Saturday, September 29, 2012

Trader Joe's subject of misguided YouTube campaign

Consumers Union, the non-profit owners of the respected Consumer Reports brand, has ramped up its efforts to make Trader Joe's a flagship retailer, and break the addiction to large-scale 'preventive' use of antibiotics on U.S. industrial scale farms. 

 Working under the NotInMyFood.org umbrella, activists staged a media event last week at Trader Joe's first NYC store. That event is now the subject of this YouTube video:


   


The video's well-done, for what it's worth. But elsewhere on the NotInMyFood.org site, the Consumers Union folks mistakenly characterize Trader Joe's when they write, "We are calling on Trader Joe’s, a leader in environmentally conscious food sourcing, to help end a meat production practice that is a serious danger to public health."


I mean this in the nicest way, because anyone who's read "Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's" knows that, overall, I admire the company. But Trader Joe's has definitely not been a leader in environmentally conscious food sourcing.


In fact, Trader Joe's is not a vertically integrated company. All of the products sold under the Trader Joe's brand are outsourced. And since many of Trader Joe's suppliers are in the food preparation business, not the food-growing business, even those suppliers have no easy way of knowing whether or not livestock operators are abusing antibiotics.

Trader Joe's also has a famously lean head-office staff. Buyers simply don't have the time or manpower to police two layers deep into the supply chain. The company could insist that suppliers assure it that they, in turn, are sourcing meats that aren't loaded with antibiotics. But even that measure would be meaningless unless it was policed. And I can guarantee you that it will be a long, long time before Trader Joe's spends a cent on lab testing.

As I've noted in the past, Trader Joe's incredibly strong cultural brand makes it a lightning rod for this kind of protest. It's unlikely to work, and I doubt that it's causing its famously insular CEO Dan Bane any lost sleep.

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