Grocery store inventory quirks

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

This weekend I was making a quick ingredient run to get pastry making ingredients together for a crazy afternoon of cake making. My smudged list included the standards- cream, chocolate, eggs, sugar and gelatin (for making the easy egg white free style of gelatin stabilized whipped cream mousse).

Much to my surprise I discovered that my neighborhood Whole Foods doesn’t carry gelatin. Having lived several years in Eugene with vegetarian grocery stores, this is a tactic that doesn’t surprise me. However, I was completely taken by surprise that a grocery store with a meat section wouldn’t carry gelatin!

“Not even kosher, fish-derived gelatin?” I whined.
“No.”

In my argumentative way- I’d rather have the whole animal (hoofs and all) used if we are going to sacrifice it for food. Whole Foods right?

In a taste of my own medicine way- I really don’t like not being able to make my own choices regarding food ethics.

Have you run into grocery store peculiarities like this?

19 Comments

posted July 8th, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Delurking. Hi! Love your blog! :)

I don’t think that’s a Whole Foods-wide decision. I was in our local (NJ) Whole Foods last week, and they had gelatin on the shelf.

Weird. Knowing that makes me feel more argumentative :)
glad you delurked

–McAuliflower

posted July 8th, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Are you sure…? It’s in the Jello isle and it’s Knox Gelatin and comes in a little box and a big huge expensive box.

yeah… usually. But you know how we tend to not live near “normal” grocery stores. :)

–McAuliflower

- MoM
posted July 8th, 2008 at 3:01 pm

About 6 months ago we moved from 7 miles from a natural foods store to our current place, which has a local Whole Foods. We actually see the same produce at Whole Foods as we do at the Farmer’s Market, so they’re apparently buying local, but for the most part they’re only a store for the casual cook. People who’ll steam a few veggies, but are happy to buy their entrees from the deli section.

Not a slam on Whole Foods, they clearly know their audience, but I don’t go there when I’m looking for exotic starches or gelatins or things like that.

posted July 8th, 2008 at 5:33 pm

The entire time I’ve worked at that store (ugh 5 years) we have never carried gelatin. It was a Wild Oats standard, but I don’t know if it’s a Whole Foods one. We’re still very much in the throes of trying to convert to a legit Whole Foods. If you want something put in a comment card, so that it gets to the appropriate person. While whining to an employee SHOULD work, most things get forgotten.

There’s a bunch of shit I’ve been meaning to bug people about, that’s on my list, and also carrying Noris Dairy. Luckily, we just got a new grocery manager, he came from the downtown Whole Foods, so hopefully he’ll have a clue.

thanks for the response KatezOr.

I did remember to comment card this. It’s funny how the store is still morphing. I was thinking in response to the previous comment that maybe I should have prefaced that this isn’t your typical Whole Foods.

Great idea regarding Noris! Now I’ll really have to get to work on my pressure for canning jars. :)

–McAuliflower

- Katez0r
posted July 9th, 2008 at 2:07 am

How bizarre. Meat is ok by by-products aren’t? I suppose they’d flip if you went looking for tripe.

posted July 9th, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Hmmn, sounds to me more like a lack of shelf space or priority of shelf space, rather than an ethical decision. I’m guessing you may be shopping at the Burnside/28th Whole Foods (which I still absent-mindedly call Nature’s). That store isn’t very big, and like Dan said, it’s probably because their average customer buys milk, some produce, deli, etc., not gelatin or other more specialized items. Just my two cents on it.

I understand the frustration though, as I always face dilemnas when trying to do all my shopping at one store (being car-free, I can’t justify stopping at multiple places). For example, yesterday I was at Safeway downtown, I really needed coconut milk for a recipe. One can was over $2! Ouch – knowing I could get the same exact can for probably 75 cents at Fubonn.

- maija
posted July 10th, 2008 at 7:08 am

Hi there!

A Los Angelino here who has also run in to all manner of peculiarities when shopping at any number of my local Whole Foods markets (there are two that I shop at fairly often). And what they do and do not have seems to have nothing to do with ethical decisions as to meat and its by-products. I can get three different kinds of amaranth flour, for instance, but they have no standard pastry flour (unless you want to go the whole wheat route). I guess what it comes down to for ours out here is that they are seriously lacking in staples oftentimes, but they are really whiz-bangs when it comes to specialty food items. But then again, there are some things that slip through the cracks. Pastry flour is not something I can get at my local big box supermarket, but then again, it’s oddly absent from Whole Foods as well. Go figure

- Ross
posted July 10th, 2008 at 9:55 am

I can find everything I need at a Superior, Trader Joes, and an Indian Market, in that order. My favorite is the Indian Market. They have the best spices ever. Lately I am on a Pakistani Rock Salt kick. I use the salt, fresh ground black pepper corns, hot red chili powder (all from the Indian Store) to season my meats, then I bake them in a covered dish on a bed of onions and cheap wine.

- Joe
posted July 11th, 2008 at 12:34 am

Maybe it’s not so much the gelatin itself that they protest – but the lack of a gelatin brand that can live up to Whole Foods standards. If you know of a company that makes some wholesome ethical gelatin, instead of using waste from the icky-meat industry, you should recommend it to the store manager!

