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Of Markets Large and Small

August 24, 2011

Well that was unexpected. Of all the things that are going wrong with our food supply and the regulatory system, the loudest outrage was pointed right back at me for buying my honey at Price Chopper.

That’s fine. I can take it.

I’ve got some strong feelings on this too. But it’s now clearly apparent that I haven’t adequately presented my thoughts on this matter. Or if I have, I haven’t done it recently. So today I’ll first answer all of your questions about honey. And I hope you stick around until the end, because I’m equally concerned about those of you who shun large grocery stores and mass-market retailers.

First, the good news.

Young Master Fussy’s favorite Price Chopper Central Market Classics buckwheat honey would seem to be fine. In response to my query on Price Chopper’s Facebook page, Lisa informed me that the store brand honey is packed by Dutch Gold. This happens to be one of the honey packers who are supporting the True Source Honey program, and that points to the company’s higher ethical standard.

While the label reads, “Product of U.S.A.” if there is fraud in the pipeline, the label doesn’t mean squat. But I’m a lot more confident that this honey from Price Chopper is the real deal. And its recent price hike is in line with that conclusion as well.

So what am I doing buying Price Chopper honey in the first place?

It’s good stuff. But it is the one product that lands in the sweet spot for all interested parties in our household. I like my honey dark and robust, and was pleasantly surprised to find this buckwheat honey on the shelf. Mrs. Fussy does not like gritty crystals in her honey, and this stays clear and flowing down to the bottom of the jar.

When we first moved to the area I was entranced by all the great dark buckwheat honey produced locally, and bought quite a few of them. But Mrs. Fussy hated it, mostly because I refuse to let a microwave into the house, and melting the crystals in a water bath became a regular, time intensive and messy affair.

Everyone is much happier now that we have our Price Chopper honey.

Well, the local beekeepers may be less than thrilled. We are not supporting their enterprise. But we are supporting Price Chopper, which also happens to be a locally owned business. Bigger businesses can be local too.

So I think it’s important to support Price Chopper, although I have to admit it’s not easy, given my high standards for products and ingredients. That means I specifically look for items that make sense to buy there, but that’s a topic for another post.

I understand the importance of buying straight from the local producer. By going direct, they get a better price for their efforts, and you get to know where your food is coming from. But even small producers can give way to temptation and resort to fraud.

And there is something to be said for buying from the larger players.

As I mentioned yesterday, the global food industry is inconceivably large. I start getting dizzy just thinking about how many turkey’s are consumed in America just on Thanksgiving (45 million), much less over the course of the year in all of those awful turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread with mustard (240 million).

If you think the food system is broken, shopping at farmers markets and buying direct from local producers isn’t going to fix it. By voting with your wallet and supporting the larger businesses that are making a positive change, you encourage more positive change.

Walmart may get in a lot of hot water over their labor practices. But given their size, they also have the ability to reduce global pesticide use by an order of magnitude by deciding to carry organic lettuces and spinach. I think that is important, and I would like to see them do more of that. So I support them.

Irishj is flat out wrong. Walmart, Target and Price Chopper all sell fish from places other than China. It’s a ridiculous assertion. Target eliminated all farmed salmon from its stores and Price Chopper works with Local Oceans to put Hudson Valley raised Sea Bream into the hands of Capital Region eaters. These are efforts that are worthy of support as well.

Striking a balance isn’t easy, and I think my shopping rotation would drive most people crazy. As it is, I still don’t get to as many places as I’d like to support, and I don’t get to some places nearly enough.

I’m just glad that I can keep the honey on the Price Chopper list, because during CSA season that list gets awfully short.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Tonia permalink
    August 24, 2011 11:44 am

    Nice follow up Dan. All of these choices can become overwhelming (and, expensive). You have to pick and choose. Although hard to stomach, I have bought organic and ‘natural’ products from Walmart. They offer a good selection, better than my Price Chopper. If you aren’t loaded with the cash money, it is very difficult and hard to justify purchasing similar items at double the price at the local Health Food stores. You sometimes have to make sacrifices.

    P.S. For the record, I was just busting on you in my comment yesterday. :-)

  2. August 24, 2011 1:52 pm

    Did you really just say that encouraging people to buy local won’t help fix our food system?

    • August 24, 2011 2:42 pm

      I didn’t say it wouldn’t help fix it. It will help. But it’s not the solution.

      To fix our food system, you need to win the mass market retailers. They are the food system. And they will respond to consumer demand. As they lose people to farmers markets, hopefully they will put more local products in stores. But then it’s important for those of us who care about such things to support those decisions.

      Otherwise, eating clean, local food remains the purview of those who live in close proximity to farmers markets, have the time and flexibility to shop on the days and hours the markets are open, and believe that such food is a priority for themselves and their families.

      When the mass market moves, things change. More people shopping at farmers markets can get the attention of larger retailers, but in and of itself isn’t solving the larger problems plaguing food in America.

      • northcountryrambler permalink
        August 25, 2011 4:46 pm

        DB Re ~ Farmers markets – the time, flexibility, and *money*.

  3. northcountryrambler permalink
    August 24, 2011 2:12 pm

    Sorry ~ I’m OK with the honey, and definitely down with the sea bream, but who the heck puts mustard on a turkey sandwich. You from California or something?

    • August 26, 2011 8:22 am

      I am born and bred in the northeast, and I love me some mustard on my turkey! It’s gotta be the good stuff, though, none of that French’s nonsense. :)

  4. August 26, 2011 8:24 am

    Interesting post.

    One for Ask the Profussor, as I’m curious on your take – what is your feeling on some honey maker’s printing that their product is “organic” on their labels? (In general, I don’t have anyone specific in mind, though I have seen numerous examples of this.) My understanding is, because you cannot control where the bees pollinate, you cannot claim your honey is organic.

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