109 Comments

Comments

Bill Doak says ...
As a former board member of Hartford's Down to Earth food co-op, I could not resist the call to chime in after reading the comment that co-ops, as a business model, are untenable. Interestingly enough, one of the largest economic powers in Great Britain, which happens to be a free market economy, is a business co-operative that has expended far beyond the grocery business. Co-ops such as this now are among the fastest-growing economic sectors in Britain with ventures in nearly every aspect of consumer culture. In the United States, the cooperative movement continues, albeit at a far smaller scale than enterprises based on a market which values free movement of capital above all. "Above all" is defined by me as value-added, including labor, which comes from making the effort to organize the cooperative system of purchasing. The Down to Earth Food Coop ceased operations in the 1980s. The 'faulty business model' which caused DTE's demise turned out to be simple: At the request of the membership, we opted to sell meat at our newly-expanded storefront in the inner city. This was made without adding security. As a result, since the store was open to non-members, losses in the store's expensive meat department could not sustain the small profits realized in all other aspects of the operation, i.e., bulk grains, spices, breads, produce, soys and cheese. And, since the store operated on loans and thin margins, that was it for them apples. Reading what the CEO of Whole Foods had to say, the first thing which I noted - before reading all the praise of WFM employees - was the preamble of thanks to the corporate underlings whose job it is to support the WFM business model. When we ran our co-op, the best PR we had was the testimony of the members themselves. In other words, we did not need to create a whole philosophy or order the marketing department to innoffensively articulate what we were doing - it was sufficient that we simply worked together with a common goal while at the same time accomodating various tastes and needs among our members. It was fun, and it was also a lot of hard work. The strange thing was, as much as I missed the camaraderie, and the work alongside my fellow members, when the coop folded there was also a sense of relief and, as our fearless leader was wont to say, "Mission accomplished." The values such coops instilled, particularly operating in a competitive urban environment, managed to educate, and inform. In a society where we don't want our food to look us in the eye, there's nothing wrong with a little cooperation among us eaters. Bill Doak
06/30/2006 6:58:15 PM CDT
Ken Farber says ...
Thank you John Mackey for your (and Whole Foods') support of local and sustainable agriculture. As you know,the mass of your consumers, as well as myself, are passionate about the well-being of our local and global community. Tears literally come to my eyes to see your genuine commitment to locally and sustainably grown foods. It is so very important! You serve a leadership role for me. And, as you know, you more and more are having a profound influence on agriculture on this planet. Please do your best to be a good steward of this responsibility! With great respect and love, Ken Farber,consumer, and probably soon-to-be stockholder with Whole Foods Market.
06/30/2006 7:57:45 PM CDT
Ramki Sreenivasan says ...
A fascinating, highly educative and non-emotional response to the debate....Cheers! Ramki, Bangalore.
07/01/2006 2:13:33 AM CDT
Tom says ...
I've read Mr. Mackey's letter and Mr. Pollan's response. I agree with Mr. Pollan that even though there may be a significant amount of local produce at Whole Foods, it's not that evident; at least not at the Whole Foods in Pittsburgh. Perhaps Mr. Mackey can dedicate a portion of each store's produce department to strictly local produce so that it is all in one place. If this is done, the name, address, and telephone number for each producing farm should be posted next to each product as well. Also, as a dietitian I want to thank Whole Foods for the service they provide in educating the public on nutritious food choices. You have also made my job easier if offering products to special-needs consumers (e.g. gluten free products, products without any hydrogentated fats, etc.). Please keep up the good work and keep fighting the good fight.
07/05/2006 9:11:32 AM CDT
Pierre Ferrari says ...
Thank you Mr. mackey for a very thorough and fact based response. it was a little depressing to see Pollan attack one of the "good guys" so recklessly. We progressives always seem to bring ourselves down. As a suggestion: I do think that more can be done at the store level with greater transparency on source of produce. I beleive Wegmans actually creates 2 distinct areas for its produce-local and "imported." it makes it really easy to support local farmers. WFMI has the added complication of organic and "traditional." Can you think of a term for pesticide/herbicide artificially grown produce that might be at least a little disparaging to those practices rather than the rather comforting "traditional?" Traditionally, as you point out in your repsonse, as recently as 65 years ago, there were no articial chemicals in our agricultural system. Yours respectfully. Pierre Ferrari
07/06/2006 9:48:44 AM CDT
Keith Roberts says ...