I think you’ve nailed it Irie- thanks for bringing in this perspective.
I recommended kosher fish gelatin in my comment to the store- I think I’ll go back and give them some brand names.

thanks again,
–McAuliflower

- Irie
posted July 13th, 2008 at 6:49 am

That is kind of weird.

We have a new Whole Foods here, with the longest meat display case in their Midwest chain.

I’ll have to see if gelatin is on the shelf. Maybe it has something to do with how it’s produced – as someone said above, the product doesn’t meet their standards.

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posted July 17th, 2008 at 12:21 pm

(Responding to Irie’s comment:) “If you know of a company that makes some wholesome ethical gelatin, instead of using waste from the icky-meat industry, you should recommend it to the store manager!

I feel like using “waste” from the icky-meat industry is precisely what prevents the “icky-meat” industry from being wasteful. Surely to just throw away bones and hooves would be far more of a shame?

Did your Whole Foods ever explain why they didn’t stock it?

posted July 17th, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Sorry, I just noticed that you had basically covered the main thrust of my comment in your original post. Woops :)

posted July 17th, 2008 at 6:32 pm

The also don’t dig it when you ask if they carry foie gras. At least, the lady I asked didn’t. Whoops!

- oregoncoastgirl
posted July 19th, 2008 at 9:43 am

Jocelyn, I asked our grocery buyer about this, and it was already on his radar. He’s worked there for years, so he’s very in touch with what our customers want. This is a simple case of not being set up with a conventional vendor yet, and none of our other vendors carry it, it’ll be coming as soon as we’re set up. No idea when that’ll be, though.

Oh, and Maija is correct about shelf space for some items. We just found out that our remodel has been post-poned indefinitely, although they are knocking down walls to expand the bakery.

Oh yeah, we just got a new deli manager, and our main cook is leaving (who has no idea how to taste his food, drives me crazy), so hopefully the deli will stop sucking so bad.

later!

thanks so much for checking on on this and getting the real story Katez0r! I won’t spread anymore anti-gelatin rumors :)

cheers
–McAuliflower

- Katez0r
posted July 22nd, 2008 at 5:19 am

“the easy egg white free style of gelatin stabilized whipped cream mousse”? I am not familiar with this–can you email me the recipe or post it on the blog?

This is one of those “recipes” that I don’t have written down. The gist is I puree the flavor component and fold it into barely sweetened whipped up whipped cream that had a bit of dissolved gelatin added to it. The gelatin will then help preserve the structure of the whipped cream.

Here’s a brief guess on amounts:
+ 1 packet of unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1-2 Tbs hot water, set aside briefly

+ 1 pint of whipped cream
Whip in a mixer and drizzle in ~1 tbs of maple syrup or a sprinkle of sugar. Add the dissolved gelatin and bring the whipped cream to stiff peaks.

+ fold into your sweetened whipped cream the flavor component of your choice (pudding, fruit puree, sweetened cream cheese, cake chunks…).

Refrigerate in individual serving cups to set up the gelatin.

The one I was getting ready to make with this particular grocery store excursion was a banana whipped cream mousse.

cheers
–McAuliflower

posted July 22nd, 2008 at 11:39 am

I see this conversation has taken a different angle in the comments but back to the original question of not being able to make our own food ethics choices…

What I like about having a variety of grocery stores is having the chance to choose who’s ethics you agree with the most. Sure, sometimes you just need a box of gelatin but most times, it’s nice to find a grocery store that agrees with your values. There is likely a grocery store for every kind of person.

posted August 21st, 2008 at 7:48 pm

I realize I’m a little late to the party here but thought I’d drop a line. Trust me, my post does veer towards food ethics… in its meandering way.

For the record, Whole Foods Market does carry Knox gelatin in packets. I’ve used them in the cooking classes I teach there regularly. Been with the company for close to 5 years and I’ve never seen a store that doesn’t carry it in my region. It’s certainly not on any sort of ethical banned list or anything.

WFM also carries marshmallows that are made with fish gelatin for passover as fish gelatin is approved by many Orthodox Jewish Kashrut authorities. Interestingly enough I read years ago of certain Kashrut authorities digging into the chemistry of dry gelatin – and coming up with a decision that pork derived gealtin was so far removed from the animal that it didn’t qualify as pork any more and as such some, but not all, pork derived gelatin can actually be certified Kosher. The majority of approved kosher gelatin is derived from fish heads so even orthodox jews who keep kosher can find themselves in an ethical food delimma.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m-a-gonna go cut me a thick slice of duck foie gras and sear that puppy in some applewood bacon fat with a dusting of ground ginger snaps. Seriously. Got a grade B half lobe in the fridge.

Cheers and thanks for hosting such a thoughtful and in many ways inspiring blog.

- Michael Mormino
posted September 11th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

I was surprised to read this post. Did WF not give you any alternatives, such as agar agar? It’s a very common alternative to gelatin…at least where I come from. Maybe that has a lot to do with the large vegetarian and asian communities we have in Vancouver? It is a seaweed extract and I’ve used it in many recipes. Here’s an article from the Georgia Straight, with a couple of recipes to boot! http://www.straight.com/article/agar-agar-keeps-moulded-salads-and-desserts-jiggly-hoof-free

- Summer

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