THE GREAT AMERICAN SHOPPING CART: How America Gets Its Food Today by


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The Great American Shopping Cart is a jumble. Abstracted from a report to the President (by the National Commission on Food Marketing), it purports at one and the same time ""to help you become a wise shopper"" and ""to solve the riddle"" of why the farmer's share of the food dollar has diminished. Its method, roughly, is to examine the chain of production in each of four industries: meat, produce, milling and baking, dry groceries. The account of beef from ranch to feedlot packer is useful per se and so is the passage of wheat from farm to fresh-baked; the sections on produce and dry groceries are more fragmentary. From all of this the prospective consumer learns, (1) the meaning of government meat grades; (2) that different cuts of beef come from different parts of a steer and sell for different prices (with no explanation of why--and neither the diagrams nor the related questions are clear); (3) that processed food is more expensive than fresh food (offset by plugs for convenience); (4) that products sold under a canner's (or baker's) label cost more than the identical product sold under a supermarket label, and why. This last, and the section on trading stamps, are not presented as aids to personal economy; indeed, the book makes much of consumer approval of trading stamps, of consumer response to advertising. And, while demonstrating where the money goes that doesn't go to the farmer, it suggests no alternative arrangements. Moreover, the term ""pecking order,"" implying a hierarchy, is used interchangeably with bargaining power (re suppliers) and competitive position (re consumers). It's erratic economics and a consumer sellout but you may have a market for the production line photo spreads.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1969
Publisher: Simon & Schuster