The real problem arising from the entry of Walmart, Safeway, and other mainline retailers into the organic food industry is that those firms and their suppliers are bound to seek a weakening of organic standards and definitions. Firms are always trying to modify the legal conditions that affect their operations to make their own life safer and easier, and do not hesitate to circumvent inconvenient conditions through dishonesty if the risks or penalties are low enough. Since the standards are set and maintained politically, the battle will be political as well. In this as in many other areas, the price of freedom is eternal vigilence.
07/06/2006 10:49:13 AM CDT
Dave says ...
John Mackey's letter strikes me as sanctimonious. I'm a regular Whole Foods shopper because it's really the only good place within walking distance. I've been going there for years. One thing I can't stand about being in the store is the pervading atmosphere of political and environmental correctness, which comes at the expense of people with average or below average incomes. There are whole sections of the store I never visit because I know I can't afford 95% of the items on the shelves. It's that odor of wealthy clientele who couldn't care less what their total is when they are checked out that really stinks up the store. They're in there with me; I'm in there with them; but their options -- intentionally on the part of the store -- are much greater than mine. It may not be a rip off -- there are the Whole Foods brands, after all -- but it is offensive. And there is NO WAY that bringing in apples and pears from New Zealand is good for the planet! If we don't have foods when they're out of season, so be it. That's nature! That's the cycle of nature! Let people wait. There's nothing wrong with that and many things that are right about it. We need to be conscious of limits. If Whole Foods can't recognize that and act accordingly, what good are they? Burning up fossil fuels to bring this produce over the seas is part of the problem, no ifs, no ands, and no buts. Whole Foods is part of the problem (as well as part of the solution), but don't go giving us this high and mighty ration of bull about the good graces of Whole Foods. Dave
07/11/2006 5:09:26 PM CDT
Joel Salatin says ...
I'm delighted that this exchange is occuring. John's defense is unnecessary. That he would choose to battle this out in public indicates some soreness. I've been maligned many times and choose to let it go. Time will tell, and it will on this too. I think if Whole Foods, with its new purchasing requirements, wants to mount a campaign to prove it has taken the higher road, the campaign's success will depend completely on whether or not Whole Foods patrons actually visit any of the farmers whose pretty pictures grace the store. John, I invite you to visit our farm and see how commercial-scale, environmentally-enhancive pastured livestock models can work. To be fair, I wish you would point out that the biggest impediment to Whole Foods or any other outfit offering local dairy, poultry, and meats is the USDA's malicious and capricious food infrastructure regulations. These have nothing to do with safety, but everything to do with precluding community-based food systems. Organic is not comprehensive. Grass is the key. I know that years ago local farmers supplied our nearest Whole Foods, but no more. That is enough. Anyone who wants to check out our farm for themselves is welcome, anytime. We don't trademark or copyright or seek market share. And sales objectives are not on our radar. Better to be good than big. Joel Salatin
07/13/2006 2:59:54 PM CDT
Rick Birken says ...
