I had a longer post in mind for tonight, but I’m up to my ears in a programming project that’s due Monday.  It’s 11:30 PM and the only reason I’m writing a post at all is that my program takes 20 to 30 minutes to test each time I run it.

Anyway, I saw something at a grocery store recently that reminded me of what I wrote in a post titled The Wisdom of Crowds Is On The Menu:

A lot of us have very legitimate complaints about the food supply, with all its processed garbage and meats that come from grain-fed animals raised in what amount to meat factories.  A question I’m asked now and then is How do we change this horrible system?

We don’t have to change the system.  All we have to do is buy foods that enhance health and help spread the word to the crowd.  You can complain all you want about the evils of capitalism, but even the greediest capitalist can only sell you what you’re willing to buy  — the exception being when government takes your money and does your buying for you.

Remember when every damned thing on the grocery shelves was labeled low-fat or zero cholesterol?  That was the market responding to consumer demand.  Yes, the federal government helped create that demand with lousy dietary advice, but it was nonetheless consumer purchases driving what was produced.

That’s still how it works.  But now the Wisdom of Crowds effect is kicking in and changing what people demand.  When food trucks are offering grass-fed burgers, it means somebody in management noticed a change in consumer preference.  When restaurants add a new Gluten Free section to their menus, it means somebody in management noticed a change in consumer preference.  As more and more people choose grass-fed meats and other healthier foods, that’s what the producers will produce.

Here’s what I saw that reminded me of that post:

Yup, this store wants you to know you’re buying locally sourced produce.  They even have pictures of the nice folks who grow it.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean the nice folks are growing organic produce. (Personally, I think the “organic” label is overrated.)  But if you live here, it’s nice to know your squash wasn’t shipped from California to Tennessee.  According to Google Maps, Elora (the red A on the map) is about 90 miles from Franklin.

Given my druthers, I’d still rather get my squash from Chareva’s garden, but you get the point.  Those big signs featuring pictures of the local farmers cost money.  If the store went to the effort and expense, it means someone in management decided consumers want locally grown produce.  So what was this store?  Whole Foods?

Nope.  These signs were in our local Kroger.  Not exactly a store for the soy-cheese and Birkenstock crowd.

But crowd is still the operative word here.  The Wisdom of Crowds effect is continuing to change what consumers demand, and in turn what producers sell.

Now back to that pesky code.  It’s going to be a long night yet …

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92 Responses to “The Wisdom Of Crowds Is On Display At The Grocery Store”
  1. Janet says:

    A flyer I picked up at Aldi’s yesterday highlighted their grassfed beef. I nearly fell over and will be checking it out today. I live in a small town in Illinois with only a smallish Walmart. It drove our other grocery store out. I keep asking for grassfed ground meat but so far nada. I wish we had Aldi’s. They are really classing their act up with fresher products and gluten free , nicer meat. I can’t afford to buy a large part of a cow or pig although there are plenty of suppliers around. I use a lot of ground beef so I try and get some grassfed ground. Of course the Aldi’s is not in my town but is 20 mi away. I believe the tide is turning.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      If Aldi’s is bragging about their grass-fed beef, I’d say the tide is definitely turning.

    • Always thought of Aldi’s as a downscale operation, but they seem to be good quality with low overhead. Also, they’re owned by the same folks who own Trader Joe’s (home of “two buck Chuck” — Charles Shaw wine).

      Cheers

    • Jason says:

      Last time I looked into it there was a lot of wiggle room in the grass fed label. All cattle are raised on grass (otherwise they will die) but they generally are finished on grain. I even read some ranchers had a grandfathered status to be able to use the grassfed label on grain finished cattle.

      The few times I’ve had grass-fed beef it tasted different, so maybe that is one way to tell.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        We’ve been working our way through a half-cow’s worth of grass-fed beef raised by The Older Brother. Yeah, it’s different and the fat is a different color compared to corn-fed beef.

