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I have noticed that sometimes, something like a package of ham slices will be heavily rebated. You can buy several at once for a much smaller price than usual. Even though the product is normally expensive.

I'm not talking about the expiration date being "short". Nor is there anything printed or stamped onto the package.

Whenever I have taken such offers, it seems to me that the product is much worse than usual. Basically, the ham is full of disgusting pieces, so the meals are not enjoyable at all, and I keep thinking to myself that I would rather have paid full price for a non-disgusting package.

Is this a known "thing"? Obviously, each pig is not identical, and inevitably there will be "bad batches", known at the slaughter/manufacturing facility. Is there an industry standard where they make some subtle addition (such as a bar code having a different last digit or something) on the packages which are "known bad" (but still edible) so that the store gets it much cheaper and can include that batch in "3 for the price of 1" offers and whatnot temporarily for the product in question?

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  • I've noticed similar with other discount food products as well. Meat in the UK often has a unique batch code, but that would not account for the other items.
    – Greybeard
    Sep 24, 2022 at 13:44
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    To be clear, is that in the same packaging as you normally see at a higher price? Because your description of the product sounds like value lines made from scraps and offcuts reformed into something approximating ham
    – Chris H
    Sep 24, 2022 at 15:49
  • @ChrisH Exact same packaging.
    – Durrah
    Sep 24, 2022 at 15:57
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    For better context, would you describe what type of ham it is and how the ham is disgusting? What company produced it, or was it packaged in-store? Sep 27, 2022 at 12:15
  • What exactly is a bad pig?
    – Neil Meyer
    Sep 29, 2022 at 17:52

2 Answers 2

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At distribution level products can have varying quality grades and corresponding prices, and stores may purchase both higher and lower grades for sale - though it's common that the packaged-for-retail units will be higher quality in terms of uniformity and appearance, while the lower quality units are sold in larger bulk quantities for further packaging or use as an ingredient in store. There are completely separate barcodes and product codes for these purposes.

However, a packaged product sold at a previously negotiated specification should meet that specification between batches.

What could have happened was the store purchased the product, which normally exceeds minimum quality specifications, and found it of poorer quality due to batch variation, but within acceptable specification from the manufacturer - they took the loss or got a credit for a markdown to clear inventory. You can always ask the department manager for the reason for the markdown.


Greybeard:
What about items that come in pre-printed manufacturer packaging "3 for 1" etc? Economics would suggest that these items are a lower quality, yet being passed off as the same quality as the single, more expensive product?

Answer:
That's a question that comes with a lot of answers based on the retailer, producer, agreed upon specifications, etc.

Products like household name-brand cereals, dish soaps, etc. that come in "Family Size" or larger bulk/multi-unit packaging are the same as the smaller counterparts, there's just lower per-unit profit. These are available based on consumer psychology and retailer demand - consumers receive better perceived value for dollars spent, retailers catering to that segment like Costco almost exclusively stock these value sizes, and the producer, while making less profit, still generates revenue instead of no revenue at all in that market segment. The inverse is also true, where upscale retailers and producers may avoid these value sizes due to the perceived "cheapening" of their brand.

That being said, certain discount retailers will have specifications and purchasing decisions based solely on lowest cost and cater specifically to that segment of the consumer population. The products they purchase may also be produced by licensed manufacturers of name-brand products, though failed to meet the brand specifications and were sold as off-label products; or, were sold by the name brand company in packaging formats specifically for retailers in that market segment.

Durrah's scenario sounds like a product from a smaller scale producer, likely without supplier guarantees for uniformity of incoming meat specifications or using smaller scale farms with much greater variability, and are unwilling or unable to incorporate trimming/processing for better uniformity or quality control.

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  • What about items that come in pre-printed manufacturer packaging "3 for 1" etc? Economics would suggest that these items are a lower quality, yet being passed off as the same quality as the single, more expensive product?
    – Greybeard
    Sep 24, 2022 at 16:39
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Your main indication there is that the meat is heavily discounted. While retailers have a variety of reasons to discount products, the two most frequent reasons are that it's some kind of loss-leader promotion, or that it's lower in quality. Sometimes it's both.

So, that "3 for 1" sticker is your main indicator that you should be skeptical and more carefully inspect the product before buying.

In the US, at least, you're not going to receive a generally applicable marking standard beyond that. The USDA does not grade pork the way it does beef. There may be other things you can learn by interpreting the bar code, such as the specific source of the pork. However, whether that indicates "good" or "bad" pork is going to be particular to your region and the stores you shop at.

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