Once again, Mr. Mackey attempts to paint himself as the same person who pioneered Whole Foods Markets. That guy disappeared very quickly. For many years now, you have grown your business not by offering more organic food, but by buying everyone else in the industry and crushing through your economic power the smaller businesses that used to exist and now do not. I know, that's the way Ayn Rand would want it. The fact is, I could get more orgainic produce from the local tiny shops around here than I can at Whole Foods. Those stores no longer are able to carry organic produce, if they even exist at all, because you have destroyed their businesses just as WalMart has destroyed Main Street businesses all over the country. The organic selection at your stores is quite limited, almost none of it is local despite your claims to the contrary, and the price is prohibitive. When you began your business in Texas, you did amazing things to expand the organic industry in this country. You are to be applauded for that, you and John Hightower, who deserves a lot of the credit. But come on, Mr. Mackey, you're a monopolist now, not a natural foods industry pioneer. Your employees, the ones we encounter on the floor, know so little about what the store carries, it's embarrassing. All that knowledge that used to exist at the smaller stores is gone, probably forever. I know; I managed small health food stores for eighteen years, and when I ask a question of your employees I cringe at the answers. Just today I went to your Arlington, VA store and you had one kind of organic apple for sale, at over three dollars a pound. I know, it's out of season, the gas prices are high to ship them here--but one kind of apple? The only competitor you have left out here had six. So please, enough with the constant crocodile tears. You're fortune 500 now and you act like it, it's who you are now. You're Exxon, General Motors. You're not Whole Foods anymore. You just kept the name. I know, because this was my industry--there's local organic agriculture everywhere, but it's hard work to contract with all these little folks. You've lost since stopped caring or trying. Most of the smaller suppliers have had to sell out in order to meet your demands, that's why the industry is now so consolidated that the Hain Celestial Group has most of the shelf space in your store--the rest is about the same stuff we find in the supermarket, especially your bakery. Not one spelt bread! Geez, I'm tired of your complaining every time somebody mentions that you've changed. Why not embrace it? It has been, after all, your choice.
07/16/2006 2:36:58 AM CDT
anna says ...
Friends When I travel to an area with a Whole Foods i definitely put that in the schedule. I just saw a Whole Foods ad today that states WF is purchasing renewable energy credits to use for stores, distribution centers etc. This led me to the website which in turn led me to the blog, John Mackey's response (how many CEO's respond with a compasionate tone to criticism)etc WF, thank you for taking the toxins out of the air. Thank you for the 5 cent bag refund among other things. John Mackey seems like a very compasionate being. I will search for the 60 minutes interview. Thanks for the other responses and together we can! Anna
07/16/2006 1:47:22 PM CDT
Adam Stark says ...
Mr. Mackey, I work for a mid-sized health food store, and I am proud of the work I do. I also enjoyed Mr. Pollan's most recent book immensely. I would, however, have a much shorter response to it than Whole Foods'. Simply, we are not sustainable. Not us, and not Whole Foods. We try hard to promote that which is good in the world, but we compromise every single day. Otherwise, we would not be in business. Period. If we want to stay in business, we NEED to have strawberries in New England in January; instant microwaveable single-serve breakfast cereal in three layers of packaging; rare Australian botanical medicines when local herbs would do the trick just as well; water from Germany; pasta from Italy; and commodity soy lecithin from god-knows-where. I stay in this business because I believe that, despite all I've just said, I still make the world a better place. I think Whole Foods does, too. But let's not be blind -- and let's not let our customers be blind! -- to all the ways we need to be better. Sincerely, Adam Stark
07/17/2006 6:54:45 AM CDT
Ricardo Rabago says ...
If interested Organically Speaking has released an audio conversation with Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. We our introducing a new audio comment system today, you can now leave an audio comment on any of our posts. You will find an "Insert Audio Comment" link at the bottom of the usual "Add Comment" space. All you need is a microphone! Try it out and let Michael and John know what you think about the show! http://OrganicallySpeaking.org/ All the best, -Ricardo
07/24/2006 7:42:22 AM CDT
Layla Masant says ...
I have read both Michael Pollan's book, and now your letter of response. I appreciate your civil and diplomatic tone along with the comprehensive explanation of Whole Foods bio-ethical and bioregional food policies and practices. One thing, however, jumps out at me, upon which I would like to comment and suggest: You say Whole Foods is working tirelessly to educate consumers about regional and local agriculture, then in almost the same breath you state that because some of your consumers want asparagus in the middle of January, you reach to Argentina to bring it to them. These two statements contradict each other, and my suggestion for resolving this contradiction is as follows: Use asparagus as an educational example and tool to educate and explain to the asparagus eaters, and everyone else coming into your store that you are no longer offering asparagus in the winter months, to give them a first hand experience of what it means to "eat local and in season". This shows people that it's actually not natural to eat asparagus in the winter, and there is probably some fantastic bio-intelligent reason for that, that your food biologist can explain on a colorful, laminated sheet next to the winter squash you got from a local farm. I know you will not do this with all your non-seasonal far-away produce, but the one example will start the educational process. I'm suggesting you say no to winter-shipped asparagus because of its particular cultural-ritual connection to springtime on the American table. Now THIS would give consumers a direct and personal experience of seasonal food realities. Otherwise, I'm afraid that your policy of giving your consumers whatever they want, whenever they want it, is the very philosphy of food industrialization, corporatism, capitalism-run-amok and dare I say addiction. In this vein, I would suggest that you please stop enabling people's ignorance of the organic realities of food in season, and firmly but gently, and yes tirelessly, give the American consumer a much-needed boundary. By this one small act, you would be doing the whole world a great and noble favor. Sincerely, Layla Masant
08/05/2006 3:21:53 PM CDT
Kelli Provencio says ...