  2. Thomas E. says:

    It is interesting, one of our favorite burger places to eat when we visit my Dad in London (Ontario, not England) is a place called The Works. They do bunless well, the call it Naked, and they serve Broccoli as a side. We try to go there at least once, if not twice when we are up to see my Dad.

    Also, places like Wendy’s, In-Out, Jimmy Johns, all handle bunless reasonably well, if not pretty decently in the case of Jimmy Johns.

    It is changing, it is definitely getting easier to eat out of the house, and still stick closer to my choice of food.

    • Thomas E. says:

      Oh, and good luck on the project.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        Thanks. It’s a looooooooooong way from being done, so I’ll be pulling a couple more looooooooong days on Friday and Saturday. I’ll be damned if I’m going to write code during the Super Bowl.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      When we go out for burgers, it’s usually at Five Guys. They’ll wrap your burger in lettuce in serve it in a bowl if you tell them to skip the bun.

  3. Linda says:

    I’ve also begun to notice signs like this as well as in weekly ads of our local Winn Dixie. This week’s newspaper ad had a picture about 1/4 page of a local strawberry grower. It’s nice to see, and if I were to buy strawberries (I don’t,) I would certainly rather have them from where I live than say California- I’m in north Florida! Obviously, the wisdom of crowds is at work- Winn Dixie has never been famous for selling/supporting anything grown locally! Now, if the wisdom of crowds would extend to WD’s dairy section which is predominantly low fat this and non-fat that! You really have to look to find whole fat anything there! Isn’t “fat free half and half” an oxymoron??

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Every time I see “fat free half-and-half” in the grocery store, I wonder what planet I’m on.

      • Kim says:

        How is it even possible? Fat-free fat?

      • David says:

        Can someone recommend a 1/2 & 1/2 or whipping cream that is not UHT (ultra high temp pasteurized) ? The only “organic” brands I can find at the store are UHT with carrageenan added.
        I normally buy full fat yogurt at a Whole Foods, I tried to find it at Safeway, and you could not find 1 brand that was just plain full fat yogurt- they had non-fat, 2% fat and every fruit flavor with added sugar you could imagine. (Even a Chips Ahoy variety that comes with the cookie crumbs to add to the yogurt)

        • Matt Huston says:

          The Trader Joe’s nearby has a pasteurized (don’t believe it’s UHT pasteurized), non-carrageenan organic cream that’s tasty. Box says no pesticides, hormones, antibiotics used. Could even be true I spoze 😉

          It’s about the only 1/2 n 1/2 or cream round here that does not have carrageenan in it.

  4. Tanny O'Haley says:

    You see wisdom of clouds when Carl’s Jr (west coast version of Hardee’s) is now offering a grass fed burger. For a long time fast food burger chains have been offering burgers wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun for the low carb customers.

    This idea that the public is made up of zombies who can’t think for themselves and are controlled by evil companies is just wrong. That idea is pushed by people who think they know better than us and want to control our lives because they are smart and know what’s better for us than we do. Companies will cater to their customers if they’re smart, otherwise they’ll go out of business.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      That’s great news about Carl’s Jr. Give it time, you’ll probably be able to order the “McGrassFed” at McDonald’s.

      • JillOz says:

        And why not? Macca’s (the Aussie abbreviation 😉 is a business that caters to the public.
        In Oz they have McCafes – a cafe setup with cakes and fresh coffee- with pretty good coffee because Aussies are mad about coffee.

        Lately you can get Angus beef burgers, upgraded steak breakfast wraps, chicken salads etc. You can always ask for and get extra fresh vegetables on your burger, and ask for NO sauces.
        It’s very doable. They still have the cottonseed cooking oil but they’re getting there!

        I haven’t eaten there for awhile but it’s not bad bat all.

  5. Jennifer Snow says:

    I’m iffy about “local” as a signifier, too, because depending on what they’re growing, it can just mean “food force-grown in poor conditions using way too much chemical fertilizer because it doesn’t naturally grow well in this climate at this time of year”. If you’re going to eat “local”, you should also eat *seasonal*, meaning eat what naturally grows WHEN it naturally grows.

