The following story raises a number of curious issues about the current state of consumption and marketing and retail practice:
Apparently the landfill sites of the UK are being furnished with huge volumes of freshly baked bread from superstore bakeries (presumably to the delight of the seagulls that infest such facilities). It seems that hot bread sells best, as loaves cool they are less likely to be purchased. When a baguette cools then it is likely to be replaced with a warmer cousin. The cool bread is then removed and sent for disposal (or so a charity claims). This raises the old issue of whose fault it is. I refer you to the age old retail conundrum: who is to blame for the waste of non-perfect fresh produce? Retailers claim that apples or carrots that do not conform to strict aesthetic guidelines are simply left on the shelves if they are put on display. So, the retailers weed out these ugly specimens so that the consumer is not offended by a suggestively shaped carrot or blemished peach. The retailers assert that this is done to prevent consumers sifting through the stock, it helps them and they are duly provided with the produce they desire. The implication is that it is the consumer that is driving this (this being an example of consumer sovereignty). In reality of course, both the consumer and the retailer are complicit. Consumers can be fussy and we have grown used to perfection in food. This thirst for loveliness has been co-created; the retailer spots a behavioural tendency, it panders to it, this accentuates the tendency, the retailer panders to it further until only the most perfect carrot is sought by the consumer (the perfect hue of orange, the perfect length, the perfect temperature). The consumer is like an indulged child, conditioned through a process of reinforcement to be a picky perfectionist. The price of this indulgence is the burden on sustainability and an increase in the perception of food as a disposable commodity. Supermarkets do throw away food, but so do consumers.
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