There’s No Such Thing as Ethical Grocery Shopping

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There’s No Such Thing as Ethical Grocery Shopping - New Republic

“The Secret Life of Groceries” exposes the dark secrets of America’s food supply.

Of all the edible creatures in the sea, America’s favorite is the shrimp. We gorge upon their flesh to the tune of 4.4 pounds per person per year. Accordingly, the business of shrimp is oceanic: In 2017, the amount of shrimp imported to the United States grew to 1.5 billion pounds, representing over 1 percent of the nation’s entire foreign trade deficit.

Shrimp are perhaps the paradigmatic grocery store item. They used to be expensive, and now they’re not. They are born animals, and when they die they become meat, then cargo, then merchandise represented by a bar code—a product with a notably high profit yield on the grocery floor because it’s a dirt-cheap factory-farmed import.

As Benjamin Lorr notes in his horrifying new book, The Secret Life of Groceries, the “fishmonger” at stores like Whole Foods only exists as window dressing, designed to lure the fish-loving customer to the actually profitable frozen shrimp in the freezers nearby. This kind of casting is true, Lorr explains, of nearly all supermarket employees, who would be automated away in a heartbeat if the data didn’t show that the average American consumer prefers a human touch.
 
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