Food in the news – 27th April – 1st May

April 30, 2009 at 9:35 am 5 comments

Article from the FT suggests that the record profits announced by many supermarkets since the recession hit might have come at someone else’s expense. Why am I not surprised?

Tesco are making suppliers wait 60 days to be paid, rather than 30, and ASDA have, among other things, brought back e-auctions, where suppliers bid for a contract in a blind auction (“While the lowest bid might now win, it may be used as a starting point for the negotiations.”) and the NFU says farmers are noticing contracts are being altered retrospectively more often.

I needn’t tell you that this moves me to murderous fury. I remember visiting a certain large supermarket last summer, during the peak of the food crisis, which proudly boasted that they were magnanimously cutting prices on fruit and veg. I couldn’t help thinking that there were sound economic and ecological reasons why food prices were rising and so if retail prices were being cut, someone somewhere along the line was taking a cut. I suspected this might be the suppliers rather than the retailers themselves (although I believe fruit and veg is often priced quite highly, in order to balance out the narrow profit margins on things like milk and bread, so there might be some room for manoeuvre) and now, guess what, I was right. (Such cynicism in one so young…)


This, on the other hand, is more reassuring. Apparently, if you make things from scratch, at home, from raw ingredients, instead of buying them ready-made, not only is it almost always cheaper but the food almost always tastes better. Gosh. Crucially, she doesn’t factor your time into her analyses, which is, I suspect, what puts most people off, and it was very revealing that no-one in her family liked the cream cheese because it wasn’t bland enough, but, still, it’s nice to see an article on credit crunch food that doesn’t essentially say, ‘Ha ha, people can’t afford to buy organic any more, they’re all eating at Domino’s!!’ (Which doesn’t even make sense.)

“It’s one thing to eat runny yogurt and flaccid bagels because they’re a bargain; it’s another entirely to pay for the privilege.”


Finally, more seriously, Grist is investigating the possibility that swine flu might be linked to an intensive pig farm in Mexico.


Entry filed under: cookery, food, supermarkets, swine flu. Tags: , , .

Silent Spring Randomness

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Compostwoman  |  April 30, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    We have been boycottting Tesco for over 3 months now..but hard, as they are the main super in our town, but not as hard as I thought…

    and we have saved money..

    Probably easier for us, as we are well stocked with small suppliers and didn’t buy much from T anyway…but still it CAN be done….

    this action caused by murderous blood boiling on the part of CM and I at their treatment of chickens and H F-W over said birds….and treatment of small suppliers ….


  • 2. Jon in France  |  May 1, 2009 at 6:46 am

    One of our neighbours has just started marketing the beef she and her husband rear. She’s getting twice what she did from the wholesaler for organic, pasture-fed beef and we pay about two thirds of what we would otherwise.

    The practices that Britsh supermarkets indulge in are largely forbidden here (which is not to say that they don’t go on in secret…) but the supers are pressuring to be given more “freedom” which in the current enviroment they might just get.

    • 3. sproutingbroccoli  |  May 6, 2009 at 11:01 am

      Yes. I get the impression that policy (planning etc) has been much more effective at curbing the dominance of supermarkets in France than it has here… but then perhaps that’s because it seems to be supported by a stronger food culture (and a generally more positive attitude towards farming).

      I am going to ponder these comments and write another post.

  • 4. Lucy @ Smallest Smallholding  |  May 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    3 billion pounds in their first quarter. To make that much money, Tesco are clearly being unethical. I just don’t know why the competition commission doesn’t get more involved. The more money they make, the more land they take to stop other supermarkets developing (not that I really want that to happen either), the more they spread into other sectors (read: banking, housing et al), the harder it will be reign them in and stop them.

    But I kind of get to thinking that the government isn’t too worried. They, after all, are profiting from Tesco too.

    • 5. sproutingbroccoli  |  May 6, 2009 at 10:13 am

      Quite. The ironic thing is that they’re always banging on about terrorism, yet one of the most powerful things they could do to reduce vulnerability to terrorist attacks would be to decentralise the food system!

      I think the problem with the Competition Commission is that they’re only really concerned with competition between supermarkets themselves, not between supermarkets and other retailers. Also, it’s almost impossible to get suppliers to go on record with complaints because they’ll lose their contract if they do – the only thing worse than have a supermarket for a customer, is not having a supermarket for a customer.


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April 2009
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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."

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