109 Comments

Comments

Suzee Kaanoi says ...
I just finished reading Pollan's book and subsequently John Mackay's response letter. Better late.... Our first WFM opened here in Orlando about 7 years ago. I have been a customer from day one. As a local, vegetarian chef/caterer, they are the most consistently reliable source of organic produce and natural foods. The team members are, for the most part, very knowledgeable (bespeaking comprehensive training), cheerful and helpful. In the past few years, I've become partially disabled and require a lot of assistance in shopping. They go way beyond the limits of their "job description" to take a list over the phone, and bring the order out to the car. To me, this kind of caring attitude comes from the top down. I totally support WFM. They may not be perfect, but they are leading the way toward that end in the area of national organic and natural food distribution. They are a shining example of commited and compassionate treatment of farm animals (altho, as a vegan, I wish that wasn't necessary). God bless 'em all.
11/25/2006 2:50:21 PM CST
Christine says ...
Why don't we stop farming other living things for our use? WFM should lead this movement by not selling any meat or animal byproducts. What a chance you'd be taking! Be the first one, lose money, and then the consumers can really believe that you're running a business for the greater good.
12/03/2006 3:28:01 PM CST
David Boyce says ...
Just a few tidbits from your competition, Draeger's Supermarket, a local chain of maybe four or five stores: Organic navel oranges: 99 cents/lb Organic Braeburn apples: $1.39/lb Organi garnet yams: 99 cents/lb These organic bargains, loss leaders I think they're called, bring me into Draeger's and keep me coming back because I like to eat well, I deserve to eat well -- as do all human beings -- but I can't always afford to eat well, and that is a problem, isn't it? Whole Foods, in my experience, has never used a loss leader. I can't remember when I've seen any produce there for less than $1 a pound. As more bargains at Draeger's come up, I'll let you know about them. I now make a habit of taking their colorful weekly flyer with its low prices with me when I go to Whole Foods.
12/12/2006 1:34:22 PM CST
Mark says ...
Great that there are so many people still out there who are only just learning about WFM and organic foods generally! Keep up the education process! But keep in mind that supporting and expanding the organic food industry should only be one aspect of the sustainability mantra that drives Mr. Mackey's company. What's else is there? Reduce energy through reducing packaging and shipping costs by buying more local products. This can be done by: -Massive expansion of the bulk selection -Not selling food items shipped from halfway around the world that are available locally (Garlic shipped from China??!!) -Not stocking products that use non-recyclable packaging Whole Foods' ascendancy is an indicator that the country is more ready than ever to accept what WFM has to offer. It also indicates that the company is in a position of credibility now like never before, and able to use that clout to influence the food, shipping, and packaging industries in an ecologically sustainable and socially positive way. All that lacks is the will to go the extra mile. Keep up the great work!
12/27/2006 3:59:08 PM CST
Jenny says ...
Has anyone read the "Food Politics" special report and "Good Food?" editorial in the The Economist (The Economist, Dec 9-15)? The articles make some provocative claims that question the value of organic, local, and fairly-traded food as well as the value of the shopping cart as a political tool. I applaud The Economist for addressing the important question of food politics and for its hopeful conclusion that "there is an enormous appetite for change" but I have two serious qualms with the reporting: first, some of the claims about the environmental impacts of organic, local, and fair trade food seem misguided and second, it seems to understate the role of the business community. Yes, governments need to do more to make meaningful changes to the global food system and yes, consumers should not be so naïve as to think they can replace conventional politics with their shopping cart. Yet, business leaders are also an integral part of the dynamic. Despite its flaws, The Economist's report highlights the need for better understanding of food policy issues. And tantamount to knowledge is action. Mr. Mackey and Mr. Pollan have proven themselves to be scrupulous researchers, generous teachers, and courageous implementers. My call to action for myself and contributors to this discussion is this: keep learning and thinking critically about these issues and finding ways to support your values, be it through conventional politics, business practices, or your shopping cart --- or better yet, all three. Jenny Whole Foods Market -Rockville, MD
01/06/2007 12:57:28 PM CST
john becks land says ...
