Have you noticed food with a geographic name costs more?

In the US, we are about to embark on my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. That is if the retailers who are opening stores early don’t ruin it. Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and food. And, usually lots of it. Another nice feature is we usually honor those not with us anymore by breaking out the recipes of grandmothers, mothers, aunts and sisters (with some uncles and grandfathers thrown in). Since people come to my house for Thanksgiving, I am asked if we are going to make Big Mama’s dressing and no, that is not from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

One of things we don’t serve is the geographically named foods that you see in restaurants or high-end meat or fish markets. Whereas, Thanksgiving food is usually named for a person whose recipe it follows, restaurants and markets tend to name food by geography or style of feeding. Why? So, they can charge you more, of course.

Sir, would you like to try our Chilean Sea Bass or North Atlantic Salmon this evening? How about some Alaskan King Crab, North Carolina Trout or Deep Sea Scallops, instead? If you want some beef, we have some Kobe beef which is delicious or we have free-range chicken. The latter one has always puzzled me, as on the opposite end, you have an un-named chicken producer who gorges his chickens on corn so much, the chicken has a distinctive yellow color – there is nothing free range about it. The free range, is better for the environment, though as more grasslands absorb carbon from the air, but does it do anything for the taste?

Of course, we take it to an extreme in the US, by having restaurants that are marketed as if they are authentic food from another part of the world. Most Americans do not know that Outback is owned by a Florida company with numerous other restaurant brands. Our friend Judy from Australia would likely question some of the menu items. So, we fork over a slight premium to get the perceived Australian version of a steak and blooming onion, one of the most sinfully good and heart-unhealthy dishes around. To Outback’s credit, people are willing wait in line for a long time to get in.

Like Outback, what is interesting about all of these names of food is the lack of verification of authenticity. Chilean Sea Bass has been overfished, so the supply cannot meet the demand. Cod from Cape Cod near Massachusetts is dangerously low in stock. So, what you are eating is probably not what is named. Deep sea scallops is a terrific misnomer as it is likely shark meat. You can usually tell by the uniformity of the cut of the scallops – real scallops are like snow-flakes and have different shapes. And, we could spend a lot of time talking about truffles whose market has been infiltrated by cheap knock-off versions from Asia rather than Europe, where they are sniffed out by specially trained dogs (talk about an asset).

So, the next time you are in a restaurant or market, look at the prices and see if a pattern emerges. If you want to have fun, you could ask is this really Chilean Sea Bass? Or, you could stay home and have some reheated Joe’s turkey, Big Mama’s dressing with Linda’s cranberry relish. They won’t mind a bit. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

10 thoughts on “Have you noticed food with a geographic name costs more?

  1. great post, and it’s my luck to be traveling and have fast internet!, so this comment should reach you!

    Free range chickens cost about 16 dollars in ecuador! Yow! here on the coast they are called, ‘pollo criollo’ and they are usually much tougher than the store-bought ones… locals love them, say that they have more flavor, and for sure they are not as tainted with hormones and antibiotics… for my bohemian budget, the free range beef is a much-cheaper alternative.. i remain in shock that i can buy ‘filet minon’ for pennies, literally!
    enjoy your holidays!

      • hey
        i doubt if the internet will be fast enough for me to write a worthy post about thanksgiving… i think i’ll do a short one w/a link to last year’s..

        unless i see a foreigner, there will be no mention of thanksgiving.. i’m working on several projects so will be at home (heading there now) i’ll be meeting a group of ‘extranjeros’ on friday and will spend the weekend w/them.. second stop on that part of their tour will be at my bodega door!

  2. Happy Thanksgiving BTG. May you and your family enjoy a wonderful homemade feast.

    I have only been to Outback in Hong Kong and that tasted nothing like an Aussie steak. The kitschy decor was amusing though. But as a concept and for novelty value it probably works. There is nothing like Aussie beef though, although a Texan may well argue with me on that 🙂

    • Thanks Judy. We will have a big crowd this year. 17 of us. To be honest, even the faux Aussie steaks are only OK here at said restaurant. I would love to have a real one.

  3. I am always fascinated by locals who gleefully run to Costco to purchase wonderful Australian lamb. When in fact, we have wonderful, organically fed, happy lambs right here in the Treasure Valley, grown by small independent farmers. Why ship the stuff all the way from the Outback? Nothing beats Janie Burn’s lamb from Meadowlark Farms for taste, tenderness, and beautifully cut, trimmed and packaged meat.

  4. Happy Thanksgiving.

    I’ve noticed that the generic, and/or store brand, items cost a fraction of the name brands and some of them have better ingredients. In some cases the only difference between the generic and name brand is the label.

    If I do eat out at a restaurant I tend to go to local restaurants. My favorite in town from the outside doesn’t look like much but they have great food, great employees, and good portion sizes. That and the money supports a small local company, that matters to me.

    • Roseylinn, I am with you 100%. When I visit a city, I want to go to a local restaurant not a chain. Plus, going local saves on the environmental degradation due to shipping. Thanks, BTG

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