Designer Pork and JeansPeople buy their pork and jeans for what it says about their identity and beliefs. Your reasons as the manufacturer/seller of these products just don’t matter.

Growing up on the farm, I only wore Husky brand jeans from the sale rack. Like most farmers, my parents are fiscally conservative. After my first off-the-farm job, I upgraded to Cowboy Cut Wranglers and when I had extra cash, I would buy pre-washed Wranglers. At this point in my life, I worked for a farmer, did daily chores on our own farm, and aspired to be a cowboy. Wranglers were what cowboys wore.

A few years after college a friend opened a clothing store in Omaha, selling designer jeans  that cost close to $200 per pair. I assumed they would tear, stain and wear out as fast, if not faster than a pair of Wranglers. Why would anyone need a pair of these, let alone a closet full of them? When looking at designer jeans through my own set of experiences (mostly farming), there is no way to understand this type of purchase.

Perhaps an understanding of the reasons that designer jeans are more expensive would help. Designer jeans use a higher grade of denim or denim blend. They use different processing to ensure the denim holds its color and shape longer. They are better constructed for better fit, more true sizing and consistency. You are paying for more craftsmanship.

Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter, because those things have nothing to do with the real reason someone buys expensive jeans.

So how did the jeans in the picture end up in my closet? At a certain point in the hierarchy of needs, purchases are about self-esteem, needs having been meet long ago. Once basic needs are no longer a concern, people buy products for how it makes them feel about themselves or what it tells the world about them. Buying premium high-end jeans tells the world, “I am successful, sophisticated, with the current style, and might know something you don’t.” It is about the identity of the person buying the product, not the product.

Food can also fall into the category of identity purchases.

Again, once basic needs are met, people look for ways to improve their self-esteem. One way to do this is to buy “designer food.”

Hand-made, artisan, environmentally friendly, organic, nutrient dense, and hormone free, among other attributes can describe “designer food.” Whether “designer foods” are actually better than conventional/commoditized food doesn’t really matter.

Your reasons why Wranglers are better than DL1961 Premium Denim jeans just don’t matter. Your reasons why Wal-Mart pork chops are just as good as Niman Ranch Pork Chops doesn’t matter. If you’re broke (and I have been), then Wal-Mart it is. If you have the means to choose any pork chop you want, you are probably going to choose a fine tasting, humanely raised, sustainably-grown-by-a-family farmer pork chop. This is what a Niman Ranch Pork Chop markets itself as.

Consumers are, well, consumed in themselves. Since Wal-Mart doesn’t tell them how that pork chop made it to their store, they will assume it has been produced and handled just like the rest of the products sold at Wal-Mart, at the lowest cost. Which doesn’t sound very tasty.

Of course all of us in Agriculture know that the pork chop at Wal-Mart was also raised humanely by family farmers. After all, most food produced in this country is. But your reasons just don’t matter.


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