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Holiday Ham Wars

December 14, 2018

Growing up we never had a festive ham on the dinner table. Ever. Yes, we were Jewish. But we didn’t observe the kosher dietary laws. I had a friend who kept kosher and didn’t eat Oreo’s, because at the time they contained lard. However in my home we ate bacon and breakfast sausage without a second thought.

As an accompaniment, or an ingredient, a little bit of pork was no big deal. But a large pork roast as the centerpiece of the meal? That would be unthinkable.

Lobster, on the other hand, was a completely different story.

Perhaps this is why I love holiday hams so much. I never knew they were a thing. And I still recall with glee my very first experience with a HoneyBaked Ham. It was only later that I learned one can glaze their own ham with remarkably delicious results, thanks to one of my greatest bosses ever Bossman Jones.

With this in mind, I was shocked when I took a peek at the supermarket circulars this week.

Ham prices are bottoming out. Or maybe it’s just a race to the bottom for the supermarket chains who are competing for market share in the Albany area. You know things are nutty when some of the highest prices can be found at Aldi.

Aldi’s featured hams all come from Appleton Farms. I know very little about them. Starting on December 16 you can get a boneless spiral sliced ham for $2.99 a pound or a spiral-sliced double-glazed brown sugar ham for $1.89 per pound. The big deal is on the straight-up spiral-sliced half ham which is marked down to $.95 per pound.

Shop Rite blows the value market out of the water with a bone-in spiral sliced ham from Cook’s for $1.29 per pound, provided of course you use your free Price Plus Club card. The same goes for their $.99 per pound butt half ham and their $.89 per pound shank half ham.

PriceRite in Schenectady also stocks the Cook’s value hams and is running the same deal for the butt and the shank, although its spiral sliced is a whopping $1.69 per pound. The big deal there is the whole pork shoulder for just $.79 per pound.

Price Chopper surely has more ham deals buried inside the circular, but on its cover the locally based grocer goes toe to toe with Shop Rite on the Cook’s half spiral sliced ham, which you can get for just $.99 per pound. That of course assumes you have the coupon, an AdvantEdge Card, and spend at least $15 in other groceries. Still, that’s almost undercutting their competitor by 25% which is huge.

Save a Lot found a way to price its Sugardale shank portion ham at just $.79 per pound.

Hannaford, of all places, comes away as the low price ham champion with a shank portion ham on sale for just $.69 per pound. Egads! For the sake of comparison, Hannaford has boiling onions on sales for $.99 per pound. So this week, ham is less expensive than onions. Onions!

It makes the ming boggle.

Why would anyone buy anything else next week? Who needs a $3.49 pack of bacon? Fry up some ham with your eggs. Why buy pre-sliced deli ham for $5.99 per pound, take a slice from the shank and put it between bread for your sandwich.

Of course, prices this low should give consumers pause. How can meat, which needs to be raised from baby animals, fed, sheltered, and cared for over the course of their lives cost less than something that just grows in the soil? What does this say about the cost of the inputs, including the animal’s feed, the conditions in which it was raised, and the pay for the farmers who dedicate their lives to bringing us food?

Much like I’m the only one who complains about too many french fries, and gets all persnickety about the abundance of cookies, it also looks like I’m the jerk who is opposed to low consumer prices.

There is a statement about war which has always resonated with me, and perhaps it applies to the ham wars too. I can’t quite remember quite how it goes or who said it. The idea is that people talk about “winning” wars. But this observer suggested that the idea of winning a war is as ridiculous as the notion of winning a hurricane.

Wars are forces of death and destruction. Full stop. There are no winners.

And on that cherry note, I hope you all have a great weekend. I’m going to be buying milkshakes for members of the Yelp Elite Squad on Saturday at The Dutch Udder. Actually, they aren’t quite milkshakes. That would be too ordinary, and The Dutch Udder doesn’t do ordinary. But I’ll have more on that next week.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2018 12:33 pm

    I’m so excited to read that I’m not the only Jew that discovered ham as an adult! My family didn’t keep kosher growing up, but my Dad did when he was growing up – so we never cooked pork chops or ham in the house.

    I was about 23 at a work potluck where a spiral ham was served and had to ask what it was – it was love at fist bite.

  2. Dave permalink
    December 14, 2018 1:12 pm

    Perhaps your childhood was better off barren of ham… It was a once-a-month-ish fixture in my home. A family of 4 doesn’t cook through as much ham as you’d think during Sunday dinner. Ham meant we had it for 3 or 4 days. Salty, dry, pink, ham (my mom would bake the heck out of the things). I hated “ham” as a kid because ham meant the big pink thing that came from Price Choppers. I had no idea of the splendid and varied universe of hams available…

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