Fortunately your web site affords you the forum to reply to the innacurrate criticism in a detailed manner, no doubt he cashed in on the gift certificate! Best of all to you in your endeavors and future.
01/08/2007 1:41:46 AM CST
Jillian Brown says ...
I had never heard of Whole Foods until I was in San Francisco. After shopping at Trader Joe's and being disappointed so many times, I decided to go to the nice place I had seen on the corner of 7th(?). When I entered, I couldn't believe my eyes. Finally, I had found one store that had everything I needed. No more would I need to go to 5 different stores to get what I needed. I moved back east (to Vermont) and I miss Whole Foods. Please come to Vermont. The health conscience are generating in mass amounts. I believe Whole Foods would do very well in a high density population such as Burlington or Shelburne. Think about it and give an ol' foody something to look forward to.
01/08/2007 12:05:08 PM CST
Steve Wheelock says ...
At this writing, I'm early in the reading of Pollan's book. I haven't yet reached his discussion of Whole Foods, and I'm glad I found this response before reading it and getting all upset and disappointed. You may take the obvious conclusion from the fact that one of the first places I thought of to look for material after reading about CAFOs was Whole Foods. Your response to Pollan was an unexpected bonus, addressing not only the CAFO issue, but also the issues--the reality--of locality and seasonality of supply. I live in Northern Virginia, and am addressing these issues personally here through Whole Foods and other outlets; my tribe in Wisconsin is looking at those issues now as well, through members (including my cousin and his family) trying to "eat locally" and through our Oneida Nation Farms and Tsyunhehkwa (Life Sustenance; I hope they'll excuse my spelling), our tribal agricultural and food supply operations.
01/11/2007 9:43:18 AM CST
Bee says ...
I have not read Mr. Pollans book. I take care to eat truly organic and sustainable food as much as possible, I avoid ingesting GMO's, cloned animals, and anything produced with prophylactic use of herbicides, pesticides, certain chemicals, and antibiotics, as well as cruel factory farming practices. I produce my own organic foods and have subscribed to others CSA's and so on. At first I thought Whole Foods to appear to be a great resource, however, upon closer examination I see that it too is simply a corporate bureaucracy and admittedly while significantly better than most (Kudos to you for that) it too falls far short of not only what I desire to see, but it's own hype and the dogma it claims to follow. The last paragraph of the "Local Procurement" section, and the entire Whole Food Mantra of "we offer 'Local Foods' does not square with me and my experiences. To wit: At the Vienna, Virginia Whole Foods store I recently spoke with a person staffing the bakery. When I inquired about actual rye bread* (e.g made with rye flour not wheat flour or what have you), I found the so-called rye breads, so-called "Jewish Rye", "Pumpernickel Rye", etc. have (surprise surprise) WHEAT flour as the first ingredient, hence, they are not only not made of all rye, rye flour is NOT even the majority of the variety of flour used to make them! Talk about false labeling!) He first informed me that all the stores have the same bread. I suggested that they add actual Rye Bread to the varieties they bake at that local store. It what I grew up with, is presently hard to find in the DC metro area, and many folks of Eastern European ancestry that I know miss the old country rye bread that was once common in the old neighborhoods of NYC suburbs. Alas those neighborhood bakeries have been dwindling out of operation over time. He informed me that none of the bread sold was baked on site. So I asked "where is it baked?" Assuming another store in the area or a regional bakery serving area stores. He replied "Boston". "Boston, Virginia?” I asked. (Mind you it is the Vienna, VA location and there exists a place named Boston, VA but I was unaware of any whole foods stores anywhere there in Culpepper County). "No, Boston-Boston... you know Boston Massachusetts - It's baked there and shipped