Having read the above response to Omnivore's Dilemma, but not the actual book, I will refrain from commenting specifically on that except to say that John Mackey should be applauded for his company's efforts to better the lives of farm animals, even if everything else Whole Foods has done should be taken with a grain of sea salt. Additionally, I have been a Whole Foods patron for several years despite living on a college student's very small food budget. I am able to do this, I believe, because I avoid purchasing the expensive produce, (conventional or organic, local or distant, in or out of season), and many of the specialty items, in favor of my much less expensive, local, seasonal, all-organic co-op. And because I pick and choose carefully the items I do purchase at Whole Foods. What I do find Whole Foods valuable for is bulk foods, which are most often less expensive and offer the flexibility of purchase in small or large quantities according to the needs of my single-person household, specialty vegan items unavailable elsewhere (what conventional store sells slices of vegan cake for the occasional treat?!), and the wide selection of environmentally sensitive, cruelty-free, and health-conscious personal products, especially those available in their less-expensive Whole Foods brand, such as shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. As anyone on a budget can attest, shopping entirely out of Whole Foods is just not feasible for me. However, I do appreciate them for providing the wide variety of products they do, and for working within their corporate frame to make the world a little better for us all--animals, including human ones, and planet.
08/12/2006 12:47:36 AM CDT
Cynthia Odell says ...
First of all, not many are going to want to wade through your prolific open letter. And no one is going to take your letter seriously when there are passages in it that are grammatically incorrect. Maybe your sidekicks helped by contributing their input, but y'all don't know the correct usage of "who" and "whom". To the "meat" of the subject. I had occasion to be in your White Plains, New York store; I can tell you from observation that that particular store, for whatever reason, is only about 30 percent organic. The only organic meat you have in the store is chicken. If you have organic beef and pork in your New York City store, why not in White Plains? What's good for the goose should be good for the gander - no pun intended. And you do not 'WALK THE TALK'. You do not have any of your packaging marked "HUMANELY HANDLED" - so don't give anyone any BS about how you care so much for the animals' welfare. If you did, you wouldn't be selling meat at all!!!!!!!!!! By indicating how well you care for the animals' welfare, you are just using another marketing strategy for saying the same thing and appealing to a broader audience. Therefore, people can feel better about what is being done to the animals on their way to the slaughterhouse as well as when they arrive there. You're just like everyone else, Mackey. You're all about the money and the bottom line. You appear to have the morals of an alley cat. I apologize to the cat! I do "Walk the Talk". I don't eat anyone with a face!!!!!!!! I'm on a plant-based diet and better for it. So should everyone else be. But when ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise, ay? Very truly yours, Cynthia Odell
08/29/2006 8:51:12 PM CDT
Alice Crowe Bell says ...
I notice that you make mention Whole Foods efforts to support local suppliers. You cite significant statistics supporting your efforts. What efforts, if any, does WF's make toward supporting minority firms, or women owned firms? Can you cite some statistics or requirements that minority or women own firms should now when trying to do business with WF'S. Thank You.
08/31/2006 1:35:18 PM CDT
Patrick Rea says ...
Interesting point-counterpoint article on organic farm size in Organic Times magazine. http://www.naturalfoodsmerchandiser.com/ASP/articleDisplay.asp?strArticleId=2042&strSite=NFMSITE&Screen=ARTICLEARCHIVE
09/03/2006 10:45:06 AM CDT
Don Gartman says ...
