Eggs Reduxed and Friends In High Places

A further thing regarding the ‘eggs by the kilo’ story occurred to me last night as I was selecting some supermarket steaks. Steaks are sold by weight, and although the packs are all the same size the price (and weight) of the meat within can vary quite considerably- so much so that my preferred method of steak selection starts with looking for the highest prices, before other factors like marbling etc.
I don’t think anybody has been seriously expecting that the EU’s latest daft-sounding regulation will affect the number of eggs in your box, it will still contain six, ten or twelve eggs but (like steaks or pork chops) each box will have to be individually priced. It’s not a Big Thing in itself, supermarkets already have the infrastructure in place to sell products in this way, corner shops will probably have the work done supplier-side and the net result will probably be to make accounting slightly more complicated (and therefore slightly more expensive). The biggest losers will be farm shops and they can easily cope by adding another setting to the electric scales they undoubtably already own for selling fruit and veg. Of itself, this seemingly bizzare regulation is unlikely to cause too much disruption to either shoppers or retailers.
However, taken as part of the wider trend it suddenly looks a lot worse, as part of the death by a thousand cuts to small businesses, regulations like this and WEEE and tobacco display bans and minimum alcohol prices and a multitude of others each apply small reductions in the profitability of Big Retail’s smaller, more agile competitors while the likes of Tesco either have the weight infrastructure already in place or enough redundancy in their system to take up the extra workload.

Companies like Tesco aren’t the problem however. Whether they lobby for regulation (as they did with the minimum pricing story), have a quiet word with the powers that be behind the scenes or simply sit back and take advantage of the situation Big Retail acts in Big Retail’s best interests which is exactly how it should be. Tesco has a responsibility to Tesco’s shareholders to maximise profits. Suggesting that they act otherwise would be akin to suggesting a tiger refuse to take advantage of its prey having a gammy leg because it’s ‘not sporting’ and sounds a little bit commie to me. The problem really lies with the States both National and Supernational that create the prevailing conditions, and with the pooulations that allow this to happen. Boycotts are useless. Take the alcohol pricing issue: even if there were enough outraged bloggers to seriously reduce Tesco to its knees over the issue then Sainsbury or Morrisons would simply take up their place, if indeed they are not already making quiet noises in the ears of those who need little persuasion anyway.

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One response to “Eggs Reduxed and Friends In High Places

  1. Might not even make that much difference, depending on how they do it. I mentioned this story to Mrs Exile and had a minor rant about it. She called me a dickhead and pointed out that I’d been buying eggs by weight since I came here with her and showed me a box of a dozen eggs to prove it. Just under the bit that said ’12 Large Eggs’ was a bit that said 700g. Yet when we buy eggs from markets they’re in a plain box. I’ve not taken the trouble to look up the regulations but it looks a lot like there’s one rule for the supermarkets and another for the small traders, although clearly the supermarkets aren’t likely to be forced to sit down with a pile of eggs and find 12 that weigh exactly 58.3333333r grams each. They probably don’t even have to find 12 eggs that add up to 700g. I’d bet eggs are graded by size like in the UK and if it says 700g on the box it’s just a ballpark figure to tell you that the eggs are going to be about 55-60g each (on a side note that tells you something about what Australians consider a large egg – I’ve always been convinced they were smaller here and now it seems I’m right). You don’t see boxes with 712.5g or 698.25g, which makes me think nobody is weighing the eggs into the cartons we see on the shelves. I’m sure they’re just graded by weight, sorted into sizes and stuck in the appropriately labelled boxes. We see a weight figure – or rather my wife does – and accept that there’s an unspoken ‘ish’ on the end of the number of grams printed on the box. Or we got to the market, ask for a dozen eggs and get what we’re given. You pays your money and takes your choice, which is how things should be.

    Still, whether this is mirrored in the UK all depends on whether they choose a similar system for UK/EU or whether they insist on some convoluted bollocks that the big boys can afford to hire someone to monitor compliance but will be a huge headache for the little people, the market traders and farm shops. Brussels hasn’t got a wonderful track record, but then neither has Canberra. It might be large companies whispering in the ears of the great(ly suggestible) and good (at taking the money and doing what they’re told), and it could be more British gold plating of a fairly irrelevant EU reg. Or it could be the old Yes Minister Eurosausage story – a media beat-up designed to get the nation worked up and to make any politicians who seem to be standing up to Brussels on the issue look good.

    The only thing I’d keep an eye out for is supermarkets taking the opportunity for a little price gouging. If they’re going to start putting, say, 800g on boxes of 12 large eggs a lot of people will think that sounds a lot or maybe won’t even know how it compares to what they’re used to. Just the time to add 20p to the price of each box. If they still have to put large, medium, small etc. this will be harder to get away with. But other than that I’m not sure it’s something necessarily to be feared since I went from somewhere that doesn’t do it to somewhere that does without even noticing for several years.

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