Monday, November 22, 2010

Gotta Love Wal-Mart

THE ATLANTIC -- "In October, Walmart unveiled its commitment to sustainable agriculture, including a goal to double the amount of locally grown produce we sell in the United States. But what does that mean and how will we do it? To better understand where Walmart is heading, let's take a look at what we're already doing with jalapeño peppers.

Today, we source jalapeño peppers from 20 states—including some you wouldn't think of, like New York and Michigan—and jalapeños have proven to be a win-win-win. Our customers get a fresher product. We save money on freight so we can keep our prices low, while slashing carbon emissions. And our farmers are thrilled with our new strategy—they are earning more, and they're now coming to us to ask what else the market might want that they can grow."

MP: Although Wal-Mart has a reputation for: a) outsourcing its products overseas, and b) putting local, small merchants out of business, this is an example of exactly the opposite: a) sourcing its produce locally, and b) supporting local, small farmers. 

21 Comments:

At 11/23/2010 1:29 AM, Blogger Matz said...

This is exactly what Deep Economy talks about

 
At 11/23/2010 3:14 AM, Blogger randian said...

Just one problem. With the specific example of jalapeño peppers, you absolutely don't want to buy ones from Michigan or New York. Why? Because jalapeño peppers won't get hot unless they grow in deprived conditions e.g. hot and dry, spurring capsaicin production. That's why New Mexico is such a great place to grow chili peppers. NY and Michigan are much too cold and wet to grow jalapeños, so they'll be ultra-mild. Bah! What's the point of chilis without heat?

 
At 11/23/2010 9:28 AM, Blogger aorod said...

Sounds good...until those small farmers start lobbying the government for subsidies and tariffs.

 
At 11/23/2010 10:06 AM, Blogger Karlyn said...

wow...one good thing walmart has done for the United States and now we "gotta love" 'em. Big whoop.

 
At 11/23/2010 10:10 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

randian-

you can still get them hot if you use the right sort of greenhouse.

of course, then you have really wrecked the "energy savings on transport" haven't you?

i find this "food miles" argument to generally be pretty stupid.

growing pineapples in vermont is never going to be a good idea and more than planting watermelon in southern arizona...

 
At 11/23/2010 10:22 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Stupid idea. Another sell-out of business to insane greenie BS propaganda.

Our food production is already far more than "sustainable". Agriculture gets more efficient every year, and the amount of farmland is decreasing. Except for the also-insane ethanol program, which takes up 33% of our corn crop. That corn farmland pressure is a much bigger environmental problem than the non-problem of shipping food.

Ethanol has cost us at least 10% in food inflation, or a cost of about $100 billion per year. Add that to the $13 billion in subsidies.

The excuse for all this expensive nonsense is global warming. The warming has been mild and beneficial, and temperatures have been flat or declining for 12 years.

The food business already operates in a very efficient manner. The fuel used to ship our food is less than the fuel used by the customer to drive to the store to buy it.

Businesses are being stupid by not resisting all the liberal and greenie nonsense. Business should be running ads debunking myths, rather than inventing programs which validate the foolishness.

The free market is far smarter and better for the environment than big government. Big government is a catastrophe generator, which then uses the problems to invent and impose yet more big government "solutions".

 
At 11/23/2010 12:14 PM, Blogger randian said...

you can still get them hot if you use the right sort of greenhouse.

As you say, that rather defeats the purpose. I've been wondering why the serrano peppers I've been buying have had so little heat. Now I know, grocers (not just Wal-Mart) have been sourcing them from outside the Southwest because they're less expensive. Easier growing conditions make the pepper crop more bountiful and thus cheaper, while destroying the quality (heat, flavor) of the crop.

 
At 11/23/2010 1:30 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Growing a cheaper product is always better for the producer but not for the consumer. The consumer wants to get their moneys worth for what they are buying. Would I rather pay a lower price for an orange that tastes like nothing or a higher price for the best tasting orange? I would go for the best taste! I don't want an orange grown in Nebraska, my oranges better be coming from Florida or California. Nice try Wal-Mart, thanks for trying to save the consumer more money but your sacrificing quality for quantity and for foodies like me there is no substitute for quality.

 
At 11/23/2010 1:39 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

morganovich,

Arizona is one of the leading watermelon producing states. Never in the top four states, but always in the top seven. About half the state's production has historically been in Maricopa County (Phoenix). I think that cost for drip irrigation of watermelons is more than offset by the very long growing season.

It's possible, I suppose, that Arizona watermelon farms are being subsidized by government. But southern Arizona has long been a large producer and exporter of lettuce, watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydew melons, lemons, and oranges.

 
At 11/23/2010 1:46 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Tom: "Business should be running ads debunking myths, rather than inventing programs which validate the foolishness."

I agree, but realize the uphill battle they are facing. Our public schools are right now indoctrinating the next generations of consumers in the religion of the greenies.