I did not find Whole Food's treatment in Omnivor'e Dilema at all critical ; but then again, probably any large endeavor to supply the masses with wholesome, organic food raised in a sustainable way would be problematic. My wife and I belong to a Wild Foods group here in West Virgina. We hunt and forage and gather at a member's home each month to prepare, consume, and discuss our "findings". But imagine how quickly a Wild Foods Corporation would run into trouble with landowners, state and federal agencies, public interest groups and, of course, the news media! In fact, as Pollan noted, we are way beyond the carrying capacity of the land to provide wild food for the US population--which is now over 300 million! The point is, I think, industrial food will always dominate the marketplace, but there is plenty of room and for providers like Whole Foods and local farmers markets to offer people choices. Actually, I wish we had a Whole Foods here in Charleston, WV. I try to shop at these store whenever I visit a city where they are found.
09/03/2006 1:18:42 PM CDT
Edward Knapton says ...
In summary Organic agriculture is great but sustainable agriculture probably would use less inputs from our planet. People that use organic food need to know pesticides can be used on it. They also need to know about the greater possibility of alpha toxins from bacteria and fungicides on organic food. I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, My wife and I owned at one time the largest you pick vegetable and fruit opertion in our county. I saw all my friends and relatives dairy farms go away. Dane County now only has one you pick operation to the best of my knowledge. In about 1980 I ran a full page add in the paper to start a community sustainable operation- not one person applied. This has all changed. People are getting older. They have more money. They are getting sick and including myself are looking at food as a likely source of a longer sustainable life. I understand soil structure and nutrient avaiabilty of minerals. The sad part if the minerals are available plants whether they are raised organically or by other means have the same nutrient content. Plants like humans have a remarkable ability to take just what they need and just not absorb the rest into their bodies. This is proven by many studies. The real reason that organic agriculture is so great is that it allows people to stay on the farm and use inputs that minimize the damage to our planet. You may disagree with this but when I was growing up we were not organic but we were practicing sustainable agriculture. I believe the best use of the resources of this planet are when we can use farming practices that enhace soil structure and give good yeilds to the crops. This means we rotate crops, this means we use animal manure when we can or use cover crops, it also means that we use some fertilizer. I am sorry but weather you believe it or not the plant does not know the difference between phosphorus in manure or from a bag of fertilizer. I do have one concern that is seldom brought up. Pesticides as defined by the USDA are used in organic agriculture. They just can only use the ones approved. Some are significantly more toxic to the enviroment than sythetic pesticides. Since in general significantly less pesticides are used in organic agriculture this leads to greater possibilites of alpha toxins on the leaves and fruit caused by bacteria and fungus. Alpha Toxins are extremely toxic and are cancer causing agents also. People that eat organic fruits and vegetable should also know this. In summary Organic agriculture is great but sustainable agriculture probably would use less inputs from our planet. People that use organic food need to know pesticides can be used on it. They also need to know about the greater possibility of alpha toxins from bacteria and fungicides. Edward Knapton
09/16/2006 6:26:14 PM CDT
Tim Donahue says ...
Dear John and Whole Foods: THANK you for leading the charge in your Animal Compassionate Standards for meat and dairy animals. We hope to see all grocers adopting this standard. As lacto-ovo vegetarians we are in search of compassionate sources of dairy - which are HARD to locate locally. You guys are the champions of progressive grocery retail - you deserve a Peace Prize or something for your Walk the Walk attitude and your commitment to bringing better food choices to shoppers with a conscience. Grocers with integrity - I love to know my grocer is concerned with things that we should all be concerned with and is taking steps to do what's right. Slavery went away, and some day so will old style factory farming. They are both just plain wrong, and companies like yours, with thinking excutives who have hearts and minds that are both switched to "on" simultaneously :-) are truly commendable members of corporate society. Please speed your work on the Compassionate Standards for meat and dairy products in particular so that consumers wishing to do no harm can purchase food without fear of atrocity towards living animals. We eagerly await your progress and hope you can lead the way toward converting all grocers to adopt Compassion Standards. Thank you thank you thank you. Tim Donahue
10/02/2006 6:57:10 PM CDT
kimi says ...
