# Sysco monopolizing what we eat?

1. Nov 29, 2008

### gravenewworld

2. Nov 29, 2008

### misgfool

Do all americans eat only at restaurants? You could always go to the grocery store and buy humanely raised potatoes, carrots and apples eyeee mate?

3. Nov 29, 2008

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
First, define "fresh." The first article you posted started out talking about cheese. If cheese is fresh, it's just sour milk. :uhh: And, buying through a large supplier doesn't mean it's less fresh than buying through a small supplier. Do you think everything served in a fancy restaurant is locally grown?

Are the apples that I picked last month straight from the tree and are sitting in the crisper bin in my fridge any fresher than the ones at the grocery store that were picked last month and stored in a cooler in a warehouse? If anything, we have more access to fresh foods than ever before, because we can get them shipped rather quickly across the country. Otherwise, if I relied entirely on local producers, this time of year, all I'd be eating would be canned foods and root vegetables that can be stored for a long time in a cool cellar. The growing season is over here.

And, if a restaurant told me the fish it was serving was locally caught, I'd walk out. I know how polluted the rivers are near here.

Of course, it's a good time of year for mutton...any ewes that aren't pregnant by now aren't good for much else other than dinner. And the deer meat is fresh. But vegetables? Not so much.

4. Nov 29, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

How big does a company have to be (how much market share) before you can call it a monopoly? I can't imagine the Sysco has more than a couple of percent of market share. I don't really know, but then, none of the links actually try to defend that claim.

Last edited: Nov 29, 2008
5. Nov 29, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

No, I'd say if it has gone sour, it is no longer fresh. :tongue:

6. Nov 29, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

I see a lot of delivery trucks down in Manhattan delievering produce to restaurants and hotels. It's not what I'd call fresh in the sense that it was picked within 24 hrs, but it is un-processed or rather - not frozen.

Sysco has about 14-15% of the market, but perhaps somewhat higher in certain geographical areas, of the food services industry, which is not indicative of a monopoly. However according to the CNN/Fortune 500 list for 2008, Sysco is the largest of the Wholesalers: Food and Grocery sector with about 46% of the market, which might be considered a near-monopoly to some, especially if they have way more than 50% in some local markets.

Industry: Wholesalers: Food and Grocery
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2008/snapshots/2197.html
Code (Text):

Rank                           Rank in  Revenue
in     Group: Wholesalers      Fortune    in
Group         Food & Grocery    1000    $milions 1 Sysco 70 35,042.1 2 CHS 145 17,216.0 3 Performance Food Group 384 6,304.9 4 Nash-Finch 504 4,532.6 5 Core-Mark Holding 537 4,211.5 6 Unified Western Grocers 653 3,133.4 7 United Natural Foods 717 2,754.3 8 Spartan Stores 797 2,370.4 There is also the Food Services group, which includes Sodexo (nee Sodexho, Sodexho-Marriott), which provide food services but are not primarily wholesalers of food and grocery. Sodexo has revenues of about$17 billion, but the company is more diversified than the food wholesalers.

Then there is McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC, CKE Restaurants, . . . . which have their own distribution systems for their own products, but they are certainly not 5-star restaurants.

7. Nov 29, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

Your first link seems to be praising Sysco for getting fresh food to restaurants fast. That would be a "good" thing, so I have no idea what you are complaining about.

8. Nov 29, 2008

### gravenewworld

Fresh? Hmmmmmmmm how about food that you simply don't heat up in a microwave? People in the US have no idea where their food comes from anymore. They just shove it down their mouths without even thinking about. When I lived in Europe, I had to go to a real butcher to get meat or had to go to a real local market to get produce. Going to a butcher for meat is a very foreign concept to many people in the US. Most meat comes from giant slaughterhouses and factory farms. They don't hang meat to tenderize and flavor it like they used to, they simply just butcher it in mass production and ship it in shrink wrapped plastic packages in the US.

Or it could be that the 1st link was simply pointing out how far the reach of SYSCO and other mass food distributors has gotten and how restaurant owners are easily going to sacrifice quality of food for profit and convenience (which honestly you can't blame them for). You may think that they piece of cake was a prepared by a gourmet pastry chef at a nice restaurant, but in fact it was probably just dethawed from a frozen package.

I guess people don't really care about where their food comes from these days as long as they can shove it down their pieholes.

9. Nov 29, 2008

### misgfool

My reason dictates, that it doesn't matter if the food is cloned or shipped from the other side of the globe as long as it is delivered efficiently, it's not harmful and has the nutritional benefits that humans need.

10. Nov 29, 2008

### gravenewworld

And all at the price of taste?

Have you ever had a real aged steak that was hung to tenderize it from a butcher? It is worlds above what you can buy in any grocery store.

11. Nov 29, 2008

### Proton Soup

heh, it may be fresh if you go to some of those "white-tablecloth eateries", but i think most of what you get at any of the chain restaurants (not just fast food, but what the lower and middle class may think of as "fine eating") will still probably be reheated frozen foods. i say screw it, you're better off just learning how to cook.

