Chicken Face - © Veronica Bartlett via Pintrest

Redditors Up In Arms Over Viral $40 kg Chicken

It just gets hotter and hotter. And I’m not setting you up for another story on Global Warming. I’m referring to the grassroots ire that’s building over high food prices. Now, a non-Big-5 supermarket chain is taking heat from self appointed online watchdogs…

TikTok Chicken Comparison - © 2023 -Though not clearly visible in this photo collage from the October, 2023, TikTok,
the price per lb. on the Target package is clearly ‘$1.69 in the video itself…

‘Hardly a day goes by…’ And in this context, that’s literally true! It seems there’s something new every morning, throwing gasoline on the Reddit fire started a few weeks back by a group calling itself ‘Loblaw’s Is Out Of Control’ (LOC).

What now?

It’s a viral photo of a supermarket package of chicken breasts. The usual skinless, boneless breasts on a foam tray, wrapped in plastic film. It’s from Longo’s, a Toronto-area supermarket group controlled by Sobey’s, one of the Big-5 Canadian supermarket chains.

But the problem is the price. The package weighs almost 2 kg, and it’s priced at $40.51! You don’t have to be a math prodigy to realize, at once, that’s almost $18.50 lb.

No wonder the LOC Food Police responded, in force, lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Nothing held back

The post, titled Seriously, who’s paying for this?, had drawn more than 400 comments as of this writing. And none of them was ‘nice’:

“It must be golden. Does it lay golden eggs too?” Poetic_Dew wrote.

“I can get a half dozen live ones for that price,” Necessary_Arm3379 snarked.

“Don’t care if the chicken is college trained with a master’s degree,” 59_Pedro wrote. “Not paying that much.”

Can’t argue with the sentiment

I can’t argue with the basic sentiment they’re expressing.

And I feel compelled to note an observation by the Author of the Yahoo News piece that twigged me to the controversy.

“Back in October,” scribe noted, “…a viral TikTok comparing the price of Canadian chicken to that of the US showed organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs, priced at $13.65 from Loblaw’s, compared to a pack of chicken thighs bought from a Target store in the US for $3.55.”

Comparison is shocking

Alas, the comparison is flawed…

For one thing, the Loblaw’s chicken package is labelled ‘boneless skinless’. But they definitely have skin on them. And that’s a matter for the courts to deal with. It’s out-and-out misrepresentation of the product. In other words, fraud. But that’s not what we’re here to discuss today.

The Target thighs are definitely skin-on, too. But there’s no indication they are boneless. So they should be cheaper than the Loblaw’s thighs on that account. On the other hand, the Target package is labelled ‘Organic’. And that should make them more expensive than the regular, non-organic Loblaw’s thighs. Let’s say the Organic ‘surcharge’ balances out against the premium charged for deboning the Loblaw’s product.

Not the real issue

But none of those issues – as shocking as some of them are – can come anywhere close to explaining the huge difference in the base prices.

The Loblaw’s thighs are labelled as $22.02 kg. That’s a hair over $10.00 lb. The Target package is labelled (US)$1.69 lb. – about $2.30 lb. in Canadian dollars. Even if the products were truly equivalent, that would still make the Loblaw’s thighs more than 4 times more expensive than the Target ones!

What the Hell?

There is a logical – if not plausible – explanation for Canada’s hair-raising meat prices. The government and the farmers have just 2 crucial words for us: Supply Management.

That’s the system under which the farmers are protected, by law, from the ‘dumping’ of low-priced or foreign products onto the Canadian market.

As The National Farmers Union (NFU) explains: ” Supply management is a unique Canadian institution [boldface theirs] that provides stability in five perishable food sectors by controlling the amount produced, preventing shortages, and keeping under-priced imports from being dumped into our market. As a result, Canada does not experience wide fluctuations in supply and prices and our system does not require massive government subsidies that are used by other countries to support farmers’ incomes in these sectors.

“Canada’s supply management system applies to dairy, broiler chickens, laying hens, turkeys and hatching eggs across Canada. Each commodity is governed by its own elected provincial marketing board according to provincial legislation and regulations. The diversity among the boards and their autonomy allows for variations in how supply management is implemented within the national framework.”

My take

The NFU’s high-flung, PR statement may fool some of the people all of the time. But it doesn’t fool ALL of the people any of the time.

Clearly, Supply Management was intended as a buffer to protect farmers from their own bad decisions. Farming used to be a gamble. The players who had the most skill and knowledge of their businesses won. The others lost. In Canada, farming is hardly a gamble, anymore. The farmers are no longer bearing the burden of their own decisions and actions.

By, “protecting farmer’s incomes,” Supply Management simply ensures they won’t default on the big loans they were encouraged to start taking out by the banks in the last quarter of the last century, to expand and ‘modernise’. It’s not me saying so. I got it first-hand from a retired Ag Loans manager at a branch of one of Canada’s Big-5 Banks, deep in the heart of Eastern Ontario Dairy Country.

The NFU talks about, “massive government subsidies that are used by other countries to support farmers’ incomes in these sectors.” Those subsidies are funded through the taxes paid by the citizens of those countries. The only difference here in Canada is, we’re subsidising the farmers directly, through massively higher supermarket prices.

Now you know who to light the next fire under, when soaring food prices spark another round of outrage among starving consumers.

~ Maggie J.