here." "So this 'Local Bread' is shipped all the way from Beantown?" "Yes, I guess so", he laughed as he shrugged his shoulders. Local food? Shear and utter nonsense. Needless to say, I learned another lesson about false labeling, and advertising ethics, and Whole Foods that day. (It was by no means the first or the last but I think a good example of why the buyer must be ever vigilant. Shame on you! If any store wants to really be a leader then stick to true and complete labeling and advertising. Tell us voluntarily exactly: WHAT it is (RYE Bread is made from RYE flour, if it isn't don't call it "RYE bread" call it RYE FLOUR FLAVORED WHEAT BREAD) for produce tell us if it is colored, or coated with wax, etc. and what was used. WHERE each item being sold originates from (e.g. is grown, assembled, baked, etc.) WHO grew or created it (such and such farm) for heavens sake if my underwear can be stamped with the name and operator number of the worker that sewed it, why can't my bread loaf tell me WHO made it (if not the baker himself, the bakery) and WHEN it was made? HOW it was grown whether it is CONVENTIONALly or ORGANICally produced or raised, WHETHER PESTICIDES, HERBICIDES, ANTIBIOTICS or other agents were employed IF it is affected by GMO technology (e.g. contains GMO's, or is, or potentially CAN BE exposed to them. Corn or canola (rape seed) for instance, might be planted as organic seed but GMO pollen can easily contaminate it via the wind. If nothing else tell us if it was tested, and the results. Think of people allergic to seafood that don't want fish genes in our apples or whatnot. CLONING - was it or its parents cloned, or not. IF it is a NEW SUBSTANCE such as the Fusarium venenatum mold that the product Quorn is comprised of despite being labeled "product of mushroom origin". Provide info on all sides of the story. Honesty will earn one many long-term customers. In fact every thing that is potentially an allergen should be labeled as such. Strawberries, Fusarium mold (Brand name Quorn), nuts, kiwi's, seafood, whatever. And the innovation to really adopt is a logically organized, large type, easy to read, color-coded standard label prominently included on each item's packaging (save for loose produce) where it should be on the signage so that one can easily compare two or more items. Much like labels that provide per unit costs of items make it easy for one to compare two similar items in different sized packages. I am sure I forgot other things but the point should be clear enough. Regards, -Bee * Bread baked from Rye flour is significantly different in taste than that made with wheat flour or a mixture, and contains less gluten - albeit is not entirely gluten free.
01/11/2007 4:36:37 PM CST
cgmania says ...
John, thanks for the letter. It's nice to have some facts and figures on our sources. As a yang New Yorker, I was most amused by the narrow definition of "local" that is adhered to in the tri-state region.
01/17/2007 12:55:07 AM CST
Jay says ...
John, Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best and I have two basic suggestions that I believe could provide the foundation for continued success at Whole Foods in the face of increasing competition. 1. Create "Whole Food Organics" and have your criteria always more stringent then what is allowable elsewhere (your core customers understand that the definition of Organics is under pressure to relax as the huge food processors go organic) Customers will be willing to pay a premium for a more pure organic product than those appearing on competitors sheves everywere. You can keep your margins if you distiguish your products, if not, your margins will be ruthlessly squeezed. 2. Re-focus on the Whole Food shopping experiance. As Whole Foods has matured your associates have become complacent and interaction with store associates lacks the passion it once had. In my view you need to get back to basics. Whole Foods' products need to be distinguished (they are becoming blurred by competition) from products elsewhere and the shopping experiance needs to be as FUN as it used to be! I hope these comments have some value to you. All the best for a great 2007 and beyond!!! Cheers, Jay
01/24/2007 11:37:06 AM CST
Joel says ...
