European folklore tells of changelings. The fairies would steal a baby from its parents and place another baby in the crib. The new baby would look like the real baby, and would have the same name. But it was not the same baby. A similar thing can happen to a good business, without the knowledge of its customers.
Sometimes you find a wonderful business that has a great product. Usually, it is a family business that has developed something really wonderful. It may be a business that is absolutely honest and does wonderful work. It may sell a particularly high quality food, or cooking ingredient. These businesses often would hire local people who were skilled, friendly, and competent. Often these businesses would be experts in their field, providing the very best quality and service. Can you trust that these businesses will remain as good as they were? Can you trust the good name of the business? Unfortunately, you can’t. It is an ugly fact of modern life that even the finest small business can be bought by a big corporation or soulless venture capitalists. All too often these entities are interested only in squeezing as much money out of their customers as they can. Wonderful becomes bad; competence is outsourced and lost; the best ingredients become the cheapest; and all quality is lost. Yet, the name of the business is the same; no announcement is made about the change of ownership; or the change in policy; and the customers whose trust was earned by the original business are betrayed.
From Great Milk to Swill
It has happened several times that a small dairy has produced milk of wonderful quality. The cows were raised on pasture, grazing on green, living grass, with a tranquil, peaceful life. Their milk tasted wonderful, and made you feel good. The business grew and grew, as word of its quality spread. The superb quality of milk gave the dairy a large base of loyal customers who faithfully purchased their milk.
Sometime after this point, a big corporation or venture capitalists purchased the dairy. They do not notify the customers of the new ownership. They completely change the way the cows are raised and fed, so they can cut costs and make even more money. The cows are moved from pasture to confinement, and never taste green, living grass again. They are fed grains, garbage left over from making biofuels, and other products, and their milk is no longer wonderful. In fact, the milk bears no resemblance to the original product. The milk is highly processed to keep from spoiling, often by ultra-pasteurization.
Yet, the carton or bottle looks exactly the same, with no indication that anything has changed. The loyal customers of the original dairy still think they are getting milk from cows raised on green, living grass in a pasture. The good reputation of the original dairy is used to sell enormous amounts of milk that is not even close to the original, wonderful product.
From Grassfed Goodness to Grain Fed Greasiness
Once, there was a company that sold only grassfed lamb. This lamb was available at some markets, and was delicious, with a nice clean taste, and great mouthfeel. I always felt good when after eating that lamb. I used to buy that lamb regularly.
After a couple of years, I bought a leg of lamb from this company that looked different. The meat was a different color, and the meat felt squishy rather than firm. I cooked it in one of the usual ways. The meat left an unpleasant greasy taste in my mouth, and had a mushy texture. The flavor was different, with the unpleasant flavor that so many people associate with lamb. I felt bloated and uncomfortable after eating it. I was very surprised, because the lamb from that particular company had always been so good. I decided that the market must have made a mistake, and improperly labeled the lamb.
The next time I bought some lamb, I specifically asked the butcher to make sure it was from the right company. He did, and showed me the packaging it had come from. The lamb was the same color as the bad lamb I ate the last time. The butcher told me that color could vary for all sorts of reasons. I took the lamb home, cooked it, and experienced the same greasy taste, mushy texture, unpleasant flavor, and bloated feeling.
I talked to the meat department manager, and finally asked him what the lamb was fed. I learned that the company had been sold and the lamb was now finished on “grain.” No wonder I did not like the taste. I contacted the company, and found that the “grain” contained the standard mix of GMO corn and GMO soy. They said they changed the feed because customers liked the way it made the lamb taste, according to “Studies.”
The name of the company was the same, but the lamb had changed from tasting great to tasting terrible.
How to Ruin a Restaurant
Once, there was a small chain of wonderful restaurants that produced some of the most delicious barbecue you could eat. The meat was cooked over real hardwood coals, and basted with a mixture that was based on a traditional Native American recipe. This mixture was so secret that only a few people knew how to make it. The meat was very high quality, always tender, and always delicious, with a wonderful natural flavor.
Then, one day, the meat became tough, the flavor became mediocre, and 50 years of wonderful, quality barbecue disappeared. But the name of the restaurant remained the same. Something unique and wonderful had become boring and mediocre.
What happened? A large corporation had purchased the restaurant chain and cut costs so they could make more money.
Any Business Can Become a Changeling
The above three examples were taken from my life, and I could give you many more. The point is that you cannot expect that a business that has been good in the past will stay that way, because any business can become a changeling, even though it keeps the same name.
Sometimes a business can be improved by new owners, who care about quality. These are almost always a family, or a small group of friends. These are not the new owners I am talking about. I am talking about the corporations and venture capitalists who see every business as an asset to be squeezed in order to produce the largest possible amount of profit, and could care less about quality (except for its impact on profit).
The best solution I can think of is to regularly investigate a business before I use it, no matter how satisfied I have been in the past. If something appears to have changed, I will contact the business and make sure that it is still producing the same quality products that I have enjoyed in the past. When it comes to food, I will investigate if I notice any difference in taste, texture, or the way I feel after I eat it.
It is truly a shame that a business that was wonderful in the past can be changed completely by a new owner, while retaining the same name. We cannot trust the name of a business to mean quality. It is better to carefully watch what it actually does, rather than rely on its name.
This post is part of Monday Mania Blog Carnival at the Healthy Home Economist.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.
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