I recently broke down and joined Costco, it just started to make dollar sense to buy office supplies for our company in bulk.

After cruising the aisles for paper towels and printer paper, I headed over to the food section to check out what they had there. Two inch thick Australian lamb chops? Whoa!! Whole, untrimmed prime beef tenderloin? An amateur chef’s delight, I can butcher my own cuts! My favorite tomatoes, that Campari variety that actually taste like tomatoes, hard to find those reliably in my local market!

All of it went into the cart. I had discovered a foodie wholesale paradise.

Then to the cheese section. Genuine Italian water buffalo mozzarella in water? I’ll take two. Got a lot of tomatoes to eat – like about 40, given the two trays in my cart, so I can use all this mozzarella, easy.

Then it dawned on me as I wheeled to the checkout: those two trays of tomatoes each had exactly 20 tomatoes in them, still on the vine, with not an inch to spare in the tray. What are the chances I wondered? Going back to the produce section I checked it out. Sure enough, every tray had exactly 20 tomatoes, sacked up five trays high in crates, three crates high. These were tomato science projects, wrapped up in plastic packaging science projects made out of petroleum, and trucked hundreds of miles.

Over to the fish section. Yep, every filet was exactly the same size. Fish clones. From Norway. So either they were farm raised, or worse, the product of factory trawlers netting up entire ecosystems of fish out of the North Atlantic.

The tenderloins? Yea, same deal, exactly the same, corn feedlot meat. And so on with pretty much everything else.

Well, it was mighty disappointing, but it all had to come out of the cart. After all, I spend my days working really hard to help our clients compete against agribusiness. This Costco stuff, incredibly appealing as it is, is exactly what we need to find competitive alternatives to. This was going against everything: LOHAS companies and their dedicated Lohasian customers, the booming localvore movement, keeping agricultural lands in sustainable production, responsible energy use, lower carbon footprints, getting away from mono-culture.

The farm over in Cambridge will have great tomatoes ready in two weeks, I can wait. Woodstock Water Buffalo is back in business and making buffalo mozzarella, I’ll hit the site and see where I can get it locally. That livestock farm up in East Hardwick will be at the local farmer’s market on Sunday with their grass pastured frozen beef.

Costco won’t go away (and I hope they never do, they are an enlightened company), but, with hard work, and in time, local infrastructures will develop to allow national chains to regionally source much of this stuff. Whole Foods Market is already seeing the light, or more likely feeling the consumer pressure. Local is truly the next organic.

(I kept the lamb chops. Just this one time. Don’t tell Artie at Winding Brook Farm up the road in Morrisville).


Ken Liatsos
PMG Creative 


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