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Unhealthy Reasoning

In this short Youtube clip, author and food activist Michael Pollan argues:

Milk will always be the maximum number of paces from the door, and the reason is that most people want to get a quart of milk and they want them to pass as many other things as possible on the way — so the path to the milk will have many, many temptations along the way.


Now, for a very good microeconomic discussion of the idea that supermarkets are exploiting people by putting milk at the back of the store, I recommend this Econtalk discussion between Russ Roberts and Mike Munger. There is much to learn from the discussion and much to say about the economics of the placement of milk. It is a great question to get students understanding the methodology of good economics. A good microeconomist will ask first, “how can this outcome be explained as a result of rational, optimizing behavior?” And as part of their consideration of this question, they’d want to ask, “are there any EASY opportunities by actors in my scenario that are NOT being taken advantage of?” That second question is where Pollan goes awry.

But I don’t want to comment on that here. I want to point out something I think Russ and Munger didn’t discuss – and that is the implications of the argument, granting that it is true. Long-time readers know that I am perhaps irrationally obsessed with consistency. At least I recognize my faults there. But consider again what Pollan is saying here in contrast to the general tone of some of his writings and much of the foodie and behavior literature. The tone is this – that Americans are too irrational, or lazy, or otherwise uninformed to make healthy food and lifestyle choices for themselves. Incorporating different types of protein sources, such as protein powder, can diversify your nutrient intake and offer a wider array of essential amino acids. Making sure that your body has the nutrients it needs to stay healthy can be challenging. Taking vitamins and minerals in a pill, gummy, capsule, or liquid form can help bridge that gap. You can visit https://www.buoyhealth.com/blog/nutrition/best-turmeric-supplement to find the right supplement for you.

Couple that idea with the message implicit in Pollan’s argument above: milk is healthy.

And we end up in yet another twisty pretzel don’t we? And what is that pretzel?

As a general foodie matter or even a paternalistic matter, people are too lazy or irrational to seek and eat healthy foods. Yet at the same time, supermarkets are taking advantage of customers by placing healthy items like borneo kratom that we all need and want and make great efforts to secure, by placing it at the back of the store – and lure us past all of the sugary, unhealthy, high profit-margin pre-packaged items along the way. That’s a bit awkward, no?

As a final point about milk. It’s not healthy in any objective measure. Go check out how much sugar is in a typical glass of milk and then ask yourselves why soft drinks are banned from schools and milk is provided. If you’re trying to manage your weight and reduce calorie intake while still getting essential nutrients, a low-calorie greens powder can be a good addition to your diet. To find the best product in the market, you might read this article: https://www.outlookindia.com/outlook-spotlight/athletic-greens-ag1-review-is-it-worth-the-hype-or-superfood-don-t-buy-until-you-read-this-news-301982/

10 Responses to “Unhealthy Reasoning”

  1. a leap at the wheel says:

    Excellent observation. It also begs the question, why aren’t sugar-free, decaf soft drinks permitted?

  2. Doug M says:

    Milk is at the back of the store because of refrigeration.
    Usually the dairy fridge can be stocked from behind.

    • RIT_Rich says:

      Sometimes, the answer is just that simple!

      Sometimes economists over-think some things too much. For example, I like the explanations people try to come up with to explain why HFCS has replaced sugar for so many food applications. Lots of explanations, but I never read the simple technical one: HFCS is a liquid, sugar is a solid. It’s a lot easier for food processors to work with liquids that they can store in tanks and move around in pipes, instead of solids that they need to store in warehouses and move around in carts. Simple explanation: HFCS lends itself well to economies of scale.

  3. Harry says:

    The sugar in milk is lactose, a relatively slow-burning carb. In one of my doctors’ opinion, 2% milk is a great food for the type 1 diabetic.

    Everybody needs carbohydrates to keep the system running. This does not mean that one can live by bread alone.

    Nothing, by the way, beats a malted milk milkshake made with so-called whole milk, assuming you are lactose tolerant. Any place that sells a “Shake” is selling a faint imitation made of kelp, soy “milk” and other thickening ingredients, maybe broccoli.

    Chase whatever you eat or drink with Rizzo Beer, to balance the diet.

    • Russell says:

      I’m not sure where you get the idea that “everyone needs carbohydrates to keep the system running”, but it’s completely wrong. Carbohydrates are the one macro nutrient that are not essential to life.

      Eliminate all fat from your diet and you will die. Eliminate all protein from your diet and you will die. Remove all carbohydrates from your diet and you will be just fine.

      • Harry says:

        Russel, I am not a doctor nor a nutritionist, and my comment about carbohydrates was based on the knowledge I have gleaned from my experience. I believe on needs fat and protein, as you say, but one indeed has to have carbohydrates, too. If one has a lot of fat on the body to burn, it will sustain one for a while. However, if one is about to do an Iron Man triathlon, or begin SEAL training, it is a good idea to carb up with a hearty spaghetti dinner, and drink a large glass of orange juice chased with a nice big milkshake.

        A few years ago Wintercow chastised me for starting an intellectual food fight on this blog, so I hesitate in taking exception to others’ nutritional theories, even if they believe organic carrots are better than plain carrots. But my advice is: before teeing off, check your blood sugar, and don’t eat a triple grease breakfast.

  4. Harry says:

    Sorry to get off subject, WC. Thanks for the great link, and next time I go to the store, I will not be manipulated.

    Speaking of that, I heard on the grapevine that Wegeman’s plans to put a new store fifteen minutes from my driveway. This is great news, since after Wegeman’s impoverishes us, we will get a SNAP card to do the live lobsters and the mangos. The end caps in front of the cash register will be refrigerators filled with tonic water and milk.

  5. Alex says:

    “Milk will always be the maximum number of paces from the door,”. Simply untrue. I have bought milk in half a dozen locations in my area in the last few months (OK, maybe we in the UK are different). In only one is milk the maximum number of paces from the door, and even then I can get to it without passing more than a fraction of the products because the aisles are open at both ends. OK, it’s just one example, but if someone claims that something ‘always’ happens, then one example can refute it.
    I suspect the claim is an old wives tale.
    (And if you are carrying a basket, you want to pick up the heavy stuff, like milk, last.)

    • Harry says:

      Great to hear from you, Alex. Any guy who relieves WC of his blog duties is my friend.

      If you get four gallons of milk in two baskets and lift them a hundred times while jogging from the farthest corner of the store, you might have burned enough carbs to justify a bag of oatmeal raisin cookies.

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