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The Atlantic magazine conducted an interesting experiment. With the help of Yonder neighbor James McWilliams, Atlantic food writer Corby Kummer had chefs at a fancy pants Austin (Texas) restaurant prepare two meals that were exact in every way — except that one used ingredients from Wal-Mart and the other from Whole Foods. Then a bunch of foodies would taste the two (unidentified) versions, smack their lips and vote which was better.
The result was, essentially, a draw. The tasters liked the Wal-Mart appetizer, salad and spinach. Whole Foods won with the main course (chicken breasts) and desert. The difference in cost, however, was interesting. Wal-Mart ingredients cost $126.02. Whole Foods: $175.04. Twenty bucks of the $50 difference was for the meat. (Whole Foods sales and profits were way up in the last quarter.)
Most of Kummer’s article is about the efforts Wal-Mart is making to buy local and to spiff up its food aisles. (Above) “Walmart says it wants to revive local economies and communities that lost out when agriculture became centralized in large states,” Kummer wrote. (Ironic to small town residents, who saw Wal-Mart as the prime agent in centralizing retail sales, leading to the demise of many a Main Street.) The company is trying to buy local, but so far local goods account for only 4 to 6 percent of Walmart’s produce sales. Good update on what Wal-Mart is doing.