April 23rd, 2012 10:01 am | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: PDX Votes, City Hall, Business

Does New Seasons Market Sell a $4 Tomato?

We dice up this City Hall campaign rumor.

new seasonsNew Seasons heirloom tomatoes - Aaron Mesh

At last week's Candidates Gone Wild, Jefferson Smith threw a tomato at Eileen Brady.

During a forum on equity, Smith referred to "the parts of town where you can't buy a $4 tomato"—a not-especially-veiled reference to New Seasons Market, the supermarket chain at the center of Brady's business resume.

Charlie Hales piled on later in the show, accompanying his "talent" of paving a pothole by mentioning that if your car hits a bump, "your $4 tomato could turn into tomato paste."

It felt like both men were testing the air on a bit of class warfare, suggesting that Brady helped start a bougie grocery chain where entitled liberals with more money than sense overpay for organics. 

(They were also misquoting a WW story from 2005, Zach Dundas' "Attack of the $3 Tomato," which profiled New Seasons' role as vanguard of the locavore movement.)

But does New Seasons actually sell a $4 tomato?

I'm not a PolitiFact-trained reporter, but I figured I could verify or debunk this claim by visiting a New Seasons. So I went to the one at 6400 N Interstate Ave., where I realized that New Seasons sells tomatoes for many prices. Like most grocers, it prices them by the pound.

So you can buy tomatoes for $1.99 a pound:

They also sell tomatoes for $2.99 a pound:

Here is their basket of vine tomatoes, which go for $3.99 a pound (getting closer!):

Finally, the heirloom tomatoes are a whopping $4.99 a pound:

These are not inexpensive tomatoes. And it's possible, I suppose, to look at a sign that says "$3.99 a lb." next to tomatoes and think, "$4 tomatoes." But if you're actually buying a tomato, you'll weigh it. So I did.

I found one of the larger $3.99-a-pound tomatoes on display—the largest I could find that wasn't a deformed, elephantine tomato—and weighed it.

It weighed less than half a pound. 


Which means an average tomato at New Seasons costs about $1.40, and it is difficult to find one that costs more than $2.50.

Conclusion: It is impossible to pay $4 for a tomato at New Seasons unless you are remarkably terrible at buying tomatoes.

Still, a little comparison shopping shows that these are still fairly pricey tomatoes. The nearest Safeway, at 5920 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., sells its standard, non-organic tomato for $1.99 a pound, and its organic, vine-ripened tomatoes for $2.79 a pound. 

That's about a dollar less a pound than New Seasons' price. Which, again, is not $4.

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