I think it’s a logistics and business-structure issue. I’ve been doing a bit of research on this; about 80% of the cost of the stuff on supermarket shelves is the cost of storing it, packing it, and getting it there. It is not, despite popular opinion, pure profit - supermarkets actually make very little of that. Tesco, for example, posted bottom-line profit of about 5% last year. Of course, in absolute terms, 5% of an enormous turnover (Tesco control ~40% of the market) is quite a lot of cash. It’s because they make so little profit (in percentage terms) that they employ cut-throat business practices to squeeze every last penny from their suppliers. If they didn’t, their business would be non-viable.
The fundamental problem is that they’re trying to sell food the way other consumer items (T-shirts, MP3 players, cars) are sold, and it simply doesn’t work. The result is an awful lot of wasted effort and money, and mediocre products. In Taiwan, the farmers are a lot “closer” to the end consumer: there are fewer layers of middlemen, and retailers are (mostly) still small independents. People happily accept that at certain times of the year, certain things are out of season (and conversely, are equally happy when there’s a cheap glut at harvest time). What we observe in Taiwan proves that the entire marketing strategy of supermarkets - they profess to be supplying what the customer wants at keen prices - is a well-crafted lie. The food industry still has a lot of problems here - for example, large farms insist on using temperate-climate agricultural techniques instead of ones more appropriate for a tropical climate - but it certainly works a lot more smoothly and delivers better quality food.
I find it very sad that people in England have become so used to the dross they buy from supermarkets (and those so-called restaurant chains … ugh) that they don’t even know what good food is anymore.
HH, I can identify with that experience. I remember eating at a Carvery once and ordering an ‘Eton mess’ afterwards (which is supposed to be basically a squashed strawberry or raspberry pavlova). I got this huge sundae glass full of whipped cream with two sorry frozen strawberries on the top. Seriously - it was a tub of lard. There was quite literally nothing else in it except hydrogenated vegetable fat, emulsifier, and air. I didn’t eat it.