Julie Powell writes in today’s New York Times on the social implications of eating well, which for many people has come to mean eating fresh, organic food. Referring to the “cult of garden freshness” and the “snobbery of the organic movement,” Powell sees two negatives that can arise from an overemphasis on such foods: economic elitism and moral superiority.

The chicken at Whole Foods is organic and cage-free; the chicken at Western Beef is not. Is the woman who buys her children’s food at the place where they take her food stamps therefore a bad mother?

Powell (thankfully) deviates from the stereotypes of the two stores, delving into the difference between shopping and cooking. She warns not to “assume that everyone at Whole Foods is wise and everyone at the Western Beef benighted.”

While the stereotypes are a bit of a straw man, they are not pulled entirely from thin air. Just as with cars, the choice of grocer (for those who have the choice) is “90% social communication and self-branding.”

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The question is, does this self-branding lead to the two outcomes that Powell mentions?

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