Monday, September 24, 2007

"It Comes on the Truck... Then the Guys Cut it"

Want to throw the employees of your local conventional supermarket into confusion? Ask them if they know where the meat comes from. Like this:

Do you happen to know where your meat comes from?

Today I had occasion to buy some stew beef-- I wanted to make a borscht with some big beets from the CSA farm-- and it was (sorry, purists) more convenient to stop at my neighborhood market than to hit the coop for the good stuff. It's a pretty small, locally-owned place with its own butcher, so I thought there was a reasonable chance of finding Montana beef for sale there; I looked at the labels on the packages and the signage at the meat counter, but saw no indication of the beef's provenance. No matter; I was going to buy it anyway, and I did.

As the young checker wrapped up my beef in an extra plastic bag to prevent leakage, insisting on giving me excellent service whether I wanted it or not, I asked her, as diffidently as I could: "Do you happen to know where your meat comes from?"

"No!," she said, with an air of thoughtful surprise. "No, actually, I've never even thought about that before." Despite clearly finding the question odd, she also seemed intrigued. "Do you want me to ask for you?"

"That's all right, I was just curious," I said. "You can ask later, if you want, just to find out for yourself..."

She turned to another woman who was stocking shelves, a middle-aged person who's worked there for years. "Do you know where our meat comes from?"

It was this woman-- I will add, a woman I like and respect fine-- who gave the answer, "It comes from the truck."

"Sorry?" I said. "It comes from the truck?" I wasn't sure if I'd heard right.

"Yeah, it comes on the truck... then the guys cut it. I have no idea where it comes from."

"That's okay, I was just curious," I said again. "Thanks." And I went out. I didn't want to cause more consternation.

So, if you don't mind feeling a bit like a space alien, I think it is not bad to raise this question. It plants a seed, even if you don't get an answer; the girl who said she'd never even thought about it before has now thought about it. Both these women may, at slow moments of the shift, idly ask a fellow employee: "hey, this lady came in and she asked me where our meat came from... do you know where it comes from?" Until maybe, someday, somebody will turn out to know.

Please, though, be kind to the grocery workers. It's not their fault our food system is fucked.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great Idea -- I'll do it!