I think this article misses the point Mr. Pollan is making, that the free trade model of agricultural exports is not sustainable---not only in the vast monocropping and consolidation of wealth involved in the countries we import from, but also in the IMMENSE use of fossil fuels involved in the process--- pesticides, fertilizers, packaging, transport---all require petroleum. I personally believe that energy crisis we are facing will allow people to recognize the diversity (or at least what is left) in our local biomes and the importance of self-sustaining food systems. What happens when the grocery trucks stop shipping out? that is the point.
10/06/2006 3:39:04 PM CDT
Sherri A. Fischer says ...
I found this letter also well written, it is obvious that the individual writing has been well prepared for avoiding the issue. If someone cannot understand that certain fruits or vegtables can only be grown at a certain time of year, in certain areas, I find it hard to believe that they are going to be interested in where the foods they eat are coming from. What about Whole Foods being involved in changing the laws for organic foods? Did they rally together with Wal-mart to lower standards or not?
10/08/2006 11:48:14 PM CDT
Rick Birken says ...
This is a response to Edward Knapton. We all have nostalgia for our upbringing and things we did in life in earlier years, but that doesn't make what we did all that great objectively. Dairy farms are only profitable because they are supported by the federal government. Until the 1920's when the government began what is now the marketing boards that do all those cute milk commercials, humans didn't drink much milk, and when they did it wasn't cow's milk. Cow's milk isn't human food; in fact, dairy isn't food for any adult mammal. In most parts of the world, people don't drink much milk at all, and if they do it's generally goat's milk or sheep's milk because the biology of those animals is at least more similar to that of humans. Cows have a genuinely wierd digestive system, and consequently their milk isn't conducive to human nutrition. That's why, for all the milk Americans grow up drinking, we still get high levels of osteoporosis, higher than in countries where people don't eat dairy products at all. Without government support, there would be no dairy industry, and what would exist would be for personal consumption. The exception would be for cultured products, such as yogurt or kefir or some cheeses, which is the form of dairy that is consumed in most of the world, but even then it is better if it isn't made from cow's milk. Nostalgia is the only reason to have a vibrant dairy industry; it only harms human health. As to sustainability, no farm that isn't organic can be sustainable. That isn't to say all organic farms are sustainable; it is to say that pesticide and chemical fertilizer farming destroy the top soil over time, which has happened to most of the farmland in America. That development requires still more chemical applications unless at some point the harmful cycle is stopped and the soil is replenished. That's why only non-chemical farming can be sustainable, because if you don't have healthy soil you haven't sustained anything. It is also not true that the plant doesn't know the difference where it's nutrients are coming from. Kirlian photography has clearly shown the difference in the electrical fields around plants grown organically and those grown chemically. Clearly, the plants have reacted differently. And the soil also knows the difference, as noted above. It is also true that pests are more virulent on pesticide farms than on organic farms (at least once the organic farmer has figured out how to function in the particular climate conditions), so again, plants clearly are making themselves more or less vulnerable to insects as a reaction. As to the toxin you mentioned, I think, or I guess, you mean aflatoxin, not alpha toxin. Aflatoxin does exist, but it exists on conventional food as well as organic. It's been around forever and so have people, so its dangers, while real, are obviously not disastrous. The worst crops for this toxin are peanuts and corn, but it's on many others as well. But again, it's just as prevalent on conventional as organic crops. The only way to deal with it is through rigorous inspection of food, but we're unlikely to ever see that in this country, especially with people like Mr. Mackey opposing government programs and taxes to pay for them. You also speak of mineral availability, but like all conventional farmers you forget that there are more minerals than just nitrogen and phosphorus. There are all those pesky trace minerals that disappear when too much intense application of just a couple of major minerals outcompete them. Without this proper mineral balance, food is less healthy, pests are worse, the soil suffers. It's like the problem with milk drinking--assuming a person can digest it, which is unlikely, milk is way over represented in calcium and underrepresented in magnesium and potassium. When the electrolytes are out of balance the bone withers just as