Originally Posted by DC Sunshine
I've been through Asia i.e. Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau. Very often the products such as seafood and fowl are live in the markets. You would have seen this to be sure in Kyoto. I've seen snakes being boiled live in the streets for customers, then skinned. This may be off-putting for some folk, but it is the way it is. It is common practice. Point being - Could this be a factor in this thread that fowl are used very shortly after despatching them?
Just an addition - about certain foods being trendy of a moment in time - avocados are fetching AUS$4 (approx. USD$3.60) each- yes, each!. They should be in season, but naah, I head away from them. Just because Lent is coming doesn't mean a product that goes very well with fish has to sky-rocket in price.
In Taiwan, Macao, and Hong Kong I've seen this. Not in Kyoto -- not with chicken, anyway. Actually it's not so easy to get whole chickens in urban Japan, much less live, but they're pretty much invariably very fresh, dispatched this morning. Live fish, yes of course.
I do think, however, that the freshness is a double issue -- as it is with tomatoes. The really fresh fowl in Asian markets does not keep nearly as long, for a number of reasons, including breeding, handling, water absorption during cooling, and the like. So it tastes better when it's fresh, but worse when it's not. Same with tomatoes: good old-fashioned farm tomatoes don't keep especially well, and have to be bred to do so, at the expense of taste.
Avocadoes? $3.60 apiece is expensive -- we get them here for only a little under $2 US. They used to be $0.69 each, just maybe 5-10 years ago, but they've been hiked ridiculously.
Actually, this raises another point about the industry. Whenever there's a hurricane in Florida or a drought in California, the produce prices rise. That's understandable. But the thing is, once up, the prices never come back down. People get used to paying so much for bad tomatoes, why should the supermarket charge less?
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer
Chris, your analysis of corporate America is generally on the button. But there's one thing you're overlooking.
In America (if you back out all the government interference) we work under a capitalist economy, the goal of which is to minimize costs and maximize profits.
As to the argument that alternative agriculture proponents constitute an elite, well, I could argue against that easily. But I won't. Instead, I say, so what? I don't hear the people who rail against the food elite railing against the car elite, or the refrigerator elite, or the clothing elite. Yet, at base, there is no difference.
All agreed 100%, KY. Just two remarks. First, my point about "elites" is a matter of perception and branding by certain blocks of people, not a judgment. Your second point takes us into the realm of pure American politics, where in this forum we ought to tread rather lightly, but...
The basic difference between "food elites" and other kinds of product "elites" has to do with two issues tightly related in American political conceptions: ecology and animal rights. These issues have, as a result of enormous efforts by certain groups, been marked as far left-wing. Someone who spends $150,000 on a car is wealthy and/or self-indulgent; someone who seeks out farm-raised heirloom pork is an extreme left-winger. We could go on endlessly about how this association has been made, why and where it does or does not represent real political affiliations, and the like, but as far as I can see this is what's going on.
The interesting part is that "organic" has pointed to a real possibility, one that I think has greatly surprised both the food industry and the political commentators. The expectation, I think, was that "organic" would only be popular with left-wing "elites." But in fact this has turned out not to be the case. This is why WalMart is selling organic products, for example: the market is there. This suggests that actually people do care about what goes into their food, at least to some degree, and that when given a choice they will seek out superior products with some regularity. Sadly, of course, corporate America has worked out a way to charge people more for basically the same products, drawing on a much-advertised misunderstanding -- i.e., the fact that "organic" celery from WalMart is not markedly superior in any sense to conventional -- but the fact remains that WalMart couldn't sell "organic" carrots if a remarkably broad swathe of middle America weren't somewhat concerned about what they eat.
Now if I were really cynical, I'd probably argue that WalMart et al. are basically achieving two things with this: getting more profits without delivering anything for it, and teaching people that organic products are not superior to others. But I don't actually subscribe to that deep a cynicism. I think the WalMart folks probably just figure that there's a market and they should cater to it. It remains to be seen, however, whether marketing "organic" will actually in the end encourage people to go back to conventional (the products being basically the same) or whet their appetites for actually superior products. If the latter happens, that really could change the system. But I confess I'm not too sanguine about this happening any time soon.