target and Costco have been given a pass on such scrutiny.  And yet, the aforementioned dread Horizon milk is found at Costco, a company whose buyers are certainly ruthless on their price point and supply demands.  I would imagine Target's are no different.

Are Target's employees paid more than Wal-Mart's?  And do they all, even part-timers, have company-paid health insurance?

A lot of the anti-Wal-Mart agitation is classism.  I fail to see how shopping at Target or Costco is more pure or noble than shopping at Wal-Mart.

Yes, Target does in fact pay more, and they have better benefit packages too. Another big incentive for me, is that Target donates 5% of the pre-tax earnings to charity. As someone that works in fundraising development, I can tell you that Wal-Mart is a tightwad company when it comes to donations. There are tons of other reasons too, from Wal-Mart closing shops that unionize, to the litterally HUNDREDS of stores they've left derelict after opening a super Wal-Mart down the street. Then there are the business practices... lowering prices below wholesale until mom-n-pop places go out of business and then racheting up prices.

A friend used to work as a district manager for Wally's world. I once asked him what he thought of Vermont's success at keeping Wal-Mart out of their state. He told me that the company was building 11 stores just outside state lines with the hope of drawing all the consumers out of the state. Once they got in, they were planning on closing all the stores. Don't know how accurate that is, but it seems pretty slimey to me.

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Wal-mart has cancelled plans to build 2 distribution centers in rural communities in the state doing away with almost a thousand potential jobs.  Good work.

Some communities have turned anti-Wal-Mart because a lot of the Wal-Mart employees don't earn enough money to make ends meet so they end up turning to government services (Food Stamps, Medicare, etc) to make up for Wal-Mart's poor wages and lack of health benefits.

Isn't it great that Wal-Mart is employing almost a thousand people but if it also drains state and local government coffers, is this really such a "good thing"? Some communities have decided it isn't.

If Wal-mart's wages and other compensation weren't in line with other retail employers no one would work there, and obviously, no one is forced to work there. It's interesting that the folks who shun Wal-mart in their communities because they don't pay enough (to poorer folks, one assumes by the argument) make those same folks pay more for their clothes, food, etc. by banning the Wal-mart! The free market can seem like a tough place until you check out places where there is no free market. I have no problem with Wal-mart (or anyone else, and every large business does it) using their buying power to gain a price advantage that they pass on to their customers. That's the market and I don't think a Wal-mart induced potato famine is in the offing.

Enough of this stuff, back to food. My favorite big box store joke: told about the old Price Club stores. I go to the grocery store when I want to eat some cheese. I go to the Price Club when I want to construct things out of cheese!

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Somehow Target and Costco have been given a pass on such scrutiny.  And yet, the aforementioned dread Horizon milk is found at Costco, a company whose buyers are certainly ruthless on their price point and supply demands.  I would imagine Target's are no different.

Are Target's employees paid more than Wal-Mart's?  And do they all, even part-timers, have company-paid health insurance?

A lot of the anti-Wal-Mart agitation is classism.  I fail to see how shopping at Target or Costco is more pure or noble than shopping at Wal-Mart.

I would argue that the workers at Costco at least earn a living wage. They recieve health care benefits and when they retire, they can count on a retirement benefit that will help them take care of themselves and their family when they get older.

In addition, when Costco builds in a new community they have project labor agreements that make sure that workers are being paid a decent wage and have health benefits, unlike many construction jobs for other big box employers.

Jennifer
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Joey Madison or WoodleyGrrl, or others, do you have any specifics on pay and benefit disparity between W-M and Target, other than the anecdotal?

Are Target employees unionized?

(Edited to ask about unionization.)

Edited by Priscilla (log)

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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"Yes, Target does in fact pay more, and they have better benefit packages too."

Like the previous poster, I'd like to see the data. If the disparity was very much, either no one would work at Wal-mart, or no one would shop at Target due to higher prices.

"Another big incentive for me, is that Target donates 5% of the pre-tax earnings to charity. As someone that works in fundraising development, I can tell you that Wal-Mart is a tightwad company when it comes to donations."

Can't address the company, but I do know that a charity to which I've been a significant contributor (Washington Scholarship Fund) was founded in part by a LARGE donation from a member of the Walton family, so they do contribute, particularly to education, and not chump change:

http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/20...1-waltons_x.htm

I think their support of causes deemed "conservative" (school vouchers mostly) helps drive the negative coverage they receive in the media.