12. Nov 29, 2008

### Hurkyl

Staff Emeritus
So your real complaint is simply that the meat isn't prepared the way you like it. Stop trying to blame it on a lack of 'freshness'. :grumpy:

I don't care about a 'real butcher' or a 'real local market' or a 'gourmet pastry chef'. I care about food I like to eat. And quite honestly, I would expect to prefer a cake that was "dethawed from a frozen package" than a cake made by a "gourmet pastry chef". In fact, I have discovered over time that my odds of liking a food is inversely proportional to how 'fancy' it is.

Pizza is one of my favorite foods, but I have never had a pizza I liked from a restaurant that wasn't a speciality pizza place. And while pizza from pizza chains is usually pretty good, in almost every circumstance I prefer the taste of a frozen pizza I reheated myself.

If I bought into this whole "buy fresh foods" nonsense, my quality of life would decrease significantly. :tongue: Not to mention I run a greater risk of getting contaminated food.

13. Nov 29, 2008

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
You seem to be heavy on opinion here and light on facts/evidence. I do not eat food that is just heated in a microwave, and it's not at all hard to find fresh food; just look around the perimeter of your grocery store where the fresh produce, meats, butcher, and dairy sections are located. There's also no evidence that this is what restaurants are buying from Sysco. If I want crayfish etouffe and live up in the northern part of the US, I need to buy from someone in the Gulf Coast. A distributor that quickly ships quality crayfish is a good thing, not something to demonize.

You seem to be misunderstanding what a distributor is. They are not the producer, they are the agent that connects buyers to producers and helps get the product delivered. If one is especially efficient at getting fresh produce from a West coast producer to an East coast buyer, why would that be a bad thing? They might be popular with restaurants who don't want to call 10 different places to get their weekly orders in if they can call one place that will make all the arrangements for them and deliver it all on one truckload on Wednesday, when they want the delivery to arrive. Nothing says the restaurants are buying convenience foods, or pre-made pastries. Even if the distributor sells those, what evidence do you have that that's what the restaurants are buying? Some do...chain restaurants of course do, but this is no surprise or mystery...nor does it even mean this is the supplier they are getting those foods from.

It seems you are for some reason trying to argue based on an emotional reaction to something you have yet to explain, but are light on facts here. If a particular distributor is very efficient at getting quality foods to me on time and while still fresh, why is that a bad thing? Did you think the live Maine lobsters in the grocery store somehow magically arrived directly from Maine without a distributor involved? How do you think food gets around the country? And as Astronuc already provided evidence to support, Sysco does not have a monopoly on this sector. There are other distributors and they have not been driven out of business. Of course, the top restaurants are going to go with the distributor with the top reputation for getting the fresh foods to them while still fresh. None of this is consistent with your claims that the food is not fresh or that people don't care about fresh food.

14. Nov 29, 2008

### misgfool

I don't know. However, I have had an imaginary steak once when I was hungry and the next food supply was at about 45 km (~28 miles) walk from my location. But I doubt it would be so fresh if it was hung to tenderize. I'll agree to add taste to my list of requirements for food.

15. Nov 29, 2008

### misgfool

This is an excellent point.

16. Nov 29, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

This just has the feel of a generic rant against big companies to me.

17. Nov 29, 2008

### CaptainQuasar

I heard that Sysco puts fluoride in everything! We must protect our precious bodily fluids...

18. Nov 29, 2008

### turbo

Regardless of the motivations of posters who may or may not have some axes to grind, there are indeed some advantages to local foods. When I was a kid, we used to hang venison for at least a week before butchering, temperatures permitting. If it was unseasonably warm, we took the deer to a slaughterhouse with proper cold storage and paid a fee for that storage. We would go get the deer after a week or so, and cut it up ourselves, or (rarely) pay the slaughterhouse to butcher and pack it. Night-and-day difference in quality.

When I was a young whippersnapper in the construction industry, I got friendly with a semi-retired plumber who was supervising the plumbers on a project that I was helping to direct. He told me of a time (1910's-1920's) when he ran errands for a wealthy family in Bangor, and one time he was sent to a very large meat-vendor to pick up some filet mignons for a party. He was allowed into the cold-storage area so that he could help lug out the steaks, and saw how the steaks were being aged on racks. When he got back to the family's home, he told the head of the family that he oughtn't buy meat from that place because the meat was all old and moldy-looking. The guy slapped him on the back and tipped him an extra quarter (a fortune to a kid then), laughing all the time.

Eddie was a poor Irish kid, the meat-business was run by a well-to-do Jewish family, and the guy that he did errands for was a descendant of a lumber-baron who made his fortune when Bangor was the lumber capital of the US. Apropos of nothing, perhaps, but it always stuck with me.

19. Nov 29, 2008

### CaptainQuasar

I was watching a documentary program about a year ago and I was kind of grossed out to discover that salami is essentially raw meat that has been chemically cooked by allowing a sort of mold to grow on it. But now I have a great answer to those "If you were going to be a stranded time traveler what would you want to have with you?" hypothetical questions.

20. Nov 29, 2008

### Staff: Mentor

Sysco also distributes produce from local producers.