Piggies go to markets

'You can get a free-range chicken, or a leg of lamb, or minced steak, or sausages better and far cheaper than in any supermarket I know'

Share
Related Topics

I was very struck by something that was said on Desert Island Discs not long ago. Or rather, I was very struck by something that wasn't said on Desert Island Discs not long ago. It happened, or didn't happen, while Sue Lawley was interviewing the new head of the National Trust and had got on to one of her guest's pet interests, which was the growing of natural food free from pesticides, hormones etc. How, wondered Lawley, could this interest in real farm food ever be widespread, considering the price charged for it?

I can't remember what she replied. (As you can see, I can't even remember the name of the head of the National Trust.) But what I do remember is what she didn't say. She didn't say: "What a load of bollocks, Lawley."

Because this is a prejudice you find all over the place, the preconception that if you find meat and veg grown by a small farmer, it's going to be more expensive than the same sort of stuff brought to us by the great god supermarket. Ah, it's all very well getting the real good country stuff, but you've got to pay through the nose for the quality and the goodness! That's what people think and it's a load of nonsense because (apart from organically grown food, perhaps) a lot of stuff you get in supermarkets is way more expensive than the stuff bought from farmers' markets or farm shops.

Down where I live, farmers' markets happen in so many places at such regular intervals that you can normally find two going on every week. They're not really a luxury any more. They're a fixture. My wife and I started going to them a few years back, and wouldn't give up now. That's partly because the produce they sell is better quality than what you get in supermarkets, partly because the produce still reflects the seasons, partly to support local farmers who get such a rough deal from supermarkets, partly because it's a lot more fun than going to supermarkets, but as much as anything because it's cheaper. You can get a free-range chicken, or a leg of lamb, or a pack of minced steak, or sausages (wild boar and cranberry is my current favourite) better and far cheaper than in any supermarket I know.

My wife says she hasn't bought any meat in a supermarket for two or three years. Why would she want to? The stuff she gets locally comes from someone she has got to know personally, someone she can ask questions of and ask advice of, and someone who will tell her what's coming into season, and what to wait till next week for. In a supermarket, you can't even be sure always that stuff has come from Britain.

Now, this is not the story that supermarkets put about. The accepted yarn is that a supermarket buys in bulk at discount prices and passes on the benefit, or some of it, to the customer. That's why supermarket stuff is cheaper. Everyone knows that. Unfortunately, it's not true. Time after time my wife and I have blinked at the price of meat in supermarkets and wondered how anyone could think it cheap. Either the supermarkets are doing a very bad job, or they are cheating someone somewhere along the line.

To be fair to the supermarkets, they do sell lots of other things cheaper. Supermarkets, I have noticed, carry a vast and wonderful selection of fairly priced potato crisps, often whole aisles full. They're very good on breakfast cereals. And biscuits. And tea bags. When it comes to crisps, cereals, biscuits and tea bags, supermarkets do very well indeed and I have to admit that farmers' markets just can't compete in that field. Things are so unequal that farmers' markets don't even try selling crisps or tea bags or biscuits (except home made biscuits). But when it comes to food that you would want to buy and cook, rather than buy and open, I do think that farmers' markets have the edge.

And one day I would like someone to tell me why chains like Asda and Sainsbury's, with their international organisation and their fleets of lorries prowling through the night, can't compete with the local farmer setting up a stall at Bath or Frome or Bradford-on-Avon.

Note to urban readers: I have just re-read this, and I now realise it may sound a bit smug and self-satisfied about farmers' markets and all that. It wasn't meant to be. It was meant to be full of fury and scorn at supermarkets. Trouble is, it's hard to keep up the rage and indignation when you've just had a wildly satisfying breakfast of wild rabbit casserole, hedgehog marmalade and two or three pints of strong local cider.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this secondary s...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Recruitment Genius: Recording Engineer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A long established media compan...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Auschwitz death camp survivor Jadwiga Bogucka, 89, holds a picture of herself from 1944  

Holocaust Memorial Day: This isn't the time to mark just another historical event, but to remember humanity at its worst

Jennifer Lipman
John Rentoul outside the Houses of Parliament  

If I were Prime Minister...I would be like a free-market version of Natalie Bennett

John Rentoul
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea