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French supermarket

The majority of groceries, including meat, cheese, fruit, vegetables, honey, seafood and wine, are as locally sourced as possible in French supermarkets. This is why the fruit and vegetables on sale in supermarkets are generally only those that are in season. Obviously this does include things like Spanish oranges in December, and a few items, like lemons, which are made available all year round. Similarly, roquefort with an appelataion d’origine contrôlée has to come from Roquefort, and cognac from Cognac, but fresh goat’s cheese or bottles of eau de vie will be locally sourced. Despite public demand, this simply doesn’t happen in UK supermarkets, where, even if an item is produced 5 miles from a Sainsbury’s store, it will get transported all over the country, to various distribution depots, before arriving 5 miles away from where it started.

However, there is a lack of clear labelling in France, which is sometimes worse than that in the UK. For example, a packet of pork chops will not tell you when, where or how the pig was reared or killed, what it was fed on, and what it’s living conditions were. Because I am cynical, this would indicate to me that the pig grew up on pellets and antibiotics, in a filthy concrete pen in eastern Europe. But this may not be the case; it could have grown up in similar conditions locally! However, the lack of demand in France for clear labelling illustrates a lack of demand for, for example, free-range pork, and so, whilst you may be more likely to be eating local meat, there isn’t the choice of different meat production methods that is on offer in British supermarkets. I get the impression that the French generally don’t entertain the idea that their country would have inferior meat products on sale.

At the butcher's section on supermarket deli-counters in France, you can find details of an animal's life, death and diet , just as you can in the UK. There is frequently information on the counter-top, about the animal below.


Several interesting facts about the French grocery:
- the Frenchman likes a semi-prepared meal as much as any Yankee. Food is available at all stages of preparation, from raw pasta to fresh stuffed shells to reheat-me to eat-me-here's-a-fork.
- the Frenchman is not a twentysomething postcollege bachelor. That is, frozen pizzas, jars of pasta sauce, crates of beer, chips (corn or potato), sliced white bread and peanut butter, nor any of the staples of such existence are in comparable abundance here as in the US. In certain heavily male districts (the Albertson's on El Camino in Mountain View), the store bulges with bachelor food: huge aisles with 1000s of frozen pizzas, palettes of diet sodas. Not so here.
- the Frenchman loves small packages. Everything is small. You don't economy-size it.
- the Frenchman eats things soon. Things don't seem to be stored. Indeed, very few things are frozen at all. Even the fish are in the refrigerated section, stored in the way the US market would store milk or cheese.
- the Frenchman likes to go to many shops. The butcher is elsewhere, as are the drugstore items, as are, for that matter, motor oil, chainsaws, and automatic weapons.
- Enormous selection and variety. It's not just a difference in taste (e.g. few pizzas, instead...1000s of quiches). There are very many things, represented with small selections of each (except the friggin' yogurts).

What explains this? There could simply be structural reasons for some of it:
- small apartments = smaller package, shorter storage time
- cultural bias against storing food very long.
- cultural disinterest in 'super size', but interest in fresh or "natural"
- more hetergeneous citizenry hails from more european backgrounds, therefore demanding more variety (?)
- no cars, people need to walk home with what they buy (same in NY though)
- smaller scale, less economized production, marketing, and distribution dynamics. It's easier to sell one kind of thing with small variations, hence the US system pushes through beef, pizza, and potato chips at huge volumes (ignoring salmon eggs, carrot mousse, and pesto sauces).


S.N.I.W, Parc d'Innovation de la Haute Borne - Cité Scientifique - 4 rue Archimède - 59650 Villeneuve d'Ascq, France - Tel: - Fax: - E-mail: sniw@nordnet.fr

RCS.Lille : B391 438 009 _____Capital social : 158 635.70 €

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