I must look like a newlywed.
When make my weekly grocery store trips, I am almost always approached by a woman my grandmothers’ age who offers her advice about what I’m purchasing.
One time, a lady stopped me from buying canned pineapple because the fresh ones were on sale for cheaper. How great is that?
Another time, a woman saw me buying pre-sliced cheese and recommended I try getting it cut in the deli because it was the same price but she thought it was better. She was definitely right!
I don’t know any of these women and I have no idea why they feel the need to share with me.
Maybe I look lost wandering around with my shopping list and calculator.
Maybe I look too young to be grocery shopping on a weekday morning.
Whatever the reason, I’m generally appreciative of these strangers who go out of their way to give their advice.
I recently had the chance to return the favor.
When I head to the meat counter, I always start at the end with the “Reduced for Quick Sale” section.
Often, I can find a great deal on a roast or ground beef and fix it that night.
On this particular occasion, I was picking up a package of ground chuck in this section that was beginning to discolor.
A woman walked up to me and said
“Honey, can’t you tell that meat is spoiled? They’re just trying to trick someone into buying it!”
Those of us who’ve studied meat science know that a little discoloration is perfectly safe when meat is cooked properly.
This woman, however, was seriously concerned for the health of my family and felt that she really needed to save me from making what she felt was a huge mistake.
I noticed that she had a package of ground beef in her own shopping cart and asked what she was planning to make with it.
When she told me she was making cheeseburgers that evening, I jumped at the chance to share my money saving tip.
The “Reduced for Quick Sale” section is for items that are almost to the end of their shelf life.
They need to be used or frozen soon so the store discounts them so that they can get rid of them before they spoil.
I shared with her that this little spot of discoloration was not dangerous and that I was paying nearly half the price she was for the same product.
She looked back at me like I was insane.
It was obvious that this woman was not used to getting cooking advice from a 22 year-old!
I quickly threw in that I had grown up on a farm, had a degree in agriculture and wrote about food and farming for a living.
And guess what? She started asking questions!
She asked me if ground chuck was safer than ground beef and if Certified Angus Beef was safer than other brands and what the difference in grass fed and all-natural was.
This woman had probably been cooking for her family for longer than I’ve been alive but she recognized that grocery shopping today is not what it used to be.
I shared my meat science knowledge, she shared which stores in town have the most selection at the meat counter.
When we went our separate ways that day, each of us had gained something from the other.
So often we think of advocating for agriculture as a one way street.
We want to preach what we know about food to the consumer we assume is completely ignorant.
I’ve learned over the past two months that I may know a lot about the science of agriculture and food production but I can still learn a lot from other shoppers in my local grocery store.
So the next time someone approaches you in a grocery store, don’t just lecture them with your vast knowledge of food production.
Try having a real conversation, you might learn as much as they do!