    I’m perfectly happy getting tropical produce that was shipped from the tropics. Growing oranges in Ohio is not something that’s going to happen easily, that’s for dang sure.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’d be suspicious of coconuts grown in Tennessee, sure. But given a choice between squash grown locally or shipped across the country, I’ll take the local stuff.

  6. Grant says:

    You are obviously in the pocket of Kroger and the Dennison family.

  7. Becky says:

    True. I’ve noticed the same thing in our grocery stores. Plus, coconut oil is moving up to the top shelves in larger quantities. And so on. Even the Girl Scouts will find something healthier to sell if we stop buying their cookies. It seems so rational … but this morning I’m realizing (again) that most people do not WANT to think rationally …

    • Tom Naughton says:

      All it takes is a significant shift in consumer demand. Not everyone has to be on board — luckily for us.

    • Tricia says:

      The Girl Scouts started selling gluten free cookies this year. I wouldn’t call them healthy but even they seem to be reacting to consumer demand.

  8. Bryan Harris says:

    I’ve been going to a really good butcher (nybutcher.com) for about a year now for basically all my meats (pork, chicken, beef, soup bones when they have them). I’ve asked over and over about offal but the best they could get me were some sweetbreads that another customer special-ordered and then didn’t want to pay for (those were some good eatin’).

    After reading through the WAP foundation website I discovered a local chapter, and they happen to know some local farmers who have pasture-raised pork, chickens, hens, turkeys, and they even have duck eggs. Guess where I’m getting all my pork and chicken from now on? Not the butcher shop.

    The farm I found only has ground beef and soup bones so I’m still a customer of the butcher shop, but only for certain things.

    Hope your project goes well.

    PS – My first job was at a Kroger when I was fifteen. It was a really nice place to work for a high school kid. If I had worked a few more hours per week I could have had health insurance benefits through the company, not that I understood such things when I was that age.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      We’re raising our own pork for the first time. I’ll be able to report on the taste sometime in May if all goes according to plan.

  9. Amy says:

    Good luck with the code, Tom.

    I live in the NE where the Wegman’s chain and ShopRite are my local grocers. Both have been touting locally grown as much as possible, when the season is right. They indicate the farm and delivery date. Wegman’s has entered into long-term exclusive contracts with a few farms in NY and PA to provide produce and meat to their stores. It’s tremendous! I love that they are doing this.

    Raw milk is only available for sale in PA direct from the farmer, but legislation is supposedly in the works to make it available in grocery stores, and in NJ there is legislation making its way through the legislature to allow farm-direct sales of raw milk to consumers. I hope it gets passed, as I live in the middle of Northwest NJs cow country and milk is available everywhere, if only I could buy it…

    • Tom Naughton says:

      We can buy raw-milk product here, but I’m looking forward to the day we have our own cow. That will be after we get the property totally fenced in.

    • Tammy says:

      Ok I have to second Amy’s opinion on Wegmans. I live in the mid-Atlantic and we have a host of grocery stores to choose from. Wegmans came into the area about 10 years ago and completely upped the bar for everyone. They sell grassfed/organic versions of just about every conventional meat. They go out of their way in the summertime to source and carry local produce and they advertise it. They carry an organic version of most if not all produce and they have a complete gluten free/heath food section sort of a store within the store. It’s helps that out local Wegmans is actually more square footage than the Lowe’s that is also in the shopping center. The stores are huge.

  10. Tim Maitski says:

    I picked up two packs of grass fed hamburger from Aldi’s today.

    They must be selling a lot because the other day they were totally out of it

    It’s only $5.99 per pound which is cheaper than the very lean hamburger at Kroger

    I think it’s only 80% lean but with the grass fed beef you’re going for the fat anyway.

    Costco is now selling Kerry’s grass fed cheese

  11. Caitlin says:

    I saw containers of lard piled prominently on a little wagon by the meat section at my Kroger’s in Clarksville, TN. Now I didn’t have my glasses on to read if it was hydrogentated or not, and I was in a hurry, but it was still a surprise. A few years ago, you would only have found lard buried in the ethnic foods section, if that.