Dear John- Thanks for your incredibly articulate contextualization of "industrial organic" debate using Whole Foods as an example of how to transcend it. I've been interested in local, organic and sustainable food for quite some time now having worked on and researched a whole variety of small, medium and large produce operations. For the longest time, I couldn't get over this idea that everything just has to be as local as possible or it was a sin against God. I imagined a pre-modern agrarian scene with small farms, daily community markets and even butter-churners and bonnets as the only way to save ourselves from the evils of post-WWII industrialization of the food (and every other) system. It wasn't until I found models like Spiral Dynamics that you describe in another of your blog entries that I finally started to see the real evolutionary nature of our current situation. From this perspective I could see all of the developments in agriculture, including my own interest in organics and sustainability as being part of a developmental process moving from simpler more narrow-minded perspectives to more complex and inclusive ones. I started to see how limiting it is to think we need to go back to some romantic idea of the way things used to be and toss out all of the incredible benefits of industrialization and capitalization. We can't and we won't. Since then, I've gradually grown to absolutely love Whole Foods, it's mission and vision. Instead of seeing your company as simply "Big Organic", "Corporate" or some other monolithic category of otherness, I've taken the time to hear your views and get familiar with the subtleties of your business and mission. Whole Foods is truly a Trojan Horse for the evolution of food consciousness and admire your desire to keep moving forward. Here's to the death of dogmatic, us-against-them, black-and-white thinking! Here's to creating a positive future in which paradoxes are miraculously transcended and making a real, effective change is more important that being "greener than thou!" Joel
01/29/2007 4:58:21 PM CST
Leslie says ...
Hello John, Thanks for your thoughtful and informative letter to Michael Pollan. I would love to have you both over for dinner sometime---I think you're both fantastic! Anyway, my concern is how we can get fresh healthy food to those people who can't afford it? I realize you addressed this issue in your blog in the section about 365 Organic....but what about a Whole Foods "outlet" store in low-income neighborhoods? I would love to see some kind of "non-profit store"---not quite a food bank. Something new and different---and I want to run it!! Thanks, Leslie
01/31/2007 9:04:38 PM CST
david says ...
the prices whole foods charge are way too high espically for the elderly and those on a fixed income. how can i afford it i cant. they need to lower there prices across the board but wont because whole foods is only for people who have alot of money.
02/05/2007 10:07:11 AM CST
paig292 says ...
Readers of this blog may be interested to attend or listen to the live webcast of this event: The Past, Present, and Future of Food A talk by John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, followed by a conversation with Michael Pollan, Knight Professor of Journalism and author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma." Tuesday, February 27, 2007 7:00–9:00 p.m. Zellerbach Hall Tickets $10.00 for General Admission; Free for Cal Students with ID Zellerbach Ticket Office 510.642.9988 Live Webcast through Berkeley at: http://webcast.berkeley.edu/events.php
02/08/2007 7:35:04 AM CST
Joel says ...
How about offering screens in store for webcams of live conditions on farms supplying Whole Foods? This would lead to the suppliers policing themselves; real-time images of miserable, factory farm animals would drive consumers to shop more responsibly. Joel Johnson
02/08/2007 6:30:14 PM CST
Mary Elizabeth Leary says ...
Dear John, Thanks for all the information presented in reply to Michael Pollen. Your work is fascinating. I have been shopping at Whole Foods (previously Bread and Circus for us) for twenty years. I have learned to shop there using your brands, doing sale products, and avoiding meat and high-priced foods without breaking the budget. I do buy your fish and would not eat fish from anywhere else. Let me add that I have worked as a registered nurse for more that forty years and continually ask "How do people get so sick?" I have studied nutrition fervently and have come to understand the effect of our diet on our health. I believe that Whole Foods in it's philosophy, idealism, and non-comprising approach to providing healthful foods and, by it's example, is doing more for the health of the nation than any other endeavor that I know of including some pharmaceutical companies. I admire you very much. Sincerely, Mary Elizabeth Leary
02/24/2007 7:52:24 PM CST
Jim Auerbach says ...
Interesting observations from all on this subject. People that respond here show a genuine concern for our existence and environment or they wouldn’t spend the time here, I hope that becomes contagious. Constructive criticism leads to forward thinking, interaction and progress that smart leaders cherish and is a core value of real teamwork. WFs transparency stimulates dialog on many critical issues that have been swept under the corporate carpet for years. As humans we are all in this together and the future of the planet and our very existence depends on how quickly this is realized. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. WFs has made their position very clear.
