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Sep 27, 2010 07:58 AM

C-Mart and being local?

In an effort to be smarter about my grocery shopping, I was wondering where C-Mart gets most of their produce. How local/safe is it to purchase my fruits, vegetables, and more importantly meat, seafood, etc here?

I normally go to the C-Mart on Washington and Herald St.

Would you suggest shopping somewhere else in Boston that's both economical and 'better for you'?

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  1. My goodness, do you have any reason to believe that C-Mart does not get their produce, seafood, and meat from the same wholesalers who supply the other grocers in the Boston area? Otherwise, why ask the question?

    1 Reply
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      I think many people, myself included, don't spend too much time thinking about the wholesale grocery distribution patterns in the Boston area, and even if I were to, wouldn't know the first thing about it. I don't think it is so shocking that someone like this would, in good spirits and with good intentions, pose a question about it on a board like this where there are likely many people who have a much better chance of knowing and being able to help. I appreciate the thoughtful responses of the posters below.

    2. I shop in CMart and find their produce to be generally very good. Occassionally I'll buy pork or chicken (soup). It's convenient and inexpensive. I prefer Misty Knoll chix from Savenors and beef, lamb from Savs or Sulmona but CMarts beef are ok for a stir fry.. and their pork is as good as most x a Stillman's, etc.I eat plenty of pork in Chinatown.

      I've bought less seafood there mainly because I have other sources I like better but know of people that buy it regularly. I've gotten eel, octopus, squid..rarely finfish.

      As to local, I don't think they make any claim for local or organic, just like most big supermarkets. I did see a crate of Asian pears from Overlook Farms..which is local..but they don't make any pretense of local.

      "Better for you?" I just got back from the Govt Ctr Farmers Mkt and bought some apples. I don't know if they're btter for me but they taste better than CMart's. That said, I don't think I'm taking any health risk by shopping at CMart.

      I've been doing it for years and I'm still here..:)

      1. C-Mart, H-Mart, Hong Kong, et al are cut-throat retailers, it's certainly "safe" or as good as say Shaw's at any rate.

        Russo's in Watertown on the Waltham border just off Route 20 on Pleasant St is even closer to wholesale, I suspect they started out in wholesale restaurant deliveries and eventually opened a full-on retail outlet to supplement their business. No fish or meat, they do have decent cheeses a bit less than whole foods, and the fresh pasta is the best value around. The produce is very much "conventional" from all over the country and otherwise, but very fresh, and very diverse, in fact it's as good as C-Mart in terms of Asian vegetables. It's a favorite for in the know home cooks who like to make Thai one night and Mediterranean food the next. Coupled with Arax and other shops in the Mt. Auburn area of Watertown, it's a very economical and fulfilling shopping experience.

        3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

        1 Reply
        1. re: tatsu

          I'm sure timing plays a part in this, but the few times I've been at Russo's I saw some Asian veggies with quality certainly as good as Chinatown, and then a few that were so horridly withered, I couldn't believe Russo's was selling it. For a store that offers an otherwise wonderful selection of products, it was shocking because the veggies looked like stuff I had placed in a plastic bag in a corner and forgot about for 2-3 days.

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          1. It might help (you and us) if you clarify what your objective is, exactly. if you have decided to eat only certified humane meat and eggs or free-range meat, etc., then you won't find that at C-Mart or just about any large grocery store, except perhaps Whole Foods and usually one or two chicken options at some grocery stores (though most grocers now seem to have "certified humane" eggs). But as the other posters said, if that is your line in the sand you will need to buy meat elsewhere, at a butcher that promises that is what you are getting. Even at Savenor's, the chicken is advertised as farm-raised, etc. and the provenance is made known, but I don't usually see the same level of information about the other meats. Not to say they don't fit the bill, but I usually just spend my money there taking into account assurances from the butchers and knowing that I am assuming a lot. We all have our own little definitions of almost perfect, and mine is flawed like the rest of them.

            If you have decided that you will only eat locally grown produce, then your best bet is absolutely a farmers market, of which there are a number near downtown. There you can ask the farmers any questions you have about their food and how it is grown and sometimes you can even find meat depending on where you shop and who comes each week.

            For what it's worth, I would offer that you may not want to conflate "local" and "safe" (or organic and safe, or organic and local, etc.). These are terms that are becoming very common, often with the best of intentions but not always with a great deal of substance. Local produce comes from closer distances but uses more vehicles to get it there, while "non-local" produce comes in larger batches at longer distances. Even in this seemingly easy calculation, if environmental costs are your measure then it isn't always clear which is more "safe." If you are worried about pesticides, local produce might contain fewer than that grown on factory farms but you would need to do more research on each item. Organic produce should involve fewer pesticides than non-organic but of course it costs a lot more--and that is arguably money that you can use towards other things that bring you or others better health, like a more efficient car or a new bike (just two random examples). I have been disappointed to find that the evangelists who tout "local" and "organic" don't always help teach how those goals can be achieved at an individual or community level nor why they are necessarily automatic goods. It pays to be skeptical and to ask a lot of questions.

            But if you find a way of eating that you are comfortable with and can afford then that's a good start--I would personally begin at your neighborhood farmers market, get to know a few farmers, ask about Community Supported Agriculture shares (available in the summer and winter, and many say a better deal than buying from the market each week), and make friends with your neighborhood butcher. If you like shopping at C-Mart because they have things that you have difficulty finding elsewhere (i.e. you won't find mangos or taro at most farmers markets in Boston) or because it is what you can afford, than I don't think you should feel that you are harming yourself. It's already much healthier to simply be more mindful about how you are spending your food budget.