The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Monday, May 03, 2004
Retailers lie, too
Lest it be thought that the manipulation of truth is the exclusive domain of politicians and journalists, a corrective:
In a long and informative piece in the Guardian today, the nauseating story of modern British bread.
The food industry in Britain is based on the Don't ask, don't tell principle. Sausages and pâtés made with mechanically recovered meat, ice-cream with (for good reason!) the consistency and after-taste of whisked-up margarine (that's oleo Stateside, I believe) - and the truly Orwellian concoction that is (I laughingly say) bread created by the Chorleywood Bread Process - or CBP.
Chorleywood the town is a part of Metroland - much lauded by deceased Poet Laureate John Betjeman - that lies beside the Metropolitan Railway between Baker Street and Aylesbury.
But it also harboured the British Baking Industries Research Association, which 'perfected' the ghastly process that has long dominated the bread market here. In fact, the piece says,
Independent "craft" bakers account for just 2% of the market, but many of them depend on the same factory premixes of flour and additives too.
The fourth largest economy in the world eats shit for bread.
The piece also gives us a little insight into retailing MO:
At the root of the problem is "loss leading". It works like this. Everyday groceries, such as bread, butter, milk and sugar, are classified as known-value items (KVIs). These are the key purchases whose price shoppers know and by which they judge which shop offers the best value. Most prices are no longer marked on packets but only appear on the shelves, where we notice them briefly. As a result, most of us have little clue what other items cost.
The premium loaves baked in-store by supermarkets - albeit from prebaked dough - are closer to real bread. But even a couple of bucks for a 28 oz loaf  does not guarantee against insipid taste, with a sometimes excellent crust covering a soggy, cake-like crumb (or mie, in French).
The industrialisation of bread did provide one benefit not noted in the piece: the grindstones that ground flour before roller-mills came along tended to leave fragments of stone in the flour, which did the teeth no favours.
Always look on the bright side of life...
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