"There are tons of other reasons too, from Wal-Mart closing shops that unionize, to the litterally HUNDREDS of stores they've left derelict after opening a super Wal-Mart down the street. Then there are the business practices... lowering prices below wholesale until mom-n-pop places go out of business and then racheting up prices."

And when the big Target opens up down the street there's no impact on Mom-n-Pop?

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I like to grocery shop at Wal-Mart, but unfortunately the super-walmart isn't near my apartment, but my work, so I often can't. I find the Wal-Mart's produce, deli, and butcher selections are pretty high quality, maybe not up to Whole Foods (wouldn't know, never been there) but it beats Safeway pretty soundly, and definately far more attractively priced than Acme or Safeway. They also have a great selection and great prices on dry good groceries, so why would I want to go anywhere else?

It isn't my problem is Wal-Mart is strong-arming Nabisco, Neiman Ranch, or Vlasic, but it is my problem if I am spending $100 on a cart of groceries where I could be spending only $80 going somewhere else. If the companies can't keep up and go under, well, it's a pity, but someone else will be found to offer the product and will be willing to take what steps are necessary to hit the price customers demand.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Joey Madison or WoodleyGrrl, or others, do you have any specifics on pay and benefit disparity between W-M and Target, other than the anecdotal?

Are Target employees unionized?

(Edited to ask about unionization.)

Target employees that work in the store are not union. However there are places where their warehouse workers are in a union.

I would start at this website http://www.coastalalliance.com/area_wage_d...s_insurance.pdf

for a quick and dirty about the disparity in benefits, but I will look around to get a more precise answer to your question.

Edited by WoodleyGrrl (log)
Jennifer
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I have a love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart, for all of the reasons listed above. A few observations from local experience:

If I want to find fennel, fresh herbs, or any number of other produce items that are ....well... "gourmet", I find them at Wal-Mart, including the one in my (blue collar) neighborhood. My local Dillons grocery (part of the Kroger chain) doesn't carry them. If I want to drive all the way across town, I can find them at another Kroger chain location.

Target, locally, just closed two regular stores; opened a larger store; and opened two Super-Targets. They went out of the community to get non-union labor to build these stores. And when the old stores closed and the new ones opened, all employees were terminated and had to re-apply for jobs if they wanted to work in the new stores. Not sure why this was done, but it seems even slimier than Wal-Mart's practices to me. I don't shop at the Super Targets, but mainly because they are quite a distance from my house.

I get frustrated with the local Kroger outlet because they have been squeezing out brand name products, in favor of their often inferior (sometimes extremely so) house brands. And if I want to take advantage of their sales, I have to pull out a company card and have it scanned. A local joke, after 9/11, was that the local Dillons store knows and tracks every can of beans I buy, and if they'd been tracking immigrants, too, 9/11 would never have happened.

So tell me, where do I shop to stay away from corporate misbehavior?

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fortunately, I have two Reasor's markets near me. So I can drive past the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market (freestanding, not attached to a super store) and the Albertsons. The super-Target is too far for quick trips unless I feel like dealing with mall traffic.

Everyone wants the lowest prices, but how can local retailers compete against such potent forces. I do buy local when I can. I shop my local farmer;s market.

But when price is the driving force, tough call.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I recently read "Diet for a Dead Planet" by Chris Cook (The New Press). It a great analysis on the problem of superstores and how they affect our health, along with the last 100-year triumph of the mega-farm in the U.S.

Drink maker, heart taker!

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I recently read "Diet for a Dead Planet" by Chris Cook (The New Press). It a great analysis on the problem of superstores and how they affect our health, along with the last 100-year triumph of the mega-farm in the U.S.

Again, don't go if you don't like them! Yes, lots of commercial farming is done by large companies now, that started with the advent of widely available refrigeration and transportation capability many years ago. Since then we have achieved a goal of an affordable, dependable food supply as life expectancies keep going up year after year. It's really not that ominous, don't worry, be happy, and not hungry foodies!

I have found that the amount of interesting stuff available to me now at all types of outlets is much greater than it was 20 years ago. Throw in online shopping and the difference is off the charts. In the last month I have procured beautiful canned San Marzano tomatoes and delicious farm raised venison online for reasonable prices and nary a threatening word from Wal-Mart.

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Perhaps you should read the book before responding to it. Cook sees the trend of consolidation as a problem, a serious one, and exhaustivly explains why. It also explains why simply "not going" won't correct the problem. The discourse is not whether Superstores provide access to more interesting things, its whether they are able to provide affordable sustinence to the most people.

Drink maker, heart taker!

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