  12. Boundless says:

    re: … it’s nice to know your squash wasn’t shipped from California to Tennessee.

    Make that “China to Tennessee”, and the value of “local”, even with quibbles, rises materially.

    We will of course need to keep an eye out for expedient exaggerations and flat out fraud. Importers claiming that re-packaging locally allows them to call it “local” – that sort of thing.

    You can’t get pork menu items at any Chipotle Grills at the moment. Seems that one of their main suppliers had an Integrity malfunction. Chipotle is minding the store. Cool.

  13. Apicius says:

    We are getting closer, but certainly still a long ways to go. There is a farmer I buy my beef, pork, chicken and eggs from (100% pasture, grass feed, zero soy feed, etc). I feel lucky that I have a farmer just a couple of hours from me where their pigs roam the forest, the chickens peck all day in the pasture and the cows feed on lush green rolling hills of grass. But, when I go to their website to order, the statements like “our beef has 30% less fat than grain fed beef”, or “our eggs are high in omega 3 and lower in cholesterol and saturated fats”….I cringe. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the cholesterol and saturated fat in the meat and eggs, and having come from pastured and grass fed means, these fats are even much healthier. So, we are half way there I think. Sure Lots of people want grass feed beef now, but many think it’s because it’s “30% lower fat”. Geeez!

  14. Kim says:

    I’ve been really impressed with ALDI lately. They are offering more organic produce and gluten-free items and even grass-fed beef (page 6 on the healthy living flyer)!

    Costco seems to be trying to keep up with the latest trends, as well. I buy a number of things there like Kerrygold butter in bulk, ghee, Bark Thins (a special treat for now and then), coconut oil, wild-caught salmon, organic chicken. Sam’s Club is carrying more organic and paleo stuff like organic coconut sugar and coconut flour and has some gluten-free items.

    Hopeful signs!

  15. Bryan Harris says:

    Here is a picture of a billboard in my city. The name of the restaurant is Moe’s and the right hand side says “Grass fed beef.” Sorry about the quality, I was across the highway in a safe spot where I could snap a picture.

    http://i.imgur.com/ClWFDwe.jpg

  16. Jean says:

    Just been to Birmingham (UK not Alabama) where I had a naked burger in a store called ‘The Hand Made Burger Company’. On the window was a sign saying ‘Grass fed Scotch beef’. It was excellent!

  17. cndnrose says:

    It’s a really neat time to be alive, to be able to see these changes in action.

  18. Jo says:

    I do online consumer surveys. You make a little bit of cash or points depending on the ones you are signed up for. I often comment on the food ones, things like I don’t want low fat food! Yay butter, etc. All it needs is a few others to say this, plus of course to refuse to by the rubbish food.

    I’m annoyed at the way the power companies force you to have a smart meter, so in a recent survey I commented about that and said I would change to a company that gave me a choice. I know others are concerned too.

  19. James H. says:

    “Given my druthers…”

    Funny. I live in southwest Texas and thanks to the oil business we’ve had a large population increase, aka, “damnyankees,” and the look of confusion at the use of “druthers,” and others of course, has increased my use of the word. My preferred expression is “If Ah had mah druthers…”

  20. Linda says:

    David- I can’t answer your question about Ultra Pasteurized whipping cream or 1/2 and 1/2- I’ve never seen any that wasn’t Ultra Pasteurized.

    As for full fat yogurt, I asked in two of the major groceries here for full fat and both dairy managers told me they can no longer get it. (Talk about the wisdom of crowds! UGH!!) Anyway, I ordered a live starter from Amazon and started making my own, because I wanted something to help my poor 94 year old father’s gut and give him some real fat!! It worked amazingly well and easily and the taste is good. Now, if you’re used to the fat-free crap with all the sugar, it will seem a little tart, but… I really like it!

    http://www.amazon.com/Bulgarian-Starter-Culture-Traditional-Yogurt/dp/B00E254BRC/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1422886377&sr=8-4&keywords=Live+active+culture+yogurt

    PS: Comes from Bulgaria, so it takes about 9 days, but I thought that was pretty quick.

