i Editor's Letter: When it comes to food, value outweighs cost


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The Independent Online


Some good can come out of this sorry horse meat saga. No, not yet – I am convinced that the news has to get a lot worse before it gets better. But, if the entire affair forces us to think harder about what we cook and eat, and even how we shop, then there is a positive to emerge from the scandal.

The problem lies in a combination of consumers' recession-induced squeezed finances, and supermarkets' desire to sell so consistently on price, but maintain their margins at the expense of suppliers. This happens in clothing and other areas too, but with food it seems we have less choice in the face of necessity. For many, it appears there is as little option but to buy that 99p Asda or Tesco burger pack as that £3 H&M or Primark T-shirt.

Speak for myself, I have bought clothes at Primark and H&M and not worried too much about their supply chain, being cynical about all clothing manufacturer and retailer supply chains, no matter the brand. They also seem to last no less time than some fancier name brands.

Food is different. We have to take so much on trust. But, we should never be tempted by the phrase "cheap sushi"; there has to be more attention paid to the word "value" in that crucial "cost-value equation".

As I said yesterday, don't sneer at poor people for buying cheaply. Butchers can be scarily expensive. Even if we pay 99p, we are entitled to get what we think we pay for.

If supermarkets cannot guarantee that, then they should not sell products at such prices; should stop squeezing the life out of their suppliers. Instead, why not push different, healthy meat like rabbit, and more unadulterated cheaper cuts, educating us how to make them go further? We need talk less about cost and more about value.