Monday, July 6, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Butter

It's Day 2 of Dairy Week: 

I have held off for a long time on posting about a few dairy products from Trader Joe's--specifically butter, milk, and eggs--because I haven't known what to say about them. I don't know anybody who can reliably tell the difference between brands.

But the other day it occurred to me that I could at least do some comparison price shopping to see how TJ's fares against its competition. So that's what this and the next two posts will be about. Today butter, tomorrow milk, then eggs.

I've chosen to focus on the organic versions of each. I'm not generally a fetishist about organics. However, I do believe strongly that antibiotic overuse and resistance is a huge looming problem, and that one of the places we can most easily cut use is in the raising of farm animals. The organic designation means that the animals raised for slaughter or for their milk or eggs are not treated with antibiotics. I think that's worth paying extra for.

The stores: I did my shopping where I live, in Asheville, North Carolina. The prices reflect what I found over the course of two weeks in April-May, 2015. Where there was a discounted price for using a store's loyalty card, that's what I wrote down, since I and, I think, most other shoppers use those programs. Ingles is the regionally dominant grocery store chain. Harris Teeter is a more upscale chain, which just recently put a store in town--right next to the TJ's, in fact. Sav-Mor is a discount grocer. You probably know all you need to know about Wal-Mart and Whole Foods. Earth Fare and Fresh Market are growing competitors to the latter. Publix opened its first Asheville store right while I was collecting this information, and got added at the last minute.

Here's what I found for 1 pound of organic butter, salted, in four quarters:

Trader Joe's          $5.29

Ingles                    $6.48 (Horizon Organic)

Sav-Mor Foods     not available

Harris Teeter         not available (very surprising)

Fresh Market         $6.38 (Horizon Organic)

Whole Foods         $6.69 (Organic Valley)
                               $4.99 (Whole Foods 365)

Wal-Mart               $5.98 (Horizon Organic)

Earth Fare              $4.87 (Horizon)
                               $5.29 (Organic Valley)
                               $3.98 (Earth Fare)

Publix                     $8.29 (!) (Horizon Organic)
                               $6.49 (Publix)

Conclusion: Trader Joe's organic butter is at about the mid-point of the price range. Earth Fare's store brand is the big bargain.

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