Yes, such a thing exists. The European Union has a system of classifying the aesthetics of fresh food. To be precise, class extra and class one fruit and veg is what you’ll normally get in the shop. Per definition, these veggies are “uniform in size, shape and colour”. Only the slightest difference, such as spotted skin or a slightly crooked figure, results in downgrading and makes it significantly harder for farmers to sell food that falls outside the beauty norm - simply because there is no market for those veggies to be sold. As a result, produce that doesn’t meet these standards may be lost from the food supply chain, never seeing a supermarket shelf – it may not get past the supplier, or even leave the farm.
So why do marketing standards exist? Efficiency, baby. It’s easier to pack and ship produce that looks the same and improves the competitiveness of international trade of agricultural produce within the EU member states. It’s all about the money.
The food distribution sector in Europe is oligopolistic in nature, meaning a small number of supermarket chains control a large market share. Once a farm reaches a certain farm size, they most likely work together with only one of the few players in the game. In order to keep their strict contractual obligations to deliver a specific amount of produce that also looks “perfect” enough, a proportion of what’s grown is expected to never be sold. That’s all the ugly produce, of course. So what’s a farmer got to do? Overproduce a lot, about 20% more than they are expected to sell in the first place. And yeah, they practicing selective harvesting, where pickers are trained to take only the produce that will meet retailer’s standards for sale. And what happens to all the ugly and perfect but too many veggies out on the field? They often go unharvested, resulting in food waste. Sad, sad world.
Labelling of fresh produce is another manifestation of private retail standards and demonstrates the power of supermarkets in defining a message. Often, consumers mistake labels like “best before” for indication of quality. In the same manner, by rejecting imperfect looking produce on their shelves, supermarkets send a signal that “ugly” means “less quality”, where it’s all but a worked out strategy to keep the prices high for perfect produce. Once again, money is king.
What produce should ‘typically’ look like guides purchase intentions. “Beauty is good” is the way to go for most, as consumers are more likely to purchase something that is familiar and recognisable - taken into consideration the lack of experience with abnormal-looking produce since it’s literally no where to buy.
and can say no to whatever suits us."