much as if there's no calcium at all. The same with over application of just a few minerals--it isn't the same as a proper balance of all nutrients, including micronutrients. Organic farmers don't just use manure, they also use seaweed and other substances to try and better manage this balance, something chemical fertilizers don't do. If they did, the soil wouldn't be so depleted, and the vast number of Americans who test low for these micronutrients wouldn't test so low for them. We'd be a much healthier people. As to the vegetarians out there, without animals, there is no manure for fertilizer, and plants have no less right to live than animals. Just because animals look more like people doesn't mean plants aren't suffering just as much when we shorten their lives to eat them, or when we force them to grow in nice neat rows instead of freely as they do if given the choice. Life is life, all life is equally precious. I don't know why the world is designed so that life has to be consumed to support other life and I don't like it, but it is the way things are. Furthermore, if people stop needing animals for food, well, we see what people do to things they no longer need. Grazing animals are nearly extinct now, the only ones still living are the ones we need and the few environmentalists have been able to save. Cows aren't a real animal, they're a human creation, but they'll go the way of the buffalo if people stop eating them. Same with the pig and the goat, etc. It might not be so bad for animals in the long run that humans choose to eat some of them, as long as we learn to take better care of them while they're alive. Rick Birken
10/16/2006 4:05:07 PM CDT
Michael Benjamin says ...
I think the Pollan book made me a more sophisticated consumer of the Whole Foods meat department. Before reading the book, I couldn't have told you the difference between pasture-fed and grain-fed beef. After reading the book, I'm happy to say I ate beef for the first time in five years tonight, bought from the only place to buy pasture-raised organic beef in the San Fernando Valley, Whole Foods. The organic beef pastures are in Northern California, too far for me to drive to. New Zealand's pretty far away, though. Maybe some of your Southern California customers would prefer you sourcing their pasture-raised beef from California? I agree with Pollan, that there are still some "rough edges" at my local Whole Foods. The asparagus there is exclusively from Peru, and it's the same stuff you find at Gelson's and Bristol Farms (I went to both today). So, yes, corners are cut. They could source the local stuff, which I have eaten from the Encino Farmer's Market this week, but apparently the market dictates that they use Peru. Maybe local suppliers are more preferred in some markets than others. I don't feel like there is a person at my market I can speak with about these things. I can tell you, though, that there is far more organic produce in the Whole Foods than at Gelson's or Bristol Farms, and that's a step in the right direction. Ideally, we would have complete transparency on our supplier sources at Whole Foods. Each store would have a list of exactly which farm each fresh item came from. In an ideal world, there would be a phone number to the farmer directly, so if there was ever a question, one could just pick up the telephone. I agree with others that chicken is an issue in your store. I won't eat "Rocky" or "Rosie" after the Pollan profile, but that's all you seem to stock. Maybe it's time to move on to a more sustainable product. I notice your letter does not respond to Pollan's criticism of Rosie in his book. Keep fighting the good fight, Mr. Mackey. Clean up the chicken and remember to source close to Southern California, not just the Northeast and Texas. Regards from California, Michael Benjamin, M.D.
10/25/2006 11:22:41 PM CDT
Holly Harnsongkram says ...
As a convert to Whole Foods and fresh-air markets, I am becoming more and more aware of the garbage that has become the majority of what is sold in typical grocery stores. On the rare occasion that I do venture into an Albertson's, Ralph's, Vons, or other similar mega-store, I am disgusted by the rows of processed plastic foods (the cereal ailse alone will turn one off to eating) and am pleased that Whole Foods exists. My parents live in Virginia and have also started shopping at Whole Foods in their area. My dad's poor health and the fact that we are all getting older has really given us reason to give Whole Foods and similar natural food markets a closer look and the opportunity to win us as loyal customers. Perhaps not every item they carry was grown or made in the very best possible process, but we feel that these stores offer the best that is available to the average consumer. And, we believe that the market will apply enough pressure to ensure that they always work toward improvement. Thanks very much to all natural food stores and natural food growers. We owe you our extended lives! - Holly Harnsongkram, Santa Monica, CA
11/17/2006 3:48:54 PM CST

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