03/01/2007 4:52:32 PM CST
Victoria Charkut says ...
Mr. Mackey! I've never valued Whole Foods before today. I have briefly visited your stores in Manhattan but never gone out of my way to shop there. I will now. (And this from a hardcore Fairway shopper.) Your presence and ideas and articulation were absolutely wonderful at the Berkeley debate which I've just finished watching. You've made me aware of how lazy I've been in trying to make the switch to eating the right kind of food. I only wish you could tell us how to make the suffering of animals stop ... immediately. (isn't that a funny idea) As you said, we are in denial. I will no longer be. Thank you so much. You are an angel. Vic C.
03/15/2007 4:31:07 PM CDT
Logan says ...
This was a very concise response, and i am pleased to hear first-hand your dedication to maintaning your image as the world leader and innovator in humane farming. I wonder, did Mr. Pollan have any sort of rebuttal to this letter, especially after your meeting?
03/29/2007 11:45:43 PM CDT
Claire Kellerman says ...
Heart warming, evolutionary, brilliant, clear, appreciated, timely. Thank you John for sharing your direct and detailed account of the reality you know too well, that Michael Pollan did not inquire about WF as you would have liked. I had a tear of joy in my eye reading your words and feeling your genuine caring for the transformation of our standards to a paradigm of compassion for our fellow living beings. What you have realized already is incredible, Thank you for all your efforts and integrity. After 28 years of eating organic foods, I am a walking example, at 42, of a vibrant, bright and joyful person. I am saddened by the obvious effects and dulling, the devastation and destruction plaguing those who are not yet aware or taking advantage of what is available. For 17 years, I have traveled the world as a writer, and teaching permaculture and Earth Architecture while also learning all I can that contributes to peace on earth, within and without. Thank you for creating a path and a place to fully experience and embrace healthier choices. The complications that pass for life in the modern world are all being found out on an increasingly wider and wider scale. I write about and demonstrate the benefits of shopping only at health food stores. On a recent round-the-world freelance writing/photography job, I enjoyed health foods stores in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, & London. They all offered a special warm, human, connected feeling. When I found myself in Whole Foods NYC, I was amazed!! What a work of art. I was awestruck, a tad giddy, that is is like Disneyland. They say Disneyland is the "Happiest Place on Earth," because they do not yet admit that sugar, toxic infrastructure and waste does not "happy" make, but I know WHOLE FOODS is one of the happiest places on earth. What is depression but a symptom of eating toxic food, inspired by the behavior of other people eating toxic food? Eating at Whole Foods is life changing, life-giving, and life enhancing on every level. Thank you for caring as you do, for taking the actions you have, and for sharing your views with us. I applaude you and will be sharing my appreciation far and wide, as is my pleasure bringing clarity to what inspires peace. Thank you for contributing to my happiness in ever expanding ways. Well done!! Claire of KLARITY.org Maui, Hawaii & Santa Barbara & Los Angeles, California
04/05/2007 7:57:11 PM CDT
vivian norris de montaigu says ...
I had the pleasure to meet and spend some time talking to John Mackey in Oslo during the Nobel Peace Prize events. Mr. Mackey came to help celebrate Muhammad Yunus and Grameen's work promoting microcredit and lending to the poor. I deeply appreciate Mr Mackey's personal and financial commitment to supporting producers and suppliers of Whole Foods via microcredit and social entrepreurship. Thank you and we look forward to your first Whole Foods store opening in Europe soon!
04/28/2007 5:16:42 AM CDT
Doug Moser says ...