 
At 11/23/2010 2:02 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

This has to be a joke, right? I can't imagine this being a good business move by Walmart, except for its PR value. It's a slippery slope they are starting on that can't lead to any good.

Of course, I can see how unemployed folks on tight budgets in Michigan could benefit by paying for their purchases at Walmart with home-grown jalapenos instead of cash.

 
At 11/23/2010 2:36 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jessica,

Based on your stated preferences, I would guess that you don't buy produce at Walmart in any case. But, for some, a cheap orange with less taste might make the difference between having an orange or not having one.

In most produce sections I'm familiar with, there are several price/quality choices of some items so we can all chose our preferences. People voting with their dollars let merchants know what those preferences are.

actually, I didn't see any mention of price in the article, only that the benefit to Walmart would be savings on transportation costs - which I imagine will more than made up for by the costs to local producers - and reducing carbon emissions. I assume that only refers to Walmarts carbon emissions. As soon as I see some reference to reducing carbon emissions, I know that it's a gimmick.

 
At 11/23/2010 2:53 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

My peppers were plenty hot in Masscusetts, no greenhouse needed. My peppers here are plenty hot. I make an emulsion and spray to keep the rabbits away.

What makes you think depriving the peppers makes more production?

Why doesn't that work for taxes (deprivation) and business?

 
At 11/23/2010 3:07 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Ideal chile growing conditons are partial sun, in well drained soil with ample but not excessive water.

My local independent grocery does a good business selling local produce. I'm sure Walmart can do a better job at the same thing.

 
At 11/23/2010 3:46 PM, Blogger randian said...

What makes you think depriving the peppers makes more production?

It doesn't, it makes them hotter. Capsaicin is a defense mechanism, so the more "deprived" the pepper plant is the more capsaicin it produces, which to my mind is the entire point of buying chili peppers. What Wal-Mart is doing is trying to buy peppers that appeal to the mass market (people who ordinarily can't handle chiles) because they'll be milder than usual due to their growing conditions. I've had Serrano peppers recently that had almost zero heat. As a chile fanatic I refuse to compromise.

 
At 11/23/2010 4:44 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

makes more production?

It doesn't, it makes them hotter.

=================================

Capsaicin is a chemical which must be produced using energy and water. Too much sun provides more energy but dehydrates the plant which is why it is grown in partial shade.

The hotter by deprivation theory sounds to me like an old wives tale to me. Could be, but I don't buy it based on my experience.

Besides, who really needs bragging rights on how hot a chile is? I can't recall ever having a problem with one being not hot enough. Have Won prizes in two major chili contests, with my recipe for "Barbara's Commander in Chief Chili"

The secret is a slow burn. You eat it and it tastes excellent: then the heat sneaks up on you. 70% mild chilis, 30% medium hot chilies and a tiny fraction of barn burners, in tiny bits, added near the end of simmer. You can eat quite a bi before you hit one, and then look out. If you are a chili holic you can adjust to suit, but you lose the sneak attack.

Also, instead of ordinary beans, I use green beans and corn, maybe some black beans, with various colors of chili peppers, so it looks a like a Braque still life.

 
At 11/23/2010 4:48 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Sorry, I wasn't clear, (not too unusual) I meant more capsaicin production not more production of chilies. Not sure how depriving the chili encourages it to make more of anything.

 
At 11/23/2010 7:49 PM, Blogger Craig said...

What's the point of chilis without heat?

I work with a Mexican who grows jalapenos and habaneras in pots on his deck in suburban Buffalo. He frequently brings some of his harvest into the office.

I assure you -- they have heat.

 
At 11/23/2010 7:55 PM, Blogger Craig said...

I can't imagine this being a good business move by Walmart, except for its PR value.

I agree. It's an easy sop to the grow-local crowd and to those who worry excessively about putting Mom and Pop out of business.

The local supermarket in town (not a Walmart) buys 4H hogs and beef cattle each year after the county fair. It costs labor to butcher it and it costs more to buy.

But the community loves it.

 
At 11/23/2010 11:16 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"The local supermarket in town (not a Walmart) buys 4H hogs and beef cattle each year after the county fair. It costs labor to butcher it and it costs more to buy.

But the community loves it.
"

I'll bet it costs more! That "psychic value" can come at a high price.

It's amazing. After 200 years of almost constant improvements in agriculture, we have an incredible selection of products year round, at ever lower percentages of our income, that now require only 2% of the population to produce as opposed to 90%.

But, for some reason, some now believe it's a great idea for everyone to start growing their own food, or buying it from small, less efficient local growers and butcher shops, at higher prices. Let's reverse all our gains.

Go figure.

 
At 11/24/2010 2:08 AM, Blogger randian said...

But, for some reason, some now believe it's a great idea for everyone to start growing their own food,

You'd be amazed at how strong the push is for silly things like "urban farms" and growing food in the sidewalks. NYers have a bizarre attachment to the idea of rooftop gardens. Why do you live in a concrete jungle if you want green?

 

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