    • David says:

      Thanks Linda. I have a yogurt maker in my Amazon wishlist but I have been too lazy to buy one to start making it at home.
      Stonyfield full fat plain organic yogurt is the brand I buy. But they only have it at Whole Foods or an organic grocer, not the regular grocery store.
      It’s funny, I have been to foreign countries and they have 2 varieties- full fat and low fat. That’s it. I guess in the US they have to market yogurt 100 different ways with added sugar.

  21. Brooke says:

    The promotion of local products is probably funded by your state – http://www.picktnproducts.org
    Many states have similar programs.

  22. Elenor says:

    Guess I’ll need to try out Aldi’s again; I was unimpressed with the first one that opened here in GA (about 15 mi away, but on the way to Costco). My local Kroger (amazingly!) now carries ‘grass-fed, grass-finished, raised in GA’ (!) ground beef. It’s delicious! I used to order my grass-fed beef online (frozen {sigh}) — but now I just buy four pounds (alas, it’s nearly $7 a pound, but worth it!); chuck two in the freezer, and use two right away. (I did try some “pasture-raised ground lamb” from Kroger– but was horrid, just dreadfully “goaty”-tasting!)

    I used to buy eggs from a guy who raised exotic birds (peacocks and, like, fancy weird things — ever seen a WHITE peacock!? It’s called a “persian.”)– he also had normal chickens — but he fed them soy and GMO corn so I quit. Haven’t found a pasture-eggs source yet, but haven’t looked too hard as I don’t use many eggs. Wish I could have chickens, but the subdivision mgmt objects… (Thought I might bribe the neighbors with fresh egg to not turn me in. {wink})

    My Costco only carries Kerrygold butter around St Pat’s day. (grrrrr) so I end up spending a ton more at Publix for it “out of season.” (Costco is seasonal? Who knew!?) “Suddenly” my WALMART carries Kerrygold butter! Same size at Publix, WAY better price. What a relief/delight/joy!

    You really do have to keep checking your stores, as we … push the tide .. and they change!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Yeah, we’ll have to give Aldi another shot. It’s been awhile, and it sounds as if they’ve gotten on the ball.

  23. Janknitz says:

    David:
    Our local Safeway carries two very good full fat yogurts–Mountain High and Pavel’s. You might check with your local manager to see if they can get these brands. To me the “wisdom of the crowds” is shown by the “wall of kombucha” and other fermented non-alcoholic beverages Safeway now carries (but they are as expensive as Whole Foods and I make my own).

    For Greek yogurt, Trader Joe’s full fat is excellent and a very reasonable price. I buy full fat cream at Trader Joe’s which is not UHT. But this may vary by region. I’m pretty sure the organic butter available at TJs in our region is from a local and very well-known dairy which makes butter strictly from milk from their grass fed herd. It’s better than Kerry Gold because it’s fresher. Delicious! I recently bought another local diary’s organic but not grass fed butter. It was pale and tasteless and cost too much.

    Now if we could just get TJs to carry eggs from pastured hens.

  24. Wenchypoo says:

    I actually witnessed some of this “wisdom of the crowds” last weekend while grocery shopping myself–it seems the bigger the store, the worse the “wisdom” got.

    My Sam’s Club had the most carts fully- or semi-teeming with processed/junk foods, and people thronged in the junk food aisles, while the nearby Harris-Teeter store had carts buzzing around with lots of produce, meats, eggs, dairy, etc., and hardly ANYBODY in the junk food aisles. Most people were clustered up in the fish dept., the dairy cases, the produce section, and/or the meat section. Harris-Teeter is an upscale grocer, but not a gigantic store footprint or anything (they just seem to carry more items that no other grocer in my area sells). Across the street at Kroger, I saw the same thing: more making better shopping decisions, and the processed junk food aisles becoming ghost towns.

