Monday, December 2, 2013

Aldi Declared America's Best Grocer...wait, what?

Trader Joe's Has a Brother. He's Even Better. -Rebecca Schuman,

Calm down, Rebecca, Aldi is not America's best grocery store.

In fact, thanks to Aldi's refusal disclose where any of their products come from without a court order, there's a 30% to 100% chance I've tried horse meat.

So how is it that the crunchy found itself in love with Germany's answer to Walmart? Well there's your answer. The only thing more appealing to Prius driving yuppies married to their recycling bins is crap with a European label slapped on it. Look at IKEA. Nothing is less recyclable than entertainment centers made of mashed potato board, and nothing is more disposable than Swedish furniture. Still, there it sits, a parking lot full of hybrids.


Despite Aldi's "organic" reputation, bike friendly shops. and "natural" labels, Aldi is very much a conglomerate, and Trader Joe's is its American offspring.

Don't let the inked hipsters in Hawaiian shirts fool you into think either grocery store is anything less than a capitalistic machine. They found a way to capitalize on image and hope that you never ask where your food comes from.

Have you ever looked at their cellophane sealed produce and thought, "this is too good to be true"? Well, first you should be asking why a company that wraps its produce in cellophane deserves its green reputation.

Trader Joe's parent company, Aldi, is owned by Theo Albrecht, Germany's answer to Sam Walton. He won't tell his consumers where he gets his food, how it's organic (a demarcation only determined by determining it yourself), and how he operates. 

There's a reason Trader Joe's is cheap, and what has been exposed about the company's secretive practices exposes the type of grocer you'd expect to buy bottom basement horsemeat from.

In February of 2013 it was exposed that up to 100% of the ground beef in all of Aldi's 8000 stores world wide, including those in the United States, was horse. Yes, horse. I'll say it again. Horse.

However, it may be even worse. Aldi was forced to disclose where it received it's horse meat because it was, well, horse meat. Where the rest of Aldi's and Trader Joe's food comes from is anyone's guess, particularly in the United States. Since regulations surrounding GMO ingredients and organic labeling are grey areas at best, Albrecht's grocery stores take advantage of these loop holes and arbitrary labels.

The truth is, Aldi and Trader Joe's probably won't kill you. Neither will horse meat. In suburban food islands where the only alternatives are big box grocers who don't even pretend to care, a blind eye is understandable.

But for urbanites, particularly in Philadelphia, Reading Terminal Market and the Italian Market source a bevy of affordable meat and produce that comes with its own local resume. As for Schuman's recent rave about Aldi's amazingly cheap prices, sorry, the dream ends with your receipt.

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