The Counter: Wiped out: Safeway sued for price gouging toilet paper and other supplies

Remember March? That was when the coronavirus pandemic forced offices across the country to close and companies told their employees to work from home—if they didn’t fire or furlough them instead. Facing a public health crisis with an unknown trajectory, people prepared for the worst, stripping grocery stores of hand sanitizer and disinfectant, but also of products like flour and yeast and, yes, toilet paper.

Read more…

The Counter: Traditional CSAs struggle to compete against greater convenience and choice

There have never been more ways to get fresh produce sent to your home, from basic grocery delivery services; to “misfit” and “ugly” veggie startups; to bespoke, plant-based meal kits. But at the end of the day, what’s in a veggie box? Is it merely a collection of assorted produce, or is it a value system? Do you spend those dollars simply to fill your fridge, or are you also trying to support small farmers and local agriculture? Does it matter if the items are USDA-certified organic, or if some items are grown several states away?

As veggie box delivery companies have proliferated, some small-scale farmers say it has become harder to run traditional community supported agriculture (CSA) operations, in which consumers buy a “share” of a local farm’s harvest at the beginning of the growing season. In return for this investment, share owners get a box of whatever produce was harvested. There’s an inherent gamble, in that the consumer shares the risks associated with farming. If it’s a bad year for tomatoes, they may not get any tomatoes.

Read more…

The Counter: Will Michelob’s organic beer really transform American farmland?

The commercial opened on a lone, bearded farmer standing in a dark field. A narrator intoned meaningfully that less than 1 percent of American farmland is organic. But, the female voice continued, we could change that simply by buying Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, the first national, certified-organic beer brand. There was the pop and hiss of a twist-off bottle top, and suddenly we were in the club, only the club was a subway station and a woman carried a six-pack with her onto the train.

Read more…