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Why is my bread stale?

Australia’s major grocery chains are highly centralised. What journalists generally refer to in the media as “ridiculously overcentralised.”

The basic idea – as they so often are – is sound.

Large quantities of goods are shipped to a hub facility in huge quantities, from wherever it is that they come from. Those goods are then disbursed to regional distribution centres and then to the grocery stores that you and I purchase from.

Economies of scale, and massive purchases mean lower prices for the goods that the chain purchases. So, hooray, right?

Well, maybe and maybe not.

You see, the process doesn’t have any logical short-circuiting.

If you’re in Tasmanian, and want some apples from the chain you’re probably paying more for them than anyone else in Australia… for apples that are specifically grown in Tasmania. You see, those apples have to be transported all the way to the hub facility, then back to a Tasmanian distribution centre, and then to an individual store, just so that you can buy an apple that might have been grown less than 20 kilometres from the store where you purchased it. It just had to be shipped all over the damn country before you did.

And so we come to bread, which I mentioned in the title.

If I toddle down to the local Coles or Safeway, and buy a fresh loaf of bread… well, the odds are that it is going to be well on the way to stale that very day. It might (and this has happened more times than I care to count) go mouldy within 24 hours. Some of that bread might actually be made not far from here. All that shipping stuff around doesn’t just represent additive costs… it takes time as well. Time for stuff to sit around in the back of trucks, where maybe the climate isn’t as controlled as it should be.

I don’t know just how old the bread is by the time it goes on the shelves. It might be a week or ten days. If I buy a loaf made fresh from a bakery, it can easily last a week or more in its bag before it starts to get like the stuff I’d buy in the supermarket as ‘fresh’.

Someone once told me that eggs in the supermarket are already a couple of weeks old by the time they make it to the shelves. I’m becoming inclined to believe it, the number of stale or mouldy bread products I see – or meat turning… well, green on the day that it’s put out.

Sometimes, going to the store of an evening, it seems like half the perishable stocks on the shelves are going to have to be thrown out. Some of them you don’t even want to get near, lest they bite.

Maybe that’s just our local stores, rather than the whole chain, but either way, who exactly is paying for that wastage?

Oh, yes. I thought so.

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Categories: AFK Adventures, Opinion.

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