Be afraid. Be very afraid. The trade journal Meat and Deli Retailer has named Wal-Mart Meat and Deli Retailer of the Year!:
Wal-Martâ€™s success has impacted the way merchants in almost every retail category market their products and services, and that includes the operators of supermarket meat and deli departments. The company was a catalyst in the rapid embrace of case-ready meats by grocers across the U.S. by offering prepackaged products instead of store-cut items in more than 2,000 Wal-Mart Supercenter and Neighborhood Market stores.So let's talk about case-ready meat. I've already explained its relationship to Wal-Mart's anti-union efforts, but what IS case-ready meat exactly? The journal Beef explains:
Case-ready technology eliminates the need for in-store processing. Meat is packaged in rigid foam or plastic box-shaped containers at a packing plant or processor. The retail product is sealed in a highly oxygenated mix of gases injected into the container. Before the package is placed in the sales case, the outer, non-permeable layer of film is removed, leaving a gas-permeable layer of film beneath, allowing the meat to â€œbreatheâ€ and â€œbloom,â€ and assume the colors associated with fresh meat. [emphasis added]But unspecified gases are not the only thing in Wal-Mart's meat. This is from a 2003 interview with Bruce Peterson, the Wal-Mart executive who overseas beef purchases and is part of the same Beef article as above:
BEEF: A great deal of your fresh beef products are â€œenhancedâ€ with a water-based solution. What drives the decision to merchandise beef this way? Peterson: I think the whole idea of solutions, or â€œpumpedâ€ product, is going to revolutionize the meat industry over time. The solution process will ultimately be one of providing a flavor profile. This is no different in meat than in other foods. â€œCookingâ€ at home is becoming a lost art â€” much by choice â€” therefore the consumer is expecting to buy a piece of meat that has a particular flavor profile, stick it in the oven for 15-20 minutes and yet have something they remember eating when they were growing up. Food additives, whether in solutions or otherwise, are becoming part of our food experience. The fresh beef area is one of the last great food bastions that have been generally untampered.Mmmmmmmm.......water-based solution. Don't you love it when you buy beef by the pound and are paying for the weight of added water? Still, Wal-Mart insists that its meat is fresh. Peterson told Meat and Deli Retailer:
[T]he freshness of Wal-Martâ€™s case-ready products is comparable to that of meat that is cut by store butchers. Shipments, he notes, often are delivered to locations from distribution centers within a few hours of being ordered.Your definition of "fresh" probably depends upon more than just the color, but if you shop at Wal-Mart you can't be choosy; can you? As appetizing as this subject is, my favorite part of the article has gotta be Peterson's explanation why the company's decision getting rid of meat cutters from their stores is actually a good thing:
He adds that by not having to cut meat, Wal-Mart associates and the meat departmentâ€™s backroom have a cleaner appearance. â€œAssociates are not covered with blood like they just had open-heart surgery,â€ he notes.Exactly, nobody wants to be reminded that something died in order to give you dinner. Wal-Mart is Meat and Deli Retailer of the Year because they're leading the way in making the meat production system disappear from public view. When it's gone completely, Wal-Mart can do anything it wants to its meat and its customers will never know.