Friday, April 30, 2010

Do food shoppers care about quality?

ShopRiteImage via Wikipedia

 My post on Thursday about the flier for Fairway Market in Paramus drew a comment from Anonymous:
"I put it to you that the majority of Fairway shoppers don't give a hoot about antibiotics or hormones and whatever byproducts their $8.99 ribeyes munch on, they mainly care about price and flavor."
I always get a kick out of comments such as this. It's another way of saying, I have the right to eat food that is bad for me as long as it tastes good and the price is right. I know such people are legion, and it's none of my business what you eat, but I also reserve the right to report how supermarkets publish fliers that deliberately obscure the quality of the food they sell.

When ShopRite sells better quality, naturally raised beef at lower prices than Fairway's conventional beef, then it might be a good idea if shoppers at that upscale market "give a hoot" about what they are buying there.

And if you care about quality and want to avoid antibiotics and growth hormones, there is really no way you can shop in a single store -- unless you can afford to spend all your food dollars at Whole Foods Market, just a few miles from Fairway in Paramus.

You won't find better fish and meat anywhere else in North Jersey, and if you shop carefully, Whole Foods can be rewarding. I stopped there this afternoon for meatless substitutes, which are no bargain, but also found California cabernet sauvignon and merlot at $4.99 a bottle; a bunch of conventional, Jersey-grown arugula for 99 cents; and bronze-cut, organic bow-tie pasta from Italy for $1.99.

Dover sole fillets were $5.99 a pound. Whole fish, nestled in ice, such as whiting, were $3.99 and $4.99 a pound. (Whole Foods says it gets fresh fish seven days a week.) 

But there is no way I can rely solely on Whole Foods or any other market. Each place has its strengths and weaknesses. Costco often beats everyone on quality and price, and its seafood selection is strong, including frozen wild salmon and mahi-mahi, but it can't match the variety of Whole Foods or H Mart, the Korean chain. 

The handmade tortillas at Trader Joe's are suberb, but you'll pay a premium. I used to rely on Trader Joe's for uncured, preservative-free bacon, hot dogs and cold cuts -- and incredible, fully cooked ribs from the Niman Ranch -- but don't go there much since we stopped eating meat about seven weeks ago.

So, I'll continue to shop at many food stores, taking advantage of their strengths, and continue reading their fliers with a critical eye.
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