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April 15, 2010

Is Wal-Mart the answer for cheaper organics and more locally grown foods?

Some Americans are reluctant to shop at Wal-Mart for several reasons, including its perceived anti-union stance, lax environmental standards, poor working conditions, and danger to mom-and-pop stores. But many more Americans flock to Wal-Mart, mainly because of its low prices. These low prices help make Wal-Mart the third largest world corporation in terms of revenue.

Corby Kummer, of the Atlantic Magazine, was also a hesitant Wal-Mart shopper. But after hearing news that the retail giant had been making significant steps into the organic market, he began comparing Wal-Mart produce to Whole Foods fruits and vegetables, a popular natural and organic food retailer. The results were mixed:

 [Wal-Mart] beets handily beat (sorry) ones I’d just bought at Whole Foods, and compared nicely with beets I’d recently bought at the farmers’ market. But packaged carrots and celery, both organic, were flavorless. Organic bananas and “tree ripened” California peaches, already out of season, were better than the ones in most supermarkets, and most of the Wal-Mart food was cheaper—though when I went to my usual Whole Foods to compare prices for local produce, they were surprisingly similar (dry goods and dairy products were considerably less expensive at Wal-Mart).

And with respect to locally grown foods, Wal-Mart claims that, through its Heritage Agriculture program, the retailer encourages “farms within a day’s drive of one of its warehouses to grow crops that now take days to arrive in trucks from states like Florida and California.”

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Chris Zielinski for preparing this post.  Mr. Zielinski is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

April 15, 2010 in Organics | Permalink


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