    Yeah, we still have work to do as far as fat and more nutrition for our food buck go, but at least we’re starting to make headway as a society.

    Remember back when Obama said something about “turning this ship around”? The ship is turning, and he is nowhere near the helm! The CREW (meaning us) has taken over. Nutritional mutiny, perhaps?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Harris Teeter is our nearest grocery store, in fact. I don’t see people crowding the junk-food aisle at ours either … but I was there the day before the Super Bowl.

  25. Linda says:

    Hi again David- Just letting you know that if you want to go to the effort, it’s really easy to make yogurt without buying one more appliance! I just used this recipe and it turned out perfectly each time. Since I couldn’t find full fat yogurt with live cultures in any store where I live, I ordered the starter. I’ve only ordered it once and it lasts a long, long time. If you use your own home-made yogurt as a starter once you get it going, you don’t have to order again- that’s what I’ve been doing using this recipe:

    http://www.recipe.com/homemade-greek-yogurt/#recipeComments

  26. vragagirl says:

    I had never heard of carrageenan being added to cream until I started reading comments in blogs like these, and shopping in the states. Is it wrong to brag about Canadian products?

  27. Joe says:

    Carls Jr. now offers the “all natural burger”. The marketing says the beef is “grass-fed”. Of course that could mean the cow only ate grass at least once in it’s life but nevertheless, I was still pleased.

  28. Wenchypoo says:

    Some more “wisdom” for you–national food brands are moving into the dollar store territory (brands intact). I had to go see this for myself, and IT’S TRUE! Boxes of Hamburger Helper, Velveeta, bags of Tostitos, boxes of Pop-Tarts, you name it (all junk food, of course). Right next to the local Dollar store was a regular grocery store for me to compare prices and sizes, and here’s where the poor are being ripped off yet again: when compared by price per ounce, the regular grocery store beat the pants off the dollar store–sizes were bigger, prices were lower, and you had more choice.

    I mentioned earlier about how junk food aisles were becoming ghost towns in Harris-Teeter and Kroger, right? The junk food is now being bought at the dollar stores–actually, a bifurcated market has sprung up: dollar stores and warehouse stores. The profit margins are HUGE at either end, and that’s why the national brands are making the move.

    A news story about it: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/velveeta-revives-as-young-and-poor-shop-dollar-stores-for/article_1e458e6a-28b9-50bc-b97a-2932961404de.html

  29. Michael Steadman says:

    Looks like the wisdom of crowds may be influencing the pencil necks in Washington. According to Reuters, the committee tasked with producing the new set of dietary guidelines may (may, I caution) drop the whole cholesterol thing from its guidelines of things to avoid. Of course, if that happens no apologies will be made to those whose health suffered from fat-phobia, and the government will claim it was their idea and they knew it all along!

  30. Ronnie says:

    Geez.

    When the HIGH PRICE of grassfed meats is lowered maybe us retirees and maybe, just maybe, poor people will be able to buy it. Until then, we’ll trudge along with our Wal-mart meats.

    uh, weren’t you the one who posted about the “intelligent elite”, Bill Maher, etc????

    Did you forget some of us cannot afford to live on grass fed goodies? When it becomes mainstream: A different story. And no, just because Carl’s jumped on the bandwagon does not make it mainstream.

    Until then? Geez.

    Someone in a post above mentioned grass fed beef at 7 bucks a pound. Feed a hungry bunch of kids? No way.

    My last Geez.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’m not suggesting everyone should buy grass-fed meat. In fact, I’ve said several times that grass-fed is better, but corn-fed won’t hurt you as far as I can tell. As the wisdom of crowds kicks in and more people buy grass-fed meats, it will become mainstream. That’s the whole point.

  31. Dave, RN says:

    The salad I am eating was shipped 50 feet from my backyard to my kitchen.
    The pork however cam about 75 miles. From where he was shot by a friedn of mine.

    Meanwhile… I am joining the ranks of the rural folk. I bought 1.38 acres and am building a home out of the city limits. Soon I’ll have a larger garden, chickens and who knows what all…

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