Mr. Mackey: I enjoyed your comments and the time that you must have taken to reply to Mr.Pollan's "The Ominvores Dilemma". There is no doubt a lot to be learned from both accounts. However, your account is more practical from a safe food point of view. I have been involved in commercial agriculture for over 30 years, primarily producing grains and legume products. We raised our family on fresh produce, eggs, and our own farm grown beef; one of the benefits of production agriculture. We still budgeted $250.00 a month for grocery store purchases. I tell my children today, to allocate a small amount more of their disposable income for organic food for their children; that we made a mistake in our lifetime. Unfortunately, as with your company, the business world demands a profit for "sustainability". I'm sorry, it's just a fact of life today. There has been tremendous economic challenges for the past 50 years in agriculture. Consequently, the quaint small "family farms" have become a rarity as they sell out to larger farming operations and urban sprawl because of economics. Believe me, production is a rewarding experience and, generally speaking, farm families would continue to farm if it were profitable. It's sad, but true. In the late 1700's (Thomas Jefferson's day)over 85% of the U.S. families primary source of income came from the farm. Today, it is less than 2%. As with any industry, the farming community has had its challenges. Now we in commercial production have boxed ourselves into a corner since the advent of man-made chemicals for agricultural use. It's been sold to us as a profitability solution and we've whole-heartedly accepted it. We in U.S. agriculture have resorted to pesticides and commercial fertilzers since post WWII. In recent years, with the help and leadership of companies such as yours, the agricultural production community, has finally come to the realization that artificial man-made chemical products (practically all petroleum based) are harmful to man and to the environment. But there are huge challenges lying ahead. Organic production is very difficult for growers economically speaking; but it is the only truly safe way to produce food. In many cases, huge chemical corporations are the money behind "sustainable agriculture". We in production agriculture are lobbied, wined and dined all winter long by those very large oil-based corporations. On a global basis, they tell use "to move to "sustainable agriculture" such as riparian buffers, grass waterways, no-till farming; that it's the new answer for practicality and most importantly, that it appeals to the consumer" and ultimate profitability. Did you know that: on a global basis agricultural practices such as but not limited to, no-till, grass waterways, riparian buffers all use 5X the harmful pesticides as simply cultivated land. That: we have common chemical products offered at our disposal that will kill every pest in a field of wheat using only .02 of an ounce per acre! (Think if I trip on the way to the tank with a bottle full of that; and you get the loaf of bread that grain comes from.) That harmful product all trickles into our streams and rivers, ultimately the ocean. Think about it - it is written that: civilization has cultivated for pest (weeds & insects)control for the past 15,000 years and we've used chemicals for pest control the past 60 years. If I'm not mistaken, that's about profit driven sustainability, not safe food. I maintain (and I'm not very popular within the commercial agricultural community) that we have the technology today to develop truly safe food without the use of harmful chemicals. The large petroleum based chemical manufacturers, many of which are some of the largest companies in the world, are launching agressive enticements for farmers to convert to "no-till" methods know full well that chemical usage on that land will increase. "SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE" although well intended is a mis-nomer with consumers, and has become an endearing term that is being capitalized on. Agriculture is show-cased by companies such as Whole Foods and I might add that their leadership is being focused in the right direction; sorting through mis-nomers and harmful pracitices to work together to create "safe food". Safe food and the its challenges can be "sustainable". Mr. Mackey and to the Whole Foods team, thank you again for a job well done, while together, we have a lot more to do. Lets do it. Sincerely, Douglas Moser Genesee, Idaho USA
05/02/2007 10:20:48 AM CDT
Sharry says ...
Thanks for taking time to more fully explain the role of Whole Foods in the developing debate about what we should be eating. When I visit my daughter in Boston, I love shopping at Whole Foods. I especially appreciate how you have gotten on board with compassionate treatment of animals.
05/20/2007 9:17:20 PM CDT
Jimmy Johnson says ...
John: With all the food contamination problems (especially those coming from China) I think it would be a marketing coup if you posted in all your markets the country of origin of all meats, fish, poultry, vegetables, grain products (ingredients), etc. This labeling would encourage people to purchase your products with peace of mind. Your competition would be forced to follow your lead or lose business.
05/24/2007 9:29:16 PM CDT

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