Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

WHOLE FOODS, ORGANIC FOODS, AND THE FAMILY BUDGET

I do most of the food shopping and all of the cooking in our family, so I tend to notice what things cost at the local supermarkets. For standard staples, I patronize the Harris Teeter half a block away -- very convenient. But for a few items -- fresh fish, wine, sometimes cheese -- I drive to the Chapel Hill Whole Foods, known hereabouts as "whole paycheck" for its tendency to scarf up all the available money in your pockets. Whole Foods, which began life with the rather more imaginative name Bread and Circus, specializes, of course in organic produce, especially that which is locally grown. Yesterday, I decided to get some zucchini to go with the catfish I had purchased. [Zucchini, very thin sliced and then pan sauteed until it carmelizes, is surprisingly tasty.] I saw a display of organic zucchini for $2.49 a pound. A few feet away was another pile of zucchini -- not organic, but still "regionally grown" from South Carolina -- for $1.69 a pound. The seedless red grapes, which I like to snack on, were going for $2.99 a pound. Their price varies enormously depending on the season. The organic red seedless grapes were $5.99 a pound.

I was so outraged by the price differences that I bought the South Carolina zucchini, and took a pass on the grapes entitrely [I sneaked a taste of one grape, and it was not sufficiently crisp and fresh]. This informal anecdotal survey convinces me that at present, organic produce is a yuppy indulgence, like a Starbucks latte, totally out of reach of a family trying to get by on a really limited budget. I do not see how the organic foods movement can hope to be taken seriously as anything other than an upper middle class indulgence so long as these sorts of price differentials persist.

I might say that this observation holds true as well for the Saturday Farmer's market in Carrboro, where I spent many happy hours last summer behind a card table signing people up for the Obama campaign. Going to the Farmer's Market is an entertainment, like taking in a movie with popcorn -- expensive but fun.

6 comments:

NotHobbes said...

Having spent the last three years(wasted) working in the fish farms of Western Scotland as "Harvest Coordinator" I can speak with some authority in said field. I absolutely guarantee you sir, that you would find no difference in taste, nor to your well being, from selecting the "ORGANIC" in preference to the mass bred, much maligned, farm fish.
Consuming organic fish or meat may encourage some folk to climb pedestals and preach to us all. I offer them a question
Have you personally been to the source?

ajrosa said...

This is just one of my problems with the Wal-mart of the organic food industry. Not only is it inaccessible to poor and working class communities, but it's actually opposed to any initiative that may improve the quality of life of its workers, many of who come from these very communities. Whole Paycheck is a big contributer to the RNC, and its CEO, John Mackey, has opposed efforts by workers to unionize and has recently come out against Obama's health care reform initiative. So I say, Bob, continue eating as many grapes as your heart desires!! I'm right there with you doing the same!!

ajrosa said...

You may also find me in the cereal section redistributing the blueberry granola, sesame seeds, and raw almonds...

ajrosa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann said...

I hope that the behavior of one company, and antipathy towards self-satisfied yuppies, does not provide an excuse to dismiss serious environmental issues with the organization of the industrial food system in the US.

Buck said...

Try Aldi for some good cheeses and odd assorted hard to find items at low prices. European owned, it has a fair amount of European cheeses and very low prices and appears to be decidedly non union. If you need a shopping cart take a quarter to rent one while you're shopping as the store relies on those persons astute enough to realize the value of a quarter to bring back their own carts or ones that are left in the lot to those for whom a quarter is not worth their time to return it, obviating the need for employees to do this work. They are not the best store for fresh vegetables except on occasion, but for certain meats and especially cheeses and certain European brands, I find it indispensable and believe it or not, much less expensive than even a Wal-Mart but without the low quality foods that one finds at Wal-Mart. You won't buy all your food there, but you will find some things of a quality that can't be found elsewhere. Unless you are lucky enough to have a Wegmans store, which seems to be about the best store on the planet, although the imported foods are